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Chris Kaman has been around the block. He’s halfway through his 12th NBA season and has already worn the colors of five different franchises. He’s seen it all, and he’s not afraid to tell you about most of it — sometimes to his detriment. When you ask him about the tired old sports cliché of some athletes rising in big moments while others shrink, he shoots from the hip.

“I’ve played with guys like Dirk and Kobe, and they obviously love crunch time. But there are some big-time names in the league that don’t want the ball at the end. I know because I’ve played with them.”

Kaman doesn’t have that problem in Portland, where he plays now, alongside Damian Lillard. “Oh, he definitely rises,” Kaman says, laughing. “He’s fearless. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. It’s like LaMarcus [Aldridge] said last week after the Laker game.”1

There is a theory that to be truly great in the NBA, as in many other walks of life, a person needs to be at least a little bit crazy. They must have a drive to win at almost any cost and a belief that their talent is the best possible vehicle to deliver that victory. Michael Jordan had that edge. Larry Bird had that edge. Kobe Bryant has that edge. And when you listen to Damian Lillard talk about crime scenes, you start to think he might have it too.

“The people I work out with in the summer would always push me harder at the end of the workouts. They say, finish strong, kill it. The term they would use is ‘yellow tape.’ You know, when it’s a homicide, they bring the yellow tape out? I embraced that. At the end of games I enjoy that part. I have a yellow-tape mentality. Finish hard. Kill ’em off.”
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