Damian Lillard, is one of the top scorers in the NBA this season, but he’s been doing that while dealing with an incredible amount of personal loss.
In an interview with The Athletic, the 30-year-old Portland Trailblazers point guard says six of his loved ones have died over the past 18 months – the most recent of which passed just last week.
“It’s been a hard year and a half for my family, man,” Lillard told the outlet. “People have no idea.”
In May 2020, Lillard found 35-year-old Brandon Johnson, his cousin and personal chef, dead at his home. Johnson was his best friend and the two spoke every day.
“I stood over his body, man. Like, he was dead. Minutes. I’m standing over his body,” Lillard said. “People don’t know what type of trauma that is, and what that is to have somebody that close to you laid out and you stand over him.”
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“Like, I still struggle with that. You know what I mean? Like, I still struggle with that. That’s a battle for me,” he added.
By the end of last year, Lillard says his aunt died from cancer, followed by a family friend who passed due to coronavirus complications.
In early 2021, Lillard found out a cousin was killed in West Oakland, California. Then, late last month, another cousin and a family friend were killed in shootings.
“What really matters in life, you know?” Lillard said to The Athletic. “When you consider that, and when you consider what your family is going through … it’s a battle mentally to put yourself in that place where this game is the most important thing right now.”
Lillard says the losses have taken an emotional toll on him, but he vows to keep going.
“I have to put those emotions to the side to care about the game and make sure I’m here for my teammates, and to do my job, because my job takes care of a lot of my family. It does a lot of things for people in my family,” Lillard said. “I think understanding that is what helps me kind of push forward.
“I know that does something positive for them, and that it means something to them, and that’s a major part of our happiness as a family and us being able to continue forward and stay together,” he said.