One night, Damian Lillard found himself standing alone on the streets of Oakland, California. He was waiting for an AC Transit bus at the Eastmont Mall station when he spotted three guys approaching from a close distance.
Eastmont is not an ideal neighborhood to be idle or alone in post-nightfall, but it was the high school senior’s daily transfer home after basketball practice. Oakland High sat on Fourth Street, but Dame lived up on 106th. His varsity team always practiced last––after the freshman, junior varsity and girls squads––so every school night, around 9 p.m., he’d transfer from the 57 bus to the 40 at Eastmont. At night, there was always a rainbow of characters around the station. So Dame paid the approaching males no mind.
That is, until he was surrounded.
“Empty your pockets,” one of the men demanded. Dame, an even 6-feet tall at the time, sized up his aggressors. All three looked about his age. Two were shorter than him. Each was slim and appeared to have not seen the inside of a gym in years. When one of them grabbed Dame’s backpack strap, the local hoops star immediately pushed him off, stepped back and pivoted in anticipation of a brawl.
“I figured I would just try to knock one of them out and the other two—we’ll just see what it do,” Dame remembers. “As soon as I stepped back, one of the dudes whipped out on me and sat the gun right on my forehead.”