He stunned everyone by making a name for himself at the NBA Combine two years ago. Then, he won Rookie of the Year honors hands down. Later, he appeared in an Adidas commercial with Karl Malone and Chris Webber -- to name a few, stealing the show as he teased the legends for not winning a ring.
Damian Lillard worked his way up the professional ladder from such humbling beginnings with Weber State men’s basketball. And now he will forever be remembered in Portland Trail Blazers annals for hitting a game-winning three-point shot as time expired on Friday, May 3 as he gave his Blazers a series victory at the 2014 NBA Playoffs Western Conference first-round.
He will also be remembered for winning Portland's first playoff series since 2000 -- and for grabbing the mic like he was the emcee, yelling “Rip City!” at the tops of his lungs, loud enough for the entire Pacific Northwest to hear -- and the screaming 20,000-plus fans at the Rose Quarter.
It has been a long time since the city of Portland has been able to celebrate anything playoff-related. Now they get their chance after Lillard lit up his hometown arena with 25 points -- and the most-clutch playoff three point shot seen in the NBA since John Stockton lifted the Utah Jazz to the NBA Finals.
Lillard knew how important his shot was -- but warned in his post-game press conference that there is plenty more to come than just that game and series-winning three point shot. He played the most minutes of any Blazer player (43) and shot a sizzling 60 percent from behind the arc on Friday.
"That's definitely the biggest shot of my life -- so far," Lillard said of his Stockton-esque bomb and dagger felt in the hearts of D12, Linsanity and all the rest of the Rockets.
Portland’s series win meant it also snapped the longest playoff losing streak in the West. But, it doesn’t get any easier for Lillard or for the Blazers, because the winner of San Antonio and Dallas awaits Portland in round two.
The good news is the Blazers will get a bit more rest than the Spurs or Mavs -- who are currently deadlocked at three games apiece with a critical Game 7 coming up later this week.
Meanwhile, Lillard gets to take off his Adidas for a day or two and bask in the biggest shot to come his way in his basketball playing career -- before he gets back to work preparing for his next challenge as he tries to win that championship ring that eluded the Adidas commercial cast mates he mocked.