This morning, when I opened The Washington Post, there was a front-page article about another athlete behaving badly. In this case, it was NBA basketball sensation, Ja Morant, accused of violent and aggressive behavior off the court. But I don’t want to talk about Ja Morant. I want to talk about Damian Lillard. You may be wondering, who is Damian Lillard?
Damian Lillard plays for the Portland Trail Blazers and is in his 11th year in the NBA, all with Portland. The other night, he scored 71 points in a game and joins only 7 other NBA players to accomplish that feat, names like Kobe Bryant and Wilt Chamberlain. Michael Jordan’s high game was only 69 points. Lillard has provided some classic, clutch moments for Portland fans over these 11 years but as NPR’s Tom Goldman said yesterday “But tucked away here in the upper left-hand corner of the country, largely off the nation's sports radar, we in Portland have gotten something deeper and more meaningful from Damian Lillard.”
In a sports world where stars behave badly, go to the highest bidder or to star loaded teams so that they can win championships, Lillard is an anomaly. In 2018, the Blazers were humiliated by the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round of the playoffs and fans were looking for change. Lillard didn’t get angry or defensive. He said this, “I’m just going to accept responsibility that we didn’t play well. It was embarrassing. But when you go through stuff like that and you stay together and you keep working, you keep believing in what we do.” The next year, Lillard led the Blazers to the Western Conference finals.
Last year, to the surprise of many, he signed a contract extension that will keep him in Portland until 2027. He noted that “I don’t think that you earn something like this just by going out there and scoring a bunch of points. Something that’s missing in our league is character, and the fight and the passion and pride about, you know, not just the name on the back [of the jersey], but the name on the front, and how you impact the people that you come in contact with.”
On the talk of winning a championship, he said "As much as we glorify the end, and the last team and winning a championship, and rightfully so, the reality of it is everyone's not going to win it. [So you don't] throw out, you know, the moments on the [team] plane, the moments on the [team] bus, being in the locker room, being on the bench and then the huddle when we're doing our jobs cause we do it 82 times before the playoffs. You don't throw that sh** out the window like it means nothing, it means a lot. Because we work our whole lives to be a part of this."
He sets a wonderful example for all of us about the value of hard work, loyalty, perseverance, and the joy of the journey. It’s unfortunate that this story wasn’t on the front page this morning.
Take care and stay safe.
Daughters of Destiny (Netflix)
In 1996, Dr. Abraham George, an American businessman, born in India, was determined to change the rampant poverty in his home country. Nearly 20 years later, The Shanti Bhavan Children's Project has produced a generation of engineers, lawyers, scientists and journalists. Daughters of Destiny, follows a unique group of Shanti Bhavan kids, born into the most discriminated against and impoverished families on earth, as they grow up. Daughters of Destiny is an exploration of their lives, of global poverty and opportunity, and the human longing for purpose and meaning.