Former Weber State basketball player Damian Lillard left school a year early when he decided to enter the 2012 NBA draft. It was a gamble, especially with him coming from a small school. It also paid off, as Lillard was selected by the Portland Blazers with the sixth pick that June.
Three years later, and Lillard’s NBA career has taken off. He’s helped turn the Blazers into a Western Conference contender after the team struggled in the years prior to his arrival. He’s also earned two All-Star Game appearances and is seen as one of the best young guards in the Association.
But for Lillard, one of his primary goals off the court was to work hard to earn that degree from Weber State—a goal he accomplished this weekend.
In giving the school’s commencement speech, Lillard spoke with emotion and intelligence.
Two-and-a-half nights ago, I was in Memphis, Tennessee. My team was facing elimination in an NBA Playoff game, and I couldn’t sleep. I was thinking to myself, ‘I’m not ready to go home. I don’t know what’s going to happen next.’ It was 5 a.m., light was coming out and I said ‘You know what, I could start thinking of what I’m going to say for my speech in case we lose.
I remembered the reason I came here. The reason I came here was because a lot of the values that my family placed in me was a lot of things the basketball program stood for. And when I came here, there were a lot of things that I picked up that, in my life now, is the big reason why I have been able to be so successful.
It’s really cool to see a player of Lillard’s ilk go back to school to get his degree. He’s already earned millions in three NBA seasons, and will earn more money from playing basketball that he could possibly spend in his life.
On the surface, getting a degree from Weber State probably won’t mean much from a career standpoint, but it’s rather clear that Lillard wanted to do this for himself and his family back in Oakland, California.
And that deserves to be written about.
Mad respect, kind sir.
Photo: USA Today Sports