SALT LAKE CITY — Ahead of the Portland Trail Blazers’ Martin Luther King Jr. Day game against the Utah Jazz on Monday, a snowstorm hit the area.
The roads were so bad early in the day that the Jazz decided to cancel shootaround, but that didn’t stop Lillard from delivering a cold-blooded 26-point, eight-rebound, eight-assist performance that night.
Lillard’s sixth consecutive 20-plus point game contributed to Portland’s 109-104 win versus the Jazz as he posted eight fourth-quarter points to help seal the victory.
Although it was an away game for the Blazers, members of the Weber State University Alumni Association, dubbed “Wild About Damian,” made the trip from Ogden to Salt Lake to cheer on the former Wildcat, whose No. 1 is retired on campus.
Weber State president Brad L. Mortensen was also among the sellout crowd in attendance.
Little did most people know, less than 40 miles away from Vivint Arena is where Lillard first saw snow as a freshman at Weber State. The 28-year-old, three-time NBA All-Star relived the initial experience during shootaround ahead of the Jazz game, saying it also involved losing a cell phone.
“My freshman year, I went home for Christmas and came back the day after Christmas and then that was the first time I had ever been in snow because it started snowing when I got back,” Lillard recounted.
So instead of sitting inside, members of the Weber State boys and girls basketball teams and other athletes engaged in a snowball fight, which led to Lillard being tackled in the snow.
“It was a group of people on top of me and I remember being planted into the snow, and it got to a point where I couldn’t breathe, kind of, and I started panicking, so I just started throwing people off of me and it was like a life or death moment I felt like,” said Lillard, a native of Oakland, California. “I started panicking. I got them all off me and I got out of there.Comment on this story
“I was like, ‘Alright, that’s it for me,’” he said. “So we went back to the dorm and I didn’t have my phone on me. So I lost my phone in the snow, and then months later when the snow dried up, my phone was underneath it. That’s crazy.”
Although Lillard grew accustomed to the snow in Utah, he still isn’t a big fan of it. Even an early snowstorm in his college state couldn’t stop him from leaving with a victory on Monday.
“People have been talking about our lack of success against good teams, our record in the Western Conference and on the road,” Lillard said. “It was all a discussion we discussed together. We aren’t concerned about it, but we wanted to start changing it.”