This Rookie of the Month brought to you by the letter 'O'


If you’ve recently attended a Trail Blazer home game, then you might have noticed an alphabet lesson sneaking into the starters’ introductions.

When the lights go low and it’s Damian Lillard‘s turn to be introduced to Rip City’s faithful, the team’s public address announcer Mark Mason eschews the rookie’s uniform number, a zero, and goes with the quirky … “wearing the letter ‘O.’

Mason explains it this way:

“He chose the number ‘O’ – zero – because it’s Ogden, it’s Oakland and now it’s Oregon. So I was talking to him about it. ‘Ya know, we should announce you that way. Because I don’t think anybody in the NBA is introduced by a letter.’”

The whole uniform number explanation is also the story told by Lillard in his “New Team, New Dream” commercial – which by the way, although it’s played ad nauseum during game broadcasts, Lillard still hasn’t seen it. This can only mean that the rookie just may be the only one in Portland who hasn’t seen that darn commercial.

“(Mason) asked me if I was OK with it,” Lillard said about the unique introduction, “and I said, ‘Yeah!'”

In the beginning of the season, however, Mason played it straight with the introductions. He went with the number zero. I first noticed the letter ‘O’ intro for the Nov. 18 Chicago Bulls game, and Mason was surprised when I approached him tonight to ask him about it. He hasn’t heard feedback about it, but that could be because folks know by now that Mason likes to remix things.

He announces Nicolas Batum in French and learned a little Lithuanian back in the day to introduce Arvydas Sabonis to the home crowd.

Tonight against Sacramento, Mason will throw in some more flavor for Lillard’s walkout.

It’ll go something like this: “Your Western Conference Rookie of the Month, wearing the letter ‘O’ … Damian Lillard!”

“Because that’s big honor and you go back when Brandon (Roy), we did that for Brandon,” Mason said. “Just something different. The goal is something different for every player, ultimately, when they start.”

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