At the end of Game 5 in Portland last week, when Damian Lillard knocked down the biggest shot of his career and one of the biggest shots in NBA history, Lillard remained cool as a cucumber somehow. He managed to muster a little wave goodbye to the newly-vanquished Thunder on their way off the court and maintained a stone-faced expression as his teammates mobbed him and the Moda Center crowed erupted from immensity of the moment.
That shot, as we’ve now learned, was the product of deliberate training, as he’s been practicing those exact shots regularly for years now. But his ability to maintain his poise and his composure amid a tidal wave of pressure in those situations is likewise the result of a different type of training regimen.
Basketball is just as emotionally and psychologically demanding as it is physical. The ability to keep an even keel in the most intense scenarios is its own type of skill, and like any skill, one that must be practiced. That’s why he and his trainers, Phil Beckner and Ben Kenyon, have worked diligently with him to hone the mental aspects of his game.