Few NBA players have the ties to Oakland that Damian Lillard does. Despite spending his entire career with the Portland Trail Blazers, the three-time All-Star is a vital piece of Bay Area sports history, and has a strong connection with the Golden State Warriors.
Lillard was born and raised in Oakland, and starred at Oakland High School. And as a kid, he spent many nights at Oracle Arena, watching the Warriors long before the titles started flowing into the rafters.
Mark Medina of the Mercury News caught up with Lillard ahead of the Thursday night matchup between Golden State and Portland, and learned some incredible stories about the point guard going to games as a kid, including easily getting past security to eat media meals and grab autographs from players.
But the most important part came when Lillard talked about how the success of the team has priced out so many of the fans that made Oracle a rocking house, even during the 20-win seasons.
“A lot of the real Warriors fans, a lot of times they can’t go to the games,” said Lillard, who still has a huge contingency of family in the area. “They can’t afford it. At that time, we were able to go to the games. Nowadays, a really good ticket is way more expensive to do everything. The people who are real Warriors fans aren’t able to get into the games.”
That is, of course, the price of success. But Lillard isn’t wrong, and he’s certainly not alone in lamenting that change. Success is good, but it has its side effects.
Barring a postseason matchup, Thursday night’s game between the Warriors and Blazers will be the last time that Lillard plays at the arena he visited as a kid, as Golden State will move to the Chase Center in San Francisco next season.