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Damian Lillard reveals who put the chip on his shoulder: “He laughed in my face”

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The road to the NBA is a long and winding one. We have all heard stories of undrafted prospects going through the eye of the needle to achieve their NBA dreams. Even the heralded stars of today, who make the game look so easy, once trekked a difficult road to donning that coveted NBA jersey. 

You'll never make it to the NBA

Though Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard was picked sixth in the 2012 NBA Draft, there was a time when he was nowhere near the radar of college scouts. Speaking with Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, Lillard shared that his road to the NBA wasn't that easy. His own high school own coach poked fun at Dame's NBA dreams. Even after going on a scoring tear against a strong AAU team, Lillard was ignored by college coaches and scouts. 

“Coach was like, ‘Man, you think you’re going to make it to the NBA?’ I was like, ‘Yeah.’ And he chuckled and laughed in my face, bro. He literally like smiled at me in my face. I was just like, I’ll never forget when he said that, and it was that summer when we played AAU. We played against the T-Mac (Tracy McGrady) All-Stars, and I was just killing.”

Damian Lillard, ">Bleacher Report

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“I remember seeing Lorenzo Romar (the Washington Huskies head coach from 2002 – 2017), Roy Williams (the North Carolina Tar Heels coach), and I’m leaving the court like, ‘I’m good. I’m (gonna) get a call. We get to the hotel, bro … nothing. Like nothing. I ain’t get nothing from that? I think from that moment, it was like, I felt slighted,” Lillard said.

Reserved for the elite

Lillard's story is proof that only the cream of the crop makes it to the NBA. Every season, some 450 players get to don that precious NBA jersey. The 450-strong is a mixture of Americans and players from all over the world. Those from abroad are some of the best ballers in their countries. 

With this in mind, it would be downright foolish to underestimate those players who were booted out of the NBA and forced to play in lower-tier leagues. Think of someone like Lance Stephenson who spent a season in the CBA and was the most valuable player of the Terrific 12. Now he’s back in the league and doing pretty good for himself. Post-NBA, Stephon Marbury became one of the most-revered basketball figures in China. JR Smith, amid all his blunders in the NBA, dropped four 50-point games in his single-season stint in the CBA.

Lillard's narrative and a few others should serve as reminders to NBA fans. Yes, sometimes they get on your nerve when they fail to perform as they should. But at the end of the day, these NBA players are playing a sport at its highest echelon. They worked extremely hard for it and deserve a bit of respect.

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