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Portland Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard on Love for Boxing: He's a Fighter That Plays Basketball

For Damian Lillard, the game wasn't over.

Yes, the Portland Trail Blazers were trailing the Chicago Bulls by five points with 11.5 seconds left on Jan. 30, but he wasn't about to give up. He made a 37-foot 3-pointer to cut the lead to two. After the ensuing inbounds pass, Blazers guard Gary Trent Jr. tied up Zach LaVine, forcing a jump ball with less than 10 seconds left.

Now it was Dame Time.

"Once he went to the jump circle, in my head I was like, 'It's about to happen,'" Lillard said afterward. "The ball is going to end up in my hands, I'm not gonna have much time, but like this is one of those ambitious moments that never happens. It never comes to life, but this time it did."

Trent edged out LaVine, a two-time dunk contest champion with a 46-inch vertical leap, on the tip. The ball ended up in the hands of Robert Covington, who, after a brief scramble, shoveled it to Lillard.

With less than four seconds remaining, the opportunity Lillard had visualized was playing out. He took one dribble to the right, then rose and fired over the outstretched arms of 7-foot forward Lauri Markkanen.

Lillard's third career buzzer-beater winner -- most in Trail Blazers history -- lifted Portland to an unlikely 123-122 win. In a situation where many players concede defeat, Lillard never stopped fighting.

Fighting is in Lillard's nature. It was instilled in him as a child, when he would watch major boxing bouts with his entire family. That's where his love for the sport -- a sport he calls his favorite to watch -- was seeded. Hedeveloped a passion for the fighting spirit in boxers, and eventually turned his passion into production, making boxing an integral part of the offseason workouts that have molded him into one of the most clutch players the NBA.

For Lillard, no challenge is too great. He always gets off the mat. And, for those in boxing who know him best, it's easy to explain why.

"Damian Lillard is not a basketball player," trainer Cem Eren said. "He's a fighter who plays professional basketball."


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