“Lillard long range three, AANNDD it’s good at the buzzer! DAMIAN LILLARD ARE YOU KIDDING ME!” One of the craziest moments in basketball history, Dame Time sending the OKC Thunder home and beating one of his most fierce rivals, Russell Westbrook. That shot was one year ago and there still hasn’t been a colder shot. Cementing himself as “Dame Time” one of the clutchest shooters ever, this was his crown jewel moment. Let’s rewind the tape on Dame Time.
Russ vs. Dame
This rivalry started in 2016 with Westbrook kicking the ball out of the outreached hands of Dame, who was just picking the ball while it was dead. They would then go at each other, getting in each other’s face and making it pretty clear that they didn’t like each other. This was just the tip of the iceberg, they would continue to go at each other almost every game that they played against one another. This comes to a high point in 2019 at the foul line during a regular season game. There is visible talking, and this talking is obviously arguing or some sort of trash talk, at the free throw line between both players. While it is normal to see players not shooting the free throw talking to other players, it is quite rare to see the person on the free throw line actually trash talking. This continued through the entire game, and ended with neither player shaking hands and both walking in opposite directions from each other. In the 2019 playoff series that Dame hit his signature shot, there was consistent trash talk between Dame and Russ. Both players got into a bit of a shoving match during game 1, and we can hear the commentators saying, “they have a history.” This continued with Westbrook showing his signature rock the baby celebration after multiple back downs and, and-ones during the one game that the Thunder won in the postseason. This rivalry has grown into one of the most well known in the NBA, the stone cold killer, Damian Lillard, and the physical beast, Russell Westbrook.
While the shot against OKC, the game winner against the Rockets in 2014, and his game winner against the Hornets in 2012 when he was just a rookie. Dame is leading the league with 63.2% shooting during clutch time, the last five minutes of the game when the score is within 5. Damian Lillard is known for his clutch shooting, his famous celebration of tapping his wrist to signal “Dame Time” has spread across the nation. He is undisputed champion of clutch shots and while Lebron and Steph might make a claim for the title, neither have the flair or consistency of Dame in the clutch.
At around 10 seconds left in the game clock we see Dame dribble up to the logo. At 8 seconds we see him wave off the screen and we hear Brian Anderson, “Lillard a chance to send the Thunder home.” There seemed to be a tension in Portland, every fan was on their feet watching their star. It was the quiet before the storm. We see Lillard take a couple of crossovers, and then the famous stepback. Over the outstretched arms of Paul George we hear, “Lillard long range three, AANNDD its good.” The Trail Blazers rush onto the court a feeling of pure joy and happiness coursing through the entire arena. We see Lillard with the famous wave sending the Thunder, his rival, and Paul George packing. Lillard then gets mobbed by his teammates, but has one last moment of triumph. Looking right at the camera pointed in his face, Lillard gives the famous celebration marking this moment as Dame Time.
The Trail Blazers did end up making it to the Western Conference Finals, before being beaten by the KD and Curry Warriors. It is not a guarantee that the Thunder would have made it this far in the playoffs, the biggest repercussions of this shot happened after the Finals. During the hectic 2019 free agency that saw Kawhi Leonard go to the Clippers and KD leave the Warriors, the Thunder had a fire sale. After signing an extension with the Thunder, Paul George seemed like he would be staying with OKC for the foreseeable future. Him and Westbrook would give the Thunder a contending team every single season. With a disappointing finish to the 2019 season, it seemed like this shot pushed the Thunder to the brink. They traded Paul George to the Clippers, making them instant title contenders, and traded Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets. Now in 2021 we see the OKC Thunder as a team with 34 draft picks from 2021-27. This is a team that is in an apparent rebuild, and we can trace it back to the Dame step-back that pushed this team over the edge.
PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ/REUTERS