Search “Damian Lillard game winner” on YouTube and you’ll get a handful of spectacular highlights, including a 37-foot stunner he hit in the first round of the NBA playoffs in April. The star point guard for the Portland Trail Blazers has been clutch going back to his AAU days, but as he tells Rolling Stone in the latest installment of the first time, the first game winner he ever hit ended up not mattering at all.
In the clip, Lillard recalls how in eighth grade, his AAU team got blown out in the first half, but came roaring back in the second. Down two points, LIllard hit a three that gave his team a one point lead with about two seconds left. “After I made the shot, I started yelling and celebrating, I took my jersey off and all my teammates are celebrating,” Lillard says. “And my coach is running up and down the sideline yelling, ‘Put your jersey on!’ And the ref turned and saw me with my jersey off and I got a tech. And it’s two free throws in high school, so they came out and hit two free throws and we lost the game.”
Elsewhere in the video, Lillard talks about meeting his idol, NBA Hall of Famer Allen Iverson, as well as the origins of his music career. Lillard has released three albums so far, 2016’s The Letter O, 2017’s Confirmed and, most recently, Big D.O.L.L.A., which arrived in August and featured appearances from Jeremih and Lil Wayne.
The first track Lillard wrote, though, was a song that served as the warm-up music for his high school basketball team, and his first live show took place at his 24th birthday, when his dad encouraged him and his friends to perform the songs they’d been writing in their free time.
“It was a different feeling because after I did it, at first I was like, ‘Nah, I don’t really want to rap, I don’t want to be doing that right now,'” Lillard says. “But when we started and people liked it and they were really listening, then I was like, ‘Let’s do another one!’ So we ended up doing like, five or six freestyles and I was like, ‘That was fun.’ So that’s when I really realized it’s different than being in front of a crowd playing basketball and I want to do that too.”