I've spent most of NBA Week discussing players and card sets I collected when I was a young NBA fan from 1989 to about 1996 or 1997. By the end of the '90s I had lost interest in the sport, and the league. It was only about three years ago that I really started to enjoy the NBA again, and it wasn't until this year that I followed basketball as closely - or more closely - than the other sports.
This postseason in particular has been very enjoyable. I have a ton of respect for LeBron James and I'll take his side in the GOAT debate any day. But he's been to the finals ten times. His Cavaliers teams played the Golden State Warriors in four consecutive Finals series. Let someone else have a turn!
One of the many reasons I was turned off of basketball is that there were so many superstars in the 1990s who never won a championship. It was a foregone conclusion that the Bulls were going to win - at least until Michael Jordan
was suspended for gambling decided to play minor league baseball.
In the 1990s four different teams won titles. In the 2000s five teams grabbed a chip. In the 2010s seven different teams triumphed - and LeBron only played for two of them. And then he started this decade with a fourth title on his third team.
Today the league is stacked with exciting young talent: Trae Young in Atlanta. Luka Doncic in Dallas. Zion Williamson in New Orleans. Ja Morant in Memphis. Some of these stars will leave the team that drafted them at the first opportunity, either for a bigger market or a better chance to win (or both.)
Or maybe - just maybe - they'll stay loyal to one franchise for as long as possible.
Damian Lillard has stayed with the Portland Trail Blazers for nine years. Since he became their go-to guy in his second NBA season, Portland has reached the playoffs eight times and lost in the first or second round seven times. The Lillard-led Blazers made a Western Conference final once. The super team from Golden State swept 'em.
It has always been very difficult for a team to win an NBA title without three star quality players. The 2011 Mavericks and 2004 Pistons are on the short list of exceptions. This year's finalists aren't stacked with big names but the stars are there: CP3, Devin Booker, and Deandre Ayton for Phoenix. Giannis, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday for Milwaukee. Portland doesn't have a a big three. They don't have a frontcourt star to take some of the load off of Lillard and C.J. McCollum. And it's doubtful that they'll get one any time soon.
One thing I still dislike about the NBA is clique culture, the "banana boat" clusters of superstars who go where their friends are - as long as their friends are in a big, fun city like New York, L.A., or Miami. From everything I've seen and read Damian Lillard is an exemplary superstar, beloved in his community and respected by his peers. He was honored as Teammate of the Year this season.
Does that mean a superstar player is going to pack up for Portland and help Dame and C.J. win a title?
So it looks like Lillard will have to leave "Rip City" if he wants a real chance at a ring. And that's a shame. He's over 30 but hasn't shown any signs of decline yet. He's as clutch as anyone in the game.
Tell me that this is not the baddest man in basketball:
It's hard to have a favorite NBA team, since players come and go so frequently. My co-worker Torry has been a Miami Heat fan since he was a kid - Dwyane Wade was his favorite player - but when they were in the "bubble" Final last year he admitted to only following the Heat casually. He knew they weren't going to beat the Lakers, and his guy had retired anyhow.
There are four or five NBA teams I cheer for every postseason. One of them is in the Finals as I type this. I like the Celtics, Pacers, Raptors, and Nuggets but I don't have a strong affinity for any of them. It would be nice to see Boston win another title. It would be nice to see LeBron win six rings. It would be great to see a small-market franchise win it all. But next year, I want to see Dame Time in the Finals.
I have 19 Damian Lillard cards, including his 2015-16 Donruss base card. None of them are rookies or relics:
His autograph is interesting - but very expensive. I've been looking for an affordable Panini Immaculate single and any insert card with him and Clyde Drexler. It's been so long since I placed my COMC order that I'd forgotten if there was a 20th Lillard card incoming (there isn't.)
Who is your favorite active NBA star? Who is your favorite active athlete (in any sport) without a championship ring?
Thank you for celebrating NBA Week with me. Stop by The 1993 and claim a Rack Pack PWE :)