I will typically write the phrase, everyday is game day on Twitter every now and then. That’s one of my go-to tweets. I post it because it pushes me to look at the world around me as one big opportunity, and that I should approach it like an athlete would a game. Today is actually a 76ers’ home game against the visiting Trail Blazers. The night before, I texted the team’s strength and conditioning coach Ben Kenyon, to wish him a happy 34th birthday, and that I would see him at shootaround the next morning. He wrote me back stating, “not shooting around man.” I responded that I’ll see him during pregame, and I thought about making the most of whatever media availability I would have with Damian Lillard.
I arrived to the arena approximately at 5 pm, and sure enough, on the far end of the court was Lillard going through a full shooting drill, and my friend Ben Kenyon, who was working with CJ McCollum. I strolled to them, and I stood on the baseline, adjacent to the 76ers’ bench and the super expensive seats. Ben walks over and I we greeted each other and I wished him happy birthday once again. Lillard was too busy getting up shots to notice that I was patiently waiting until he was done, to see if I could ask a few questions. About a half-hour later, he was done working out, and he took a seat to relax and watch his teammates. I walked over to him and asked if he could answer a few questions.
Before I proceed, I have to say that Damian Lillard is the most chill, down-to-Earth, NBA star there is. The best way I can describe him is to say that he is real, and I fully understand why people of all ages cheer for and support his many ventures.
He took a few pictures and signed some autographs in between the conversation. We spoke about life, adidas and a few other topics.
When did you know, when did it dawn on you that you would be a pro in the League?
I mean, I always felt like I would, but I think probably my sophomore year in college. I came back my sophomore year, and I was MVP of the Big Sky [Conference]. It wasn’t that difficult, and I felt like I could get a lot better, you know. So I was like, I think I’ll be alright, I think I can make it to the League.
Did you play against anybody back home who had been in the League, to get a gauge of where you stood?
Not even Eddie Gill [fellow Weber State alum who played 9 NBA seasons and six teams—including Portland]?
No, I didn’t meet him until 2015 actually. That was the first time that I had met him because he hadn’t been around [Weber State]. I knew what my situation was. I knew what people would say about the level of competition I played at, so I didn’t really pride myself on the need to play against people that might be former NBA players or NBA players. I just knew I needed to dominate who I was playing against and show that I was on a different level, you know? When the time came, when I was playing on that level,it would show that this is where I belong—this is the level that I’m on and that’s how it played out.
Do you remember the first NBA game you went to?
I started going to the [Golden State] Warriors games when I was in the second or third grade. You know they had the season tickets which were pretty cheap. They weren’t a great team at the time, so I was able to get in there.
Is basketball your first sport?
Football was my first sport. I played football. I played baseball. As I got older—you know my parents didn’t make the decision for me—I just went with the one that I loved the most. I like football, I like baseball, but the love for hoop was just there, and I know that’s where I wanted to be.
Talk about Dame Time and the fact that so many people support you, the way you play and your social media.
I mean, I think it speaks for itself. Those big game moments, I don’t need to brag about it or celebrate about it. I genuinely love those situations. I love to thrive in them and I’ve had plenty of failures in those situations, but I think it makes it special in those moments when you can handle failure and success. As far as the online support, I can appreciate it. I think people love the fact that they can get a professional athlete’s genuine self, you know? A lot of times we [athletes] try to portray an image, or it’s not genuine, it’s not really who some guys are, and I think that they [the fans] can feel that they can get the real me. Whether they like it or not, whether they’re happy about it or not, they know that I ain’t gonna fake it for nothing. People might say I’m being a crybaby, or this or that. Regardless of what they say, they know that I’m me. This is who I am. You can take it or leave it.
Let’s talk about your new shoe, the Dame 4, and what it means to you:
I just love constant improvement in my life as a person and as an athlete. I’m just constantly, constantly trying to improve. Anything that has my name attached to it, I want to see the same thing in that. This being my shoe, I want to see my shoe improve each year. I want to see it improve every year. I want to see growth. I want to tell a different story, I want people to feel a different way about it and I think that’s what I’m most proud of with this shoe. I’m biased to all my shoes, but I think this one’s the best one as far as the look and my comfort level playing in it. Being able to take shoes out of the box and play in them is rare man. I’ve had games where I played in brand new shoes and I’ve never done that. It’s been a pleasure to have such a high quality shoes and it’s just my fourth one.
I love the Dame 2 Static—that was my favorite—and then I saw the 4. That silhouette is even better than that one.
Yeah, it’s cold. All the designers and the people at adidas do a great job. The great thing for me is that I live in Portland. The adidas headquarters is in Portland, so when they come up with different ideas and different routes they want to go with the shoes, they bring [them right to me]—every two weeks before they take the next step, before moving to the next stage. I can just drive up there in 15-minutes and see what’s going on and sit in a meeting. Or they’ll come to our practice facility—[it’s a ]15-minute drive for them—and we’ll talk about it. So I’m able to be part of the process and not just see the finished product. Some other guys might not have that because they live in Chicago, Philadelphia…whatever.
Do you work with Kris Aman?
We do—everybody at adidas in Portland, I work closely with them, they keep me in the loop.
Can you talk about—I assume your favorite baseball team—the Oakland Athletics?
The A’s man—over the past I guess, season-and-a-half or so, I ain’t really follow. You know, we haven’t been the most successful, even though I’m a loyal fan. Obviously, I’ve been busy with my own life, so I haven’t caught much of it, but I played baseball as a kid. Obviously basketball ended up being my love [but] I’ve been invited a few times to come to a few games, throw out a pitch, get some BP (batting practice) out there.
I know that A’s in the Bay is like…
I mean everybody love the A’s the same way it is with the Raiders and the Warriors. Like I said, we used to make it out to some of those A’s game on Wednesdays. You know tickets was like $3. You could get out there and they’ll have a packed house in there man.