ChrisHaynes, CSNNW.com NBA & Trail Blazers Insider
Oakland,Calif., is one the most crime-ridden cities in the United States. A247 Wall St. review of the 2011 FBI crime data showed that in thelast two years, Oakland has had the ninth-highest murder rate inAmerica.
Drugs,gangs and prostitution have infested parts of the city over the years, creating a negative and sometimes unbearable livingcondition for the youth.
In that type of environment, it's probably more important for a young man to grow up having apositive father or father-figure around to steer them away from allthe damaging influences of the street culture.
Andthat's exactly what Houston Lillard Sr. did for his son, PortlandTrail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard.
Ah,there's too much (negative influences in Oakland), Damian said. I can go on and on, man. There's gangs, drugs, there'sa lot of stuff that goes on that he knows a lot about because he grewup in Oakland and he had family and friends living that lifestyle,he knew that game. So him passing that understanding on to me, I kneweverything that was going on and I knew I didn't want to be a part ofit."
Damiansaid for as long as he can remember, his dad has always been his bestfriend. According to Damian, he's always showed his support by goingto his basketball games, helping him with his studies, or just simplytalking about life and when life was the subject, Damian says his dadnever held back any punches.
He'sa quiet dude, but he keeps it 100 all the time, Damian said. He'san honest dude. He tells you what you need to hear, not what you wantto hear. He's like that all the time. Him being tough like that,that's how he made me and my brother.
ButHouston Lillard Sr. wasn't just that way with his own kids, he wasthat way with the friends of Damian and his older brother Houston Jr. Some of the kids in East Oakland who had no father intheir household, considered Damian's pop to be their own.
Damiansays that's just the kind of person he is.
He'sthe same way with everybody and that's why they Lillard's friendsall loved him like a dad, he said. I can go somewhere withNolan Smith and he'll treat Nolan that way, too. He just cares forpeople.
Damianhad what most would consider The American Family a father,a mother, a brother, and a sister all living together under one roof.
However,that would all change.
WhenDamian was in high school, he found out that his dad and mother,Gina, were separating. For all of Damian's life, family stability wasthe one thing he always possessed and it looked as if it was slippingaway.
Fartoo often when couples split, the kids are the ones who suffer themost and high school couldn't have been the easiest time to deal withsomething of that nature, since that's when teens are going throughtheir developmental stages.
But Houston Lillard Sr. created a bond much morepowerful between his kids than ever before. He remained an activeparticipant in his kids studies, he continued to show up at games,and he never left.
Infact, he and Gina have always had a good relationship after theseparation, in which led to an easier transition for the kids.
Itwasn't that bad because they got along,' Damian said. It justdidn't work out. They lived in the same city, I saw both of them allthe time so it wasn't that tough for me. I stayed with my dad, Iwas always with my mom but I lived with my dad.
Andthrough the separation, Damian found out something about hisdad. Well, he was reassured of something.
Mydad would never leave, he's all about taking care of his, Damiansaid. Even my cousins, everybody in my family, he took care ofthem. Whenever they needed something and he could help, he was therehelping, so he's always about taking care of his family and that neverchanged.
Thatold saying, An apple never falls far from the tree seems to fit Damianoh so well.
Rememberwhen Damian was a basketball standout at Weber State and he wasbuilding up a reputation as being one of the elite point guards inthe country? Well, that recognition didn't come without interest fromother D-1 colleges.
Despiteall of the attention, Damian chose to remain in Ogden, Utah to finishout his collegiate career because he says his teammates...ready forit...were family.
That'smy family, Lillard said. I couldn't leave them. We worked toohard together over the years for me to just go.
Itmay be too familiar if you ask Damian's mom. He says she often saysjokingly, You're just like your dad, and he doesn't disputethat.
We'relike the same person, he said. But if I had to say one thingthat's the real deal between us, is that we're all about taking careof our people.
Nowthat he's the franchise point guard for the Trail Blazers, he has anew set of people to take care of in feeding the ball to All-Starpower forward LaMarcus Aldridge and budding wing Nicolas Batum.
Ifthe past is any indication of the future, I think it can be said that the organization is in good hands. Wherever Damian has gone, he'smade an impact on people's lives from putting a small college on themap, to being able to secure a healthy life for his family.
Without his father,would Damian have made it out of East Oakland to be the success he istoday? Maybe. But I think it's important to recognize the power ofhaving a father or father-figure of character in ones life no matterwhere you're from.
DamianLillard is the man he is today in part because of Houston Lillard Sr. Whenhis parents separated, Damian could have went down a different path. But thanks to a father who handled a difficult situation well, Damiandidn't lose a beat.
Ifeel like now that I'm in the NBA and not only can I provide for myfamily, but I'm in a position to where I can change people's lives. Notfinancially, but just having an affect on people and that's how heis.