NBA

Free shoes and autographs: Damian Lillard gives back

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) -- The stampede started with a sign. A single U-Haul truck, that on any other day might signal new movers in Northeast Portland, slowly passed down Fremont Street, heading toward the corner of Irving Park.

One by one, the hundreds of basketball players and fans wearing No. 0 Trail Blazers jerseys and other apparel, started to figure it out. Inside that moving truck was Damian Lillard, and behind the U-Haul's gate were over 100 pairs of free Adidas. 

They started sprinting. 

At 6:37 p.m., Lillard, the Blazers all-NBA point guard, sent a tweet that sent social media into a frenzy. 

Kids, parents and fans from all over the area immediately dropped what they were doing, got in their cars and headed toward Irving Park. Ben Shore was watching the NBA Awards at his home in Southwest Portland, an award show Lillard, a first-team All-Nba honoree, wasn't nominated for.

"I had to quit that and get here as fast as I could," Shore said, adding that Lillard should've been invited. 

Instead of being in Los Angeles, Lillard just to be with the fans of Portland, a city that he's said has embraced him. A city that he considers family. 

That family showed up by the hundreds, and when he showed up in a U-Haul, passing by the crowds that filled the park an hour after he sent a call to action, they sprinted toward him, surrounding the U-Haul's truck.

"I thought someone was going to get stampeded," Shore said. "Or get hit by a car. there were cars driving and people running in the street. No one cared at all."

Lillard delivered on his promise. For 30 minutes Lillard passed out free shoes to Portland's youth as "Dame, Dame!" and "MVP!" chants echoed.

And when he ran out of shoes, he picked up a pen and signed anything fans would bring to him. One kid reached his phone out, begging the city icon to autograph that. When Lillard did, multiple other people took phones out of their pockets, hoping he'd sign theirs, too. A teenager, who didn't get free shoes from Lillard, reached out with a shoe of his own, standing on one flat foot and one angled foot. Lillard signed that shoe and the teen put it back on and walked away after, muttering "oh my God," under his breath in amazement. Another man presented his toddler; Lillard signed the little boy's shirt, sending the boy's father away a happy fan. 

After half an hour, Lillard looked up at a crowd that kept getting bigger and bigger. He got out of the U-Haul's trunk and signed more autographs as he slowly made his way to the door. Then he was gone. The impact, though, will last for a while, immortalized in free shoes and autographs. 

"A bunch of kids here couldn't afford his shoes," Shore said. "He just dropped off 100 free pairs of shoes. It's great, a great feeling. Good to know someone cares."


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