OAKLAND (CBS SF) — While his jersey may say Portland, for star guard Damian Lillard Tuesday night’s NBA Western Conference Finals showdown is a home game.
Lillard grew up on the streets of Oakland and his basketball skills remain legendary with even the youngest of fans.
“I think it’s a storybook moment,” he told reporters. “This being the last year they (the Warriors) are playing in Oakland. Me growing up here. I had season tickets to see the Warriors play. It’s a special ending. Hopefully it will end the right way.”
Lillard grew up on in East Oakland’s Brookfield Village. He returns each year to throw a community picnic and hand out school supplies to the kids in the neighborhood. At Oakland High, you can’t walk into the gymnasium without seeing his face plastered on every wall. Then there is the giant Hulu billboard with Lillard’s likeness along side Highway 880 in the shadows of the Oracle Arena.
“I think I was in the fourth grade and at the time the (Warriors) mascot was Thunder,” he said recalling his deep roots with the Warriors. “He wore his suit, so we never knew what he looked like. I remember after one game, me and my cousin, we stayed in the arena and they cut the lights out. There was nobody there. At the time they weren’t a championship team so the security was a little worse than it is now.”
“Me and my cousin walked out of one of the tunnels and there was a bag sitting there. My cousin was like — ‘I’m going to look into this backpack’ — So he opened it up and Thunder’s suit was in there. There was some nikes in there that he used to wear… We are standing there opening the bag and this bald headed dude comes walking out. He was like ‘What you all doing in my bag?’ He was the mascot. I thought that was pretty funny.”
Lillard has made the most of his games against his hometown team this year averaging 28.3 points a game and hitting 50 percent from the 3-point line.
Those kind of numbers that bring a smile to his old high school coach’s face.
“Oakland versus Oakland. This is gonna be fun!,” said Orlando Watkins. “He’s an integral part of what we still do at Oakland High and he’s a big part of Oakland.”
Oakland High 11th grader Anton Bass admits he’s pulling for Lillard instead of his hometown Warriors.
“I want Dame to win because he’s never been in this situation, this far in the playoffs and playing in his hometown so I’m going for Dame,” he told KPIX 5. “A lot of kids like the Warriors, but a lot of the kids like Damian Lillard more because they can actually touch him. He’s been in the gym. He’s talked to them about school and talked to them about grades.”