For many sports, not just basketball… the culture has become about winning. More specifically, the NBA Culture has become about winning rings. One of the most well-known star players, due to his heroics over the years, Damian Lillard is not a fan of that culture as he stated on J.J. Redick‘s podcast ‘The Old Man and the Three’.
“When I came in the league,” Portland Trail Blazers’ Lillard said. “Jason Kidd was starting for the Knicks… there were some real older dudes in the league. Earl Watson was 41, a true veteran when I played with him. I learned a lot about being a point guard from guys like Mo Williams and Watson. They didn’t even play.”
Only one player comes to mind with what Lillard said, and that’s Udonis Haslem, who has signed multiple one-year deals with the Miami Heat in order to stay on and teach the young blood some things, while still getting a chance to play every now and then.
“You had to earn what you get and the respect, as well as your spot on the team. There was none of this if your the sixth pick, its your team.”
With the average age of the NBA getting younger, the veteran presence is starting to dwindle. Some teams feature a few veterans, but for the most part teams are around the same age.
“The difference now is that you don’t have that veteran presence, so you got guys more talented than ever that are coming into the league, making more money than those veterans ever made.”
Some of the “generational talents” that Lillard was talking about are given keys to franchise. To put it in better terminology, they are being forced into a Face of the Franchise role as a rookie.
“The fact that they are given these things, it affects how they act and how they are. They play for themselves, or for stats, they think they’re the next LeBron James when they make an All-Star game. They get max contracts even if they ain’t earned it yet.”
It’s safe to say that the NBA culture has changed a lot over the years. Whether, it be with younger players coming into the league, with a lack of veteran presence or in how games today are run. A lot of ticky-tacky fouls happen today, fouls that wouldn’t have been called when Lillard first joined the league.
“The NBA that I play in now is not the same as the NBA that I came into. Now, I expect it to evolve. Everything is constantly changing but like I feel like I play for the love of the game. I play for my team rather than myself.”
For many years, there’s been the saying that the regular season doesn’t count. The only statistic that is being taken note of is how many rings a player has.
“It’s like that don’t count, the regular season don’t count,” Lillard continued. “Get a ring, or he’s the MVP, this guy did this. What is this stuff?”
There has been talks about Lillard’s loyalty to the Blazers franchise ever since he came into the league. In tha time, there have been some competitive teams as well as some not so competitive group of guys. Though, they’ve only missed the playoffs once in the 10 years that the 32-year-old has been in the NBA. For years, people have lobbied up Dame joining a super team, everytime he has shut those rumors down.
“I don’t need to prove to y’all that I want to win. Why would I play if I didn’t want to? I understand we play to win a championship, but we can’t keep acting like nothing else matters, that the journey doesn’t matter.”
With how the league is currently trending, the NBA Culture may be changing for the worse. For more on the segment, click here.
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