Ivan Rabb hopes to follow Damian Lillard's path from Oakland to the NBA

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard recalls as a teen noticing a taller-than-normal kid playing sports across the street from his home in Oakland, Calif. That kid was Ivan Rabb, who kept growing, is now one of the nation's top high school players and is projected to eventually join his old neighbor from 106th Ave. in East Oakland in the NBA.

"It just goes to show you that you never know who's around you and what they might be capable of in the future," Rabb told Yahoo Sports. "I know everything [Lillard] has, he has from hard work.

"I'm just happy for him. He's doing great things. One day I plan on being on his level."

Ivan Rabb will play for Cal next season. (Getty Images)
Ivan Rabb will play for Cal next season. (Getty Images)

Oakland, which has a population of more than 400,000, has a long and storied basketball history that few major American cities can match.

Hall of Famer Bill Russell is an Oakland native who won 11 NBA titles as a player. Other Hall of Famers from Oakland include Gary Payton and Jim Pollard. Brian Shaw, Paul Silas and Leon Powe are Oakland natives with NBA championships. Other notable ex-NBA players from Oakland include Antonio Davis, Greg Foster and likely future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd. NBA champion Eddie House and dunk champion Isaiah Rider are from neighboring towns and had a strong Oakland influence. Brent and Jon Barry, sons of Hall of Famer Rick Barry, also went to an Oakland-area high school.

"Most of us from that area come with a lot of dog," Rabb said. "We play hard. We just love a challenge. For the most part, anyone that came out of Oakland plays with an attitude."

The next Oakland native in the NBA could be Rabb, a McDonald's All-American from Bishop O'Dowd High School who was ranked eighth overall in the class of 2015 by

"I remind him not to get caught up being a top prospect," Lillard said. "I was never a top prospect so I never had to deal with all the stuff I know he is dealing with right now. I know that me making it [to the NBA], he will probably listen to what I have to say. I just reach out to him to make sure he stays focused."

Rabb, 18, remembers watching as a little boy when Lillard practiced his jump shot on a hoop on the side of his house. He also often saw Lillard put basketball shoes and a ball in the trunk of his car before going to play pickup somewhere.

Damian Lillard used to live across the street from Ivan Rabb. (Getty Images)
Damian Lillard used to live across the street from Ivan Rabb. (Getty Images)

"He lived directly across the street from me when I was in the ninth or 10th grade," Lillard said. "I was outside hooping on my court and across the street would be two little, small, short kids and there was one that was way bigger than them outside playing tag and messing around.

"I was like, 'Why is this big ol' kid playing with these little boys?' But [Rabb] was the same age and just way taller. I met him when the ball would bounce over there and they would throw it back."

Prior to being selected sixth by Portland in the 2012 NBA draft, Lillard attended an AAU basketball tournament in the Oakland suburb of Hayward to check out future NBA players Jabari Parker and Julius Randle. It was there that Lillard bumped into Rabb before he played in an AAU game as a ninth grader.

"I was like, 'There is the kid from across the street,' " Lillard said. "He was tall. Everyone knew him. I was like, 'He's nice.' Left-hand jump shot. Dunking. Bringing the ball up. I added him on Twitter after we spoke. Ever since then we've been chopping it up."

Said Rabb: "At first I didn't recognize him. I hadn't seen him in a long time. We started talking and I was like, 'Yeah, you lived right across the street from me.' "

Lillard, who is often referred to as "Dame" in Oakland, is now a two-time All-Star and one of the NBA's top point guards. He also stays connected to his hometown; he'll have his third annual picnic in East Oakland this offseason that includes free food, horseback riding, swimming and tunes from local musicians.

"He's huge in Oakland," Rabb said. "All that people talk about is 'Dame.' He represents Oakland and is doing a good job at it. And his attitude, I try to bring that same attitude."

Lillard, 24, said he never gave Rabb advice on where he should go to college, but told him to expect everyone to try to advise him. Rabb announced Monday from his mom's Oakland restaurant that he was turning down Arizona, Kentucky and Kansas to stay local and play at Cal.

"He chose the home team," Lillard said. "He's trying to start something. That's pretty cool."

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