Blazers’ Star Damian Lillard Reveals 6 Loved Ones Have Died in 18 Months: 'I Still Struggle'

Blazers’ Star Damian Lillard Reveals 6 Loved Ones Have Died in 18 Months: 'I Still Struggle'

03/04/2021

Portland Trail Blazers' star Damian Lillard is playing with a broken heart.

In an interview with The Athletic, the 30-year-old point guard revealed he's had six loved ones die over the past 18 months, with the most recent happening just last week.

"It's been a hard year and a half for my family, man," Lillard told the outlet. "People have no idea."

The tragedies began in May 2020, when Lillard found 35-year-old Brandon Johnson, his cousin and personal chef, dead at his home. The two were best friends and spoke every day.

"I stood over his body, man. Like, he was dead. Minutes. I'm standing over his body," Lillard recalled. "People don't know what type of trauma that is, and what that is to have somebody that close to you laid out and you stand over him."

"Like, I still struggle with that. You know what I mean?" he added. "Like, I still struggle with that. That's a battle for me."

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By the end of 2020, Lillard's aunt had died from cancer, followed by a family friend who died from COVID-19 complications.

Earlier this year, Lillard found out a cousin was killed in West Oakland, California, near the area Lillard was raised. Then, in late February, another cousin and a family friend were killed in shootings.

"What really matters in life, you know?" Lillard told The Athletic. "When you consider that, and when you consider what your family is going through … it's a battle mentally to put yourself in that place where this game is the most important thing right now."

The Trail Blazers are currently sitting on a 20-14 record, which puts them at fifth place in the stacked Western Conference.

There was one recent high point for Lillard. In January, he and his fiancée Kay'La Hanson welcomed twins Kali Emma Lee Lillard (a daughter) and Kalii Laheem Lillard (a son). He also shares 2-year-old son Damian Jr. with Hanson.

The losses Lillard has experienced have taken an emotional toll on him, he admitted, but he continues to suit up for his family and team.

"I have to put those emotions to the side to care about the game and make sure I'm here for my teammates, and to do my job, because my job takes care of a lot of my family. It does a lot of things for people in my family," Lillard said to The Athletic. "I think understanding that is what helps me kind of push forward."

"I know that does something positive for them, and that it means something to them," he continued, "and that's a major part of our happiness as a family and us being able to continue forward and stay together."

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