Damian Lillard Opens Up About Playing Through Multiple Family Tragedies This Season

Damian Lillard has been playing through tragedy this season, after the untimely deaths of both people in his inner circle and his wider orbit.

Damian Lillard

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Damian Lillard

On the court, Damian Lillard has been routinely excellent this year. The Portland Trailblazers star has played well enough to make the All-Star Game for the sixth time, and is a big part of the reason why Portland is in the playoff hunt. Off the court, Lillard has had an absolutely miserable year full of tragedies and unexpected deaths. He detailed his year of bad news in a new interview with The Athletic. 

“It’s been a hard year and a half for my family, man,” Lillard said. “People have no idea.”

That might be a bit of an understatement. In the last 18 months, Lillard has found his cousin dead, lost an aunt to cancer, lost a family friend to COVID-19, lost a cousin in a West Oakland shooting and had two members of his inner circle shot and killed in Portland. 

Prayers out to Damian Lillard. This is insane

(Via https://t.co/EIbpSvAOMi ) pic.twitter.com/N3M3gP3er1

— NBACentral (@TheNBACentral) March 3, 2021

“What really matters in life, you know?” Lillard asked. “When you consider that, and when you consider what your family is going through … it’s a battle mentally to put yourself in that place where this game is the most important thing right now.”

Lillard said that seeing his family struggle with the compounding losses has drained him, noting that he gets his enthusiasm to carry through the season from his family. 

“I’m happiest when my family is happy, and when people I love are happy,” Lillard said. “And I know it’s a hard time for them. So much has been happening.”

Because Lillard’s success as a basketball player is what supports many members of his family, he’s been able to put his grief away for the time it takes to play. He said he knows ultimately, seeing his family members who are still here thrive via is what matters.

“I have to put those emotions to the side to care about the game and make sure I’m here for my teammates, and to do my job, because my job takes care of a lot of my family. It does a lot of things for people in my family,” Lillard said. “I think understanding that is what helps me kind of push forward.”

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