One of the most tragic deaths included an incident in which Lillard himself discovered the body of his 35-year-old cousin.
Jason Quick of The Athletic looked at how Lillard has dealt with the series of devastating blows, including the death of his cousin and personal chef Brandon Johnson.
“In May of 2020, he checked in on the Portland-area home of his cousin and personal chef, Brandon Johnson, and found him dead on the kitchen floor,” Quick wrote. “Brandon, or Chef B as he was called, was 35.
“’I stood over his body, man. Like, he was dead. Minutes. I’m standing over his body,’ Lillard said. ‘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? Like, I still struggle with that. That’s a battle for me.’
“‘I was hurt by that,’ Lillard said. ‘I cried a lot. Just hurt … I was with B every day, and in the summers when I would travel to train, he would come and make sure I was eating right. I was with him every day. Talked with him every day. Sat there with him every day. So that one just had me hurt. To this day.’”
In addition to Johnson’s death, Lillard has also been reeling from his aunt passing away from cancer, a friend dying from COVID-19 as well as another cousin’s death earlier this year.
Any look at Lillard’s statistical numbers for the 2020-21 season wouldn’t offer any indication of the sadness that he continues to feel.
In 32 games, Lillard is averaging 29.6 points, 8.1 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.0 steal per game, numbers that are virtually identical to his performance last season.
This week, the Trail Blazers are set to play their final two games before the All-Star Game. Lillard was selected to play in the star-studded contest. It comes at a time when he battles mental fatigue.
“Not like I’m physically tired, but where I’m emotionally drained,” Lillard said.
The 30-year-old Lillard is certainly hoping for better times as he works through his grief, with the 19-14 Trail Blazers currently sixth among teams in the NBA’s Western Conference.
His emotions will continue to churn in the months ahead, but it’s clear that he’s not shying away from expressing his feelings about his personal pain.