Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard, whose success in clutch moments earned him the "Dame Time" nickname, said the ability to accept failure is a crucial part of his career.
"I can handle failure," Lillard told Paolo Uggetti of The Ringer in an interview released Thursday. "I don't have shame about what could happen or what somebody might say or anything like that. But I expect to come out on top."
The six-time All-Star has made a barrage of late-game shots since the Blazers selected him with the sixth overall pick of the 2012 draft, but that killer instinct started to develop long before he stepped on an NBA floor.
Lillard explained to Uggetti his outlook really began to change at age 13 after he led his AAU team to a comeback victory capped by his game-winning three at the buzzer.
"We was getting blown out the whole game, and the tide started to turn when I started to get more aggressive; when I started to impose my will," he said. "The more I had those moments—in eighth grade, ninth grade—I realized when I put my foot down and really apply pressure, I can change the outcome for my team. ... I think that was the beginning of it."
Uggetti noted Lillard led the league this season with 162 points in clutch situations—defined as the last five minutes of a close games—and research by ESPN's Kevin Pelton earlier this week showed the guard's 61.4 effective field-goal percentage in those key moments is the highest single-season mark ever recorded by the NBA.
The 30-year-old Oakland native is one of the league's most lethal scorers, ranking third with 28.8 points per game during the 2020-21 regular season, but he discussed how being able to knock down a shot when it matters most goes beyond baseline scoring prowess.
"It's training your body and your mind as well," Lillard told Uggetti. "So when those moments come, your belief in what you worked on is so high, you expect to be successful."
He's off to a terrific start in the Blazers' first-round playoff series against the Denver Nuggets, tallying 76 points through the first two games. The series is tied 1-1 as it heads to Portland for the next two contests.
The Blazers are likely going to need a few "Dame Time" moments in the coming days and weeks if they're going to make a deep postseason run in the loaded Western Conference.