Return to the NBA Journey, Week Fifteen: In His Name We Play

What good is a series without a trilogy? For the third time, The Sports Fan Journal heads on the NBA Journey. For the first two years, we had a level of surety as to where our destination would be. The first year, we were correct. The second, we were correct in location, but not in victor, as the Toronto Raptors won the title last year. Now, the NBA springs anew and for the first time in a while, we’re not totally sure where our destination lies. This allows for a current kind of exploration. Let’s continue with our next installment after a week of games.

Song of The Week: Dame D.O.L.L.A. – “No Punches”

Paying homage means great respect and honor, or something is done to honor a person or thing. In the realm of sports, homage is paid often due to the younger generation of athletes respecting those who’ve paved the way before them.

Just last week we at TSFJ celebrated the life of Kobe Bean Bryant who tragically lost his life in a helicopter crash.

Kobe’s legacy reaches far beyond basketball or debating NBA title odds, but when he laced up his kicks, few could do it as he did. During his illustrious 20-year career, Bryant was regarded as one of the greatest scorers to ever play the game. Kobe had no holes in his offensive game. He could shoot the midrange and the three-ball. His floater was good with either his right or left hand. He had a wicked right to left crossover, and his footwork was impeccable.

Kobe’s proclivity for scoring resonated with the younger generation of hoopers. Whether yelling ‘Kobe’ while shooting paper balls into the trash can or playing with the Mamba Mentality. Kobe’s fingerprints are all over the NBA.

Portland’s Damian Lillard is doing just that. He’s an assassin and he takes no prisoners on the hardwood. Whether it’s intentional or not, Lillard’s scoring montage and competitive nature is akin to what we’ve witnessed from Kobe.

Ironically both of them have scored 293 points in a six-game stretch during their careers. Bryant’s six-game streak was from March 15-25, 2007 and Lillard’s was over six games dating back to the last couple weeks.

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“In his name we play.” This is the caption underneath this picture on Lillard’s Instagram before Portland’s game against the Lakers. (IG/damianlillard)

Like Kobe, Lillard’s offensive repertoire is next level. He can get to the basket off the bounce. He can score from midrange. And he’s an assassin from long range. They call him ‘Logo Dame’ for a reason as he’s hit 66 three-pointers from at least 28 feet. There are better shooters in the league, but nobody’s range rivals Dame Dolla’s. Like Kobe, Lillard continues to add nuances to his game. Since coming into the league, Lillard has improved his pick and roll play. His reads are more cerebral and the game continues to slow down for him. He knows how to attack whether it’s splitting it, finding an open shooter or hitting a big rolling to the rim.

Over the last six games, Lillard is averaging close to 49 points per game, with a high of 60. What makes this feat more impressive is that he is shooting 55 percent from the field, 57 percent from deep, and he’s dishing out 10 assists per game. In addition to Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, and James Harden had similar scoring splurges.

Lilliard’s unintentional tribute to the Black Mamba has been nothing has been nothing short of amazing. The mood in the NBA has been somber since Kobe’s death, but witnessing Lillard make history has been a breath of fresh air.

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