Likely due to the market he plays in, Damian Lillard often times goes overlooked in the discussion of who the league’s top point guard is.
Heck, despite averaging 27.0 points, 4.9 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game in the regular season, he wasn’t even selected to the Western Conference All-Star team.
With little help around him and with a number of injuries that Portland dealt with during the regular season, Lillard led them to an eighth-seeded playoff berth.
However, it seems as though he's embraced the role of the underdog and has acted with class both on and off the court for the entirety of his NBA career.
On Tuesday, he was given the Pro Basketball Writers Association’s Magic Johnson Award which recognizes “the player who best combines excellence on the basketball court with cooperation and dignity in dealing with the media and the public.”
One aspect of Lillard’s leadership that shows his immense generosity was detailed by Jason Quick of CSNNW.com:
“As captain for the past two seasons, Lillard has made it clear to his teammates that their playoff checks should be donated to the Blazers’ support staff, which consists of everybody from massage therapists to the trainers at the practice facility,” Quick explained.
He continued, “Once again this season, with Lillard going from player to player to assure they followed through, the team voted to give up their full shares. The money was divided among 25 support staff, with some getting more than others depending on their role.”
“We divide our playoff shares to give to the people who we work so closely with because they spend as much time away from their families as we do, and they are just about as invested as we are,’’ Lillard said after the season. “They also do as much as possible to make our lives easier, even if it makes theirs more difficult – all while making far less. So it’s a further way of showing appreciation beyond a thank your or a handshake.’’
Quick also noted that Lillard’s regime as team captain has been vastly different than previous year’s teams:
“With some Blazers teams, the locker room leadership was not always as generous. Three seasons ago, when veteran Chris Kaman joined the team, he became appalled that the Blazers were keeping their playoff checks. Kaman, who became close with Lillard, told him if he ever led a team he should insist on getting the guys to donate to underscore the importance of unity and having one’s back.”
While Lillard might not technically be an All-Star, he proves day-in-and-day-out why he’s one of the biggest role models in the NBA.