Saturday , August 26, 2017 - 9:10 PM
OGDEN — For someone as driven and successful as Damian Lillard, it’s hard to slow down and appreciate your accomplishments.
The former Weber State star admitted that as a fault Saturday at the Dee Events Center when Weber State Alumni Classic festivities paused for the main event — the retirement of Lillard’s No. 1 jersey, soon to hang from the rafters.
“I have an issue with letting things just blow away,” the two-time NBA All-Star told the crowd of a few thousand fans during the ceremony. “I look at an accomplishment and I just move on to the next thing instead of appreciating how big of a deal it is.
“I had to make myself think about how big of a deal this is to have your jersey retired,” he said. “Nobody will ever wear this jersey again.”
After the buzzer sounded, Lillard expounded on the gravity of the moment, naming his dad, brother, youth coach, girlfriend and cousins — and college coach Randy Rahe — as people he’d made proud.
“It’s a really special moment,” Lillard said. “It was a great feeling to be able to do it in front of all my people and all the people who played a part in this even being able to happen.”
WEBER STATE ALUMNI CLASSIC
Lillard thanked his former teammates in attendance by name — Kyle Bullinger, Darin Mahoney, Steve Panos, Josh Noble, Frank Otis, Nick Hansen — for helping him at vulnerable times, even for someone with a rising star like his.
“I felt more comfortable because of how they treated me, even when it was time to enter the draft and everybody had all eyes on me,” Lillard said. “They made it easier to cope because it was the first time I ever had that much attention on me.”
After speaking to the crowd, Lillard moved to the wall at the east end of the floor and pulled down a purple sheet, revealing his No. 1 banner.
The moment lends itself to athletic accomplishments. After all, the school played a three-minute video to begin the retirement ceremony showing his top plays, college and pro, the moment he was drafted, and more.
But for Rahe, it was all about Lillard the person. During the ceremony, he praised Lillard for his character and continued to do so after the game.
“It’s neat to see all the things he’s accomplished, but to me, I just ... love it when he’s around because of the kind of person he is and how he ... runs his life and how he treats people,” Rahe said.
“That’s why I want him around our players as much as he can be, because he’s such a winning player off the court, it’s hard to fathom ... most guys in his position in that league don’t get it. Damian gets it. It’s genuine, his appreciation for it.”
Lillard joined Willie Sojourner (No. 35, 1968-71) and Bruce Collins (No. 22, 1976-80) as the third Wildcat to have his jersey retired, creating a tangible memory of the time the basketball superstar played at Weber State.
Contact Brett Hein at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @bhein3 and at facebook.com/brettheinwrites.
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