Portland Trail Blazers: How Damian Lillard changed history with one shot

Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) /

Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard cemented his status as a living icon after dropping a 37-foot game winning shot on the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Ten seconds remain in Game 5 of the first round series between the Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2019 NBA Playoffs.

Damian Lillard walks the ball past half court, sizing up the defense while his teammates spread the floor for an iso possession. One of the best perimeter defenders in the league in Paul George steps up to meet him.

Six seconds left on the clock now, Lillard gestures to his teammates while George anxiously looks side to side expecting a hard screen to be set next to him any second now. It never comes. It never needed to.

With just two seconds left in regulation, Lillard pulls up from 37 feet out. George anticipates the shot and fully extends, contesting the shot perfectly as if he picked up the technique in a textbook. It didn’t matter, Lillard’s release was too fast.

Ball goes in hoop. Crowd goes wild. The rest is history.

By the will of the basketball gods, Lillard’s prayer shot was answered and sent Oklahoma City packing in just five games after a hotly contested series on and off the court. Face of the Thunder franchise Russell Westbrook had developed quite a heated rivalry with Portland’s very own Lillard over the course of the year.

This feud culminated in the playoffs, where Westbrook had the chance to put his money where his mouth was after telling Lillard he has “been busting that [expletive] for years”. In the end, cooler heads would prevail. As if his iconic game-winning shot and signature goodbye-hand wave weren’t enough, Lillard took to Instagram to rub his victory in.

Reciting an excerpt from the legendary text by Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”, Lillard delivered a poetic statement to finalize the rivalry.

"“It is the unemotional, reserved, calm, detached warrior who wins, not the hothead seeking vengeance and not the ambitious seeker of fortune.”"

And finalized this rivalry was. After news broke reporting that Paul George had requested a trade to the Clippers to join Kawhi Leonard in Los Angeles, the Thunder appear to have officially hit the reset button. This trade follows up the report that the Thunder were actively looking to move Steven Adams, Dennis Schroeder and Andre Roberson to avoid the luxury tax.

How fitting it seems then, that Lillard’s game-winning shot was made right in the face of George. The 37-foot bomb vanquished Oklahoma City from playoff contention after their third straight first-round playoff defeat while simultaneously leaving George and the rest of the Thunder roster demoralized.

So demoralized it seems, that George opted to get out of town just one year into his freshly inked max contract. A move like this is entirely unprecedented, and could have bigger implications down the line when it comes to giving more power to the players in negotiations.

For now however, Oklahoma City finds themselves in a perilous state. With nine playoff appearances and a 515-289 record over the last ten years, the Thunder will finally have to accept the most difficult reality in the NBA: tanking. This will be an especially difficult pill to swallow after the winning culture the Thunder have become accustomed to.

Next. Visualizing the Blazers 2019-20 depth chart. dark

One of the most successful teams over the last decade is collapsing. Westbrook is on the trade block. The final chapter on the rivalry between the Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers has finally been written and printed for the masses.

And to think it all may have never happened, if not for one last-second heave from Lillard on that fateful night.