Damian Lillard, the former Weber State University All-American, 2013 NBA Rookie of the Year and two-time NBA All-Star, was honored during the 2017 Alumni Classic with the retirement of his jersey.
This is a long-held sports tradition for athletes who excel greatly during their time with a team. Retiring a jersey is a high honor. Weber State University officials presented Lillard with a placard commemorating his accomplishments at WSU and unveiled his jersey.
The No. 1 jersey will now hang in the rafters of the Dee Events Center alongside those of Willie Sojourner and Bruce Collins, never to be worn again.
Lillard, who now plays for the Portland Trail Blazers, spent an hour before the Alumni Classic signing autographs alongside other former WSU players. During the game’s halftime, Lillard and his family were brought onto the court to be honored.
A video commemorating Lillard’s accomplishments was played on the screen above the court. WSU basketball head coach Randy Rahe then stepped onto the court to say a few words.
Rahe praised Lillard for his work ethic, his dedication to success in all areas of life and his drive to make Weber State basketball the best it could be. He spoke of Lillard’s unchanging passion from the first day he stepped onto campus to the day he entered the NBA Draft and throughout his professional career.
“I love it when he’s around because of the kind of person he is,” Rahe said. “How he runs his life, how he treats people is why I want him around our players as much as he can be. He’s such a winning player off the court.”
After Rahe spoke about Lillard, the star took his moment with the microphone. He thanked the WSU coaches, his former teammates and the Weber State fanbase as a whole for making him a member of the Wildcat family from the first day he arrived on campus.
He also thanked the teachers who made sure he turned his work in on time, the classmates who supported him and the Dee Events Center staff who would come open the doors and turn on the lights so he could shoot at all hours of the night.
When asked why he chose to finish his degree at Weber State instead of a school closer to Portland, Lillard gave no pause in saying there was no other option in his mind but to graduate as a Wildcat.
“I’m all about the home team,” Lillard said. “I don’t know people at Portland State. I’m from Weber State. I was in the classroom with these teachers, the students here know who I am and these are my coaches and my teammates and my friends who graduated from this school. I never even thought about finishing anywhere else.”
Lillard mentioned he has a habit of not appreciating the accolades he receives.
“I really have a problem with my accomplishments,” Lillard said. “When I got drafted I was already saying that I would be Rookie of the Year, and then when I got Rookie of the Year I was already saying that I would make the All Star team, and then I want to be MVP and I want to make a rap album.”
Lillard’s determined to treat this milestone differently.
“Most guys, in his position, in that league don’t get it,” Rahe said. “Damian gets it.”