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Here’s why Damian Lillard won’t ‘sell himself out’ to win a title

Lillard discussed the impact a trade request would have on his colleagues’ lives, and the importance of his NBA friendships.

Portland Trail Blazers v Denver Nuggets Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Damian Lillard is one of the NBA’s best, and as he ages, many have wondered if he’d angle to leave the Portland Trail Blazers for a team better suited to win a championship. He’s given no indications of doing such a thing, even meeting with the late Blazers owner Paul Allen a year ago not to request a trade, but to affirm there was a mutual aspiration to win a title.

And recently, he explained why he’s staying put in Portland.

On a podcast with Yahoo’s Chris Haynes, Lillard said the trickle-down effect of what a trade request would mean for his colleagues is a big reason he isn’t interested in forcing his way out of Portland.

“I think a lot of people will tell you just because they go and they win a championship it was like, ‘oh we won a championship,’” Lillard said. “And then they look back and they are like, man, this happened because of that.

For Lillard to move to a better team, other players and their families would, subsequently, have to move against their will, too.

“When my career is over and I am going to know the relationships that I’m gonna have ... I am going to know the people who knew I was solid with them regardless if I was at the top or if I controlled all of this stuff, that I did it the right way. And I took people’s situations and their families and what could be into consideration before I just made a decision based off ‘alright, this is what’d be best for me. This is what people want to see me do.’”

Lillard’s interview with Haynes can be seen here:

Lillard’s always been sensitive to this issue.

In a feature by SB Nation’s Paul Flannery, Lillard revealed he was upset after his team’s Twitter account tweeted a joke welcoming cash considerations to Portland after the Blazers sent Tim Quarterman to the Rockets in a minor deal.

Per Flannery, Lillard sent a text to Chris McGowan, the team’s president and CEO. When he questioned why Lillard was so upset, he responded that Quarterman’s life had just been uprooted.

Lillard’s empathy is rare

Any star in the league has power to be traded. It may not be to the team they want to go to or at the time they desire, but eventually, they can make moves happen.

When that star is traded, one or more of his teammates might go with him, and so might that teammates’ spouse and children. That star’s decision to force a trade will also uproot the lives of one or more players from the opposing team, leaving families scrambling to restart their lives in a brand new city. That means a new house, new friends, new way of life, and it all comes quickly.

This is the nature of the business, and everyone involved is making a hefty salary they’ve deemed is worth the risks on the table. But Lillard’s admission that he’d have to live knowing his decision caused the ensuing chaos reveals the double-edged sword of player power. Ring-chasing isn’t worth that weight right now to him.

“I do want to win a championship,” Lillard said. “But there’s other stuff that means more to me. It’s almost like I’m not willing to sell myself out for that instead of impacting this.”

The way Lillard prioritizes values off the floor is what makes him such a unique star, and it’s why he’s so beloved in Portland.