Damian Lillard Reflects on Oakland Roots, Laney Eagles With 'Last Chance U' Coach John Beam

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Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard and his older brother, Houston, reflected on their Oakland roots and Laney College's football program with legendary coach John Beam.

Following Last Chance U: Laney's premiere on Netflix last week, the three men discussed what Beam thought when the streaming service first approached him about doing the show.

"What I wanted to do was be able to show the last places [Netflix] had been at where everybody got scholarships," Beam said. "I wanted to show people there's a whole different way, right?"

"No one recognized the talent that you had, so I wanted to show that we could nurture and build...our talent." 

Last Chance U's fifth season follows Beam and the Eagles as the Oakland-based junior college football program looks to defend its 2018 national championship. Beam led the Eagles to an 11–2 record that season before Netflix came to chronicle their 2019 campaign. The show will focus on the pressures Eagles players face in their lives, struggles to overcome injuries and their chase for a second consecutive title. 

As natives of Oakland, Damian and Houston grew up hearing about Laney's football program before the older Lillard brother joined the Eagles in 2005. Houston Lillard threw for 1,833 yards and 18 touchdowns and led Laney to a Golden Gate conference championship under Beam. The Eagles also won the Capitol Shrine Bowl that year before Lillard transferred to Southeast Missouri in 2006. Lillard now works as the head football coach at Jefferson High School in Portland.

The Lillard brothers remain close with Beam, who looked back on how their Oakland roots have shaped their lives and careers.

"Growing up in Oakland gives you that confidence. You want the ball. You want to make the play...I think that's what Oakland gives that other places don't understand," Beam said.

"I think it's a natural toughness when you grow up in that environment and you're around it every day," Damian Lillard said. "I think just that competition is always there, always present. You're naturally bred like that."