Two years ago, Portland Trail Blazers signed All-Star Damian Lillard to a five-year extension worth $120 million. The interesting part about the way the contract was structured, Lillard didn’t ask for trade clauses or a player option.
The 2013 Rookie of the Year just signed – with little pushback – to a pretty low-key affair by today’s NBA standards. Even the news of the contract extension went by with little fanfare outside of the Pacific Northwest.
No early opt-outs, no trade kickers in Dame's deal. He didn't want them. "I know in my heart, this is where I want to be."
— Mike Barrett (@blazermb) July 9, 2015
A year later and the Memphis Grizzlies would hand Mike Conley, Jr. the largest contract in total value in league history at five-year, $153 million.
It raised eyebrows for sure, not because Mike Conley, Jr. isn’t a good basketball player – he is – but for Memphis to extend such a record-breaking deal to a player whose biggest on-court accolades was being named to the 2013 NBA All-Defensive Second Team was quite shocking for most hoops fans and talking heads.
It also started getting people talking about Lillard and his deal, but Lillard shut the negativity down quick.
— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) July 1, 2016
That’s when the basketball world starting realizing on a grander scale who Damian Lillard is.
Beyond the Blazers’ 2012 first-round pick, beyond the two All-Star nods, beyond the man who was thought would lead Portland back to relevancy, the 26-year-old Lillard was a good man.
— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) January 19, 2017
The next winter, Lillard was snubbed for a third trip to the NBA All-Star Weekend festivities (it would happen again this season, too) but people were starting to rally behind Lillard more and more. And not just from Portland.