After the contest, former Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts awarded Lillard with the game ball along with a message.
Stotts thanked him for being a special player on and off the court while congratulating him on being the fastest player in franchise history to reach 10,000 points.
“I was like, ‘Damn, I got 10,000 already?’ ” Lillard told Yahoo Sports he recalled at the time. “It was my sixth season in the league. That’s when I started thinking, if I could be consistent, I could score into the high 20,000-point range. As a scorer, 20,000 points is always looked at as a special mark. From that moment, I knew it was possible, but it’s also when I first researched Clyde Drexler’s [scoring] record with the team.”
Drexler, a Hall of Famer and one of the top guards in NBA history, is the Trail Blazers’ all-time scoring leader with 18,040 points.
Lillard, 32, will be entering the 2022-23 campaign next month 531 points shy of overtaking Drexler for the all-time franchise scoring mark.
“You and I know records are made to be broken, but I can’t think of a better player or person to break the record than Dame,” Drexler told Yahoo Sports. “He exemplifies being a team player and going about his business in a professional way. I have nothing but admiration and respect for him. When he comes close to getting the record, and if our schedules align, I would love to be there to help out in any way I can. That’s a nice milestone to achieve. I am looking forward to him accomplishing that.”
There was a period where it seemed Lillard might have to bail on his goal of claiming the record.
In the 2021 offseason, the six-time All-Star contemplated his future with the organization after an embarrassing first-round exit at the hands of a depleted Denver Nuggets squad.
Desperate to compete for a championship with the Trail Blazers, it was the first time in his career that he seriously questioned if the front office shared his desperation.
Over the years, Drexler shared his advice to Lillard.
Drexler requested a trade from Portland during his 12th season and was dealt to the Houston Rockets in 1995 and won his only NBA title that same season.
“Clyde wanted to see me win in Portland,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports of his conversations with Drexler. “But he told me to do what I had to do to be happy. He also said, ‘Hold the organization accountable.’ And at that time, I was thinking I would hate to come this close and miss out on that opportunity to pass Drexler if I was to leave. I mean, I’m right there. I definitely thought about it, but I never really believed I would be leaving Portland. It ended up all working out.”
Lillard has a career scoring average a shade under 25 points. If he continues at that standard, it would take him just 22 games to become the Trail Blazers’ all-time leading scorer.
Drexler broke the record in his 12th season. Lillard is set to break it in his 11th.
“This feat would mean a lot to me,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “Just the respect I have for the organization and for Clyde and how great of a player he was. I think it shows just how productive I’ve been throughout my career. It would truly be an honor.”