Damian Lillard has developed into one the game’s brightest up-and-coming stars over the past two seasons. He has won Rookie of the Year honours in addition to being an All-Star as well as being named to the All-NBA Third Team within his first two years.
However, his career defining moment came about on May, 2nd when he nailed a rare walk-off winner at the death to clinch the opening series of the 2014 NBA Playoffs.
With less than one second remaining on the clock in Game Six of the first round match-up between the Houston Rockets and the Portland Trail Blazers, the two sides were separated by just two points. The home-team Trail Blazers had just called a time-out and received the ball in the Rockets side of the court.
The resulting play drawn from time-out led to Lillard escaping from Chandler Parsons for a split second and that is all he needed to catch Nicholas Batum’s inbound pass, swivel around and hoist up an improbable game-winner – All in less than 0.9seconds.
Impossible to forget
Parsons had just managed to get over the ordeal until he was once again asked about it during Team USA’s training camp in Las Vegas.
"This is never gonna leave me, Dame," Parsons shouted to Lillard, who was sat just a few chairs away:
"I'm going to live with that shot for the rest of my life.
"It's just sad, man. It still hurts. It stings. I can't dodge it — anywhere. But it was a big-time shot by a big-time player. So I've got respect for him. That's just one of those plays, man."
The irony in all this is that Parsons had just made the lay-up to put the Rockets ahead 98-96 after the ball pin-balled off the hands of Robin Lopez, who couldn’t gather in James Harden’s miss.
Harden, also present in the camp, was also forced to recall the heart breaking shot, and he couldn’t help but think what could’ve happened had the ball pinged off the rim and out:
"It was an unbelievable shot," said the Rockets shooting guard.
"If he doesn't make that shot, we win Game 6 and we go home with momentum for Game 7."
Nonetheless, that is all in the past. For now, the trio’s focus is solely on trying to crack USA’s 12-man roster for the inaugural FIBA World Cup (formerly known as the FIBA World Championships) in Spain.
The tournament begins in mid-August and the U.S are favourites to win the whole thing, but the host nation (who have players such as the Serge Ibaka, Ricky Rubio and the Gasol brothers, Marc and Pau) along with the likes of France (with Lillard's Portland teammate, Batum) and Brazil (Nene, Leandro Barbosa, Tiago Splitter) won’t make it easy for them.