Damian Lillard still holds a close bond to Johnny Bryant, now an assistant coach for the Jazz. As fellow Oakland, California, natives, their friendship is bigger than hoops. “That’s my big brother,” Lillard said. “I remember barely being in the seventh grade, getting ready for an AAU tournament and Johnny was in college at Utah and they would come back and scrimmage us on outside courts with no net. “That type of struggle, that type of background and I’m happy to see his success as a coach as well,” he added.
Lillard’s bond first formed with Bryant as early as middle school. At the time, Bryant was still playing for the University of Utah while Lillard was making a name for himself in their hometown. They would train in the offseason together at California’s Berkeley Adult School, also known as “West Campus.” Literally nothing in the crackerbox gym was state of the art from the wooden backboards with black tape to form the boxes to the dusty floor and old-school rims.
“I don’t look at him as Damian Lillard. I look at him as Damian, my little brother I’ve been knowing for so long and when we talk it’s not about basketball,” Bryant said. “It’s about life, just how to become better people. He has a baby on the way and things other than basketball. If he wants to talk basketball, we will, but for the most part, a lot of it is just old memories.”
You played two seasons with one of the greatest Spanish point guards Ricky Rubio who would later go to the NBA. What is something about him that few know? Demond Mallet: He is like my little brother. He is one of the hardest working teammates that I have ever played with. He was like a man in a kid´s body then. He had all the tools at an early age. I used to call him the blessed child. With age 16 he played with guys twice his age. He was a great teammate and we always pushed each other in practice. We also built a relationship out of basketball and are good friends.