- Damian Lillard said he immediately told his mom to quit her job when he signed his $13 million rookie deal.
- Lillard went to her job and helped her pack her desk.
- Lillard now has $191 million in career earnings and has created “generational wealth” to support his family.
As soon as he could, Damian Lillard told his mom to quit her job.
Speaking with ESPN’s Marc J. Spears on “Andscape,” Lillard said that when he signed his first NBA contract in 2012 — a four-year, $13.8 million rookie deal — he went to his mom’s job to help her quit.
“First thing I did, all right, I’m a millionaire now so I went to my mom’s job and was like, ‘Quit,'” Lillard told Spears. “I literally went and helped her pack up her desk, everything. ‘They ain’t been doing you right. They’ve been on your ass about every little thing. We ain’t coming back.’ So that was kind of just my initial thought.”
Lillard didn’t specify what his mom, Gina Johnson, did for a living. However, he said that during his senior year at Weber State, she was “struggling” and living in an apartment with her sister in San Leandro, California. Lillard said he would try to pick her up during phone conversations by telling her that he was going to get drafted soon.
“We would talk on the phone at least every other day. And she’d be telling me how she had been feeling sick. They were on her about her production. They were basically threatening to fire her,” he recalled. “She was stressed out and struggling at work with her health. And I was just constantly telling her things like, ‘The [Boston] Celtics were at practice today. The [Utah] Jazz was at practice today.’ I was just trying to pick up her spirits.”
Lillard was drafted sixth overall by the Portland Trail Blazers. Once he signed his contract, he went to his mom’s work to help her quit.
“When I finally got drafted and everything was pretty much set, I came home, and we literally went to her job in San Ramon. We walked in, and everybody was aware that I just got drafted … I was like, ‘We quit! We quit!'”
In an interview with “Court-Side Moms” in 2020, Johnson said that she and much of her family had relocated to Portland with Lillard from California.
Lillard has spoken frequently of his upbringing in a violent neighborhood in Oakland. He told ESPN in 2010, while he was still at Weber State, that he chose to go to the Utah-based school, in part, to get out of Oakland.
Now, as Lillard told Spears, he has built up “generational wealth” to support his family for years to come.
Lillard is in the midst of a four-year, $176 million contract. This off-season he signed a two-year, $122 million extension with the Blazers, the richest in NBA history.
Lillard has already made $191 million in career earnings, and if he finishes his extension, he’ll have made half a billion in the NBA.
“I put the time in and the work in and I do stuff the right way with the right intentions,” Lillard told Spears. “And I put my family in a position to where my kids don’t have to have the pressure of me trying to force them to be a great basketball player or trying to force them to be some great athlete.
“I do what I do so they have the luxury of whatever it is you want to do, be comfortable with it, be happy with it … And then their kids will have that same luxury just based off of how I carry where I am now. So, I can create that type of effect, not just for my kids, but for their kids and their cousins and my brother’s kids. “