Now You See Him: Damian Lillard
Have you seen the new Adidas commercial airing during NBA playoff games starring Chris Webber, Karl Malone, LaDanian Tomlinson and Barry Sanders? It’s well done, but it has many people wondering who the star of it is. He averages over 20 points a game for one of the NBA’s best teams, won a Rookie of the Year award and was on the All-Star team in 2014. He signed a deal with Adidas last month that could end up paying him over $100 million over 10 years. He has his team one win away from advancing to the Western Conference Semi-Finals. He’s Damian Lillard, and you’ll learn all about him soon enough.
As much as he got under Malone’s skin in the commercial, Lillard has a very likeable personality and he quickly became a fan favorite in Portland in his rookie season. He’s had a quiet basketball career due to not playing for the biggest teams, but that’s all changing very quickly these days. Lillard was only a two-star prospect out of high school, and played college basketball for Weber State in Ogden, Utah. In his senior season, Lillard scored 24.5 ppg and was an All-American, pushing him high up draft boards.
The point guard was picked No. 6 overall by the Trail Blazers, and this year the club flew up the standings — looking like one of the NBA’s best teams half way through the season. The Trail Blazers finished with 54 wins, tying their highest win total since the 1999-2000 season. Lillard was 3rd in the NBA in 3-pointers made and 11th in points scored, and when that’s mixed with the production of LaMarcus Aldridge it’s easy to see why the Trail Blazers find themselves in the position they’re in.
There’s no doubt Lillard is already a star, but it’s a only a deep run into the playoffs that will make the rest of the country see it. The Trail Blazers aren’t in many primetime national broadcasts, and play in a small market for basketball. Just like Paul George became a much bigger name during the Eastern Conference Finals last season, Lillard’s opportunity is now. The Trail Blazers currently hold a 3-1 lead over the Rockets in the first round of the playoffs, and should they finish Houston off, will play the winner of the Spurs-Mavericks series. If it’s the #1 seed Spurs, they’ll have quite the mountain to climb, but they do seem to match up well against San Antonio. Portland went 2-2 in the regular season against the Spurs, with Lillard starring as the leading scorer in three of those contests.
Lillard is racking up the accolades left and right, including the odd feat of being the only player to ever take part in five events during All-Star weekend (Rising Star Challenge, Skills Challenge, Three-Point Contest, Slam Dunk Contest and All-Star Game). The 23-year old can do it all, and we could be just a few weeks away from the entire country knowing it.