By Ron Johnson
We all know that when it is time to try different options, the hardest part of that is to decide
what is best for you, the person, versus everyone else. This is the case in life as well as in sports.
When I made the decision to leave my hometown for a true fresh start in the Pacific Northwest,
I only had one main goal in mind: To get back to me, and do what is right for my future. Is it not
wrong to think that this is the mindset of one Damian Lillard?
Depending on who you ask, it truly is a hot topic.
In case you have been under a rock the last 24 hours, Lillard dropped the bombshell that has
continued to rock the league more than ‘The Decision.’ Lillard, who many can say is the most
popular and arguably best player in Blazers history, has decided that he wants to win a
championship…just not in a Blazers uniform.
If you are trying to understand why fans are fired up furious about Lillard’s decision to request a
trade, look no further than the man’s exact words the last few years when he addressed his
future in Portland:
Lillard’s Own Words
April 2015: ‘For me, this is where I want to be…’
January 2016: ‘It’s always good to be the first one to do something, especially being part of an
organization I plan on being a part of for my entire career. Wanting to leave is the easy thing to
do. I have always been the type of person, when things are hard, to not think about how hard it
is now. I think about what I want it to turn into. Then, that will be the ultimate satisfaction.’
January 2017: ‘I like living in Portland and I like the organization. It’s a great organization and
they care of us in every way possible. I’m happy with the situation I’m in, and my family is
happy with the situation and where we’re living. It’s a place where I’d want to play my entire
career.’ (Storry, 2023 )
But those were just a few clips that should make one understand why fans are pissed about
Lillard’s request to leave. But if that does not help you understand, let’s take a look at some
departures that left fans fuming.
Tom Brady: Yes, I know that we have used Brady’s name in past conversations, but how can
you not when the GOAT leaves the dynasty he helped create to fill a void in Tampa left by
Jameis Winston’s lackluster performances? When it was announced that Brady was officially a
Tampa Bay Buccaneer, fans were indeed irate at the decision. In their eyes, the Patriots just
kicked their king out of his kingdom (and let’s be real: New England will ALWAYS be Tom’s team,
no matter who the quarterback is).
Albert Pujols: Following a World Series victory for the Cardinals, their 11 th , Albert Pujols was a
household name in the city of St. Louis already. However, when he left the franchise after that
World Series to join the Angels, the fans of St. Louis were not happy campers. It got so bad that
when fans found out about it, they did this:
and this was before he joined NL rival Los Angeles. Since that time though, the Cardinals fanbase has not only
forgiven Albert, but embraced him to high heaven upon his arrival for one last ride when he
resigned with the team last season. Following their exit from the MLB playoffs in October of last
year, Pujols called it a career and now does play by play for the MLB and Cardinals television
and radio networks.
Shaquille O’Neal: The man known as Shaq Diesel was the biggest factor in the Magic’s dream
run in 1995. From smashing and stacking rims to shattering glass after snagging rebounds,
O’Neal was a mainstay in the Magic…that is until he wasn’t.
Despite his powerful performance with Orlando, O’Neal joined the Los Angeles Lakers and was an intricate part of the resurrection of the old school Showtime Crew led by Magic Johnson and James Worthy. Along with the late
great Kobe Bryant, and with legendary coach Phil Jackson at the helm, the Lakers went on to
win multiple championships during their more pleasant days before Shaq left the team.
St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams: On September 10, 1995, Georgia Frontiere brought football back
to the city of St. Louis. The Rams became the fourth NFL franchise to call St. Louis home, and in
the process, the city embraced the ‘Bob & Weave Express’ en route to winning their first Super
Bowl title, earning the nickname, ‘The Greatest Show on Turf’ and turning Kurt Warner into a
Upon Frontiere’s death, Enos Kroenke took it upon himself to bring the team back
to Los Angeles, and despite pleas from the residents of St. Louis, the Rams were back in
California. A few years after the move, the Rams would win another Super Bowl, and Kroenke
would become the first owner in American sports history to claim a Super Bowl (Rams), a
Stanley Cup (Avalanche) and most recently, an NBA Championship (Nuggets). But St. Louis has
moved on as they have embraced their newest football franchise, courtesy of the XFL, the St.
LeBron James: Yes, he is in this too. Do you remember where you were when LeBron James
was drafted? How about his first trip the NBA Finals? His decision to sign with Miami, thereby
introducing the world to the next Big Three?
Love him or hate him, LeBron James is one of the most polarizing figures in NBA history. And while the accolades have made him loved and respected, it is the decision to leave his home state Cavaliers not once but twice that make him hated and disrespected. While everyone is up in arms about him being in GOAT status, the
simple fact is this: If LeBron had won those championships and those awards, while breaking all
those records IN Cleveland rather than anywhere else, there would be no question to his GOAT
But since he did not do that but only once, people in Cleveland still drive by his mural
and flip it off. So having those brief moments to fall back on, you ask if Damian Lillard is in the same category
of James, Brady, the Rams, O’Neal, Pujols or any other star player that chose to leave a
franchise they swore their lifetime allegiance to. Well if you ask Lillard, he will say he does not
see the big deal. Again, in his words: “It’s in my blood to take the high road. I’d love to hear
what fans are turning on…have I mislead them? Or anyone? Fill me in.” (Lillard, 2023)
Well I like playing Devil’s Advocate, so allow me to give you the answer Dame.
In the eyes of the fanbase, you lied to them. You did them wrong. You disrespected them. If you
return to Portland to a sea of boos, do not be surprised by this. After countless times you were
asked over the years if your loyalty with Portland was ever in question and for you to say it was
not makes them believe that you were already planning to leave when that picture of you
outside Staples Center on Kobe Bryant night surfaced.
In the fans’ eyes, you betrayed them and broke their hearts. That treatment Pujols got after leaving St. Louis? Yours may be far worse due in large part to you saying that you planned to play your entire career in Portland.
Now for the business part of me to give you a response.
No, you did not lie to the fans. You said that as long as the team shows that they are still going
in the right direction of building towards and NBA Championship caliber team, you were not
going anywhere. Clearly, you saw something on draft night that made you rethink your future.
If there is anyone that truly deserves a championship before they hang it up for good, it is you.
And while the sports fan in my is determined to despise your choice for the next few months,
the business side of me is looking at this from the perspective of facts: there has not been many
star players wanting to play in Portland, the front office is abysmal, the coaching staff is trash
and to be fair, the city is shit.
So yes, it may be Dame Over in Portland, but if the Portland fateful had any decency and
respect for the work you put in over the last decade and a half, they would at least respect your
wishes and your decision, cheer for you to finally get that championship and praise you when
you resign with the Blazers on a one day contract just to retire as a Blazer.
So the verdict for this is deadlocked. Depending on who you ask, Damian Lillard is a hypocrite
and a jagoff or he is a hero that will always have the city of Portland running through his veins
via his playing on the court and the contributions to the community off of it.
Either way, until he retires for good, it will always be Dame Time.
Lillard, D. (2023, July 2). Damian Lillard Address Criticism From Trail Blazers Fans After Trade Request. (J.
Storry, R. (2023 , July 1). All The Times Damian Lillard talked about his future in Portland: ‘I want to see it
through here.’. Retrieved from Hoops Hype: https://hoopshype.com/lists/all-the-times-damian-