The NBA is the role model for sports leagues around the nation and the world. Now more than ever, the league possesses incredibly mature, smart, and original star players who are encouraged to show their personalities. Players like LeBron James have come from humble beginnings to become superstars that not only give back, but openly discuss topics outside of the gym. Many players have an open dialogue with fans, create their own side hustles and diminish the idea that they’re unreachable to the public. They, just like us, have hobbies, goals, dreams, and aspirations, and we know this because they’ve allowed us in more than ever before.
Take Damian Lillard, the Portland Trail Blazers star guard who’s already released his fourth adidas signature shoe, his second album, and has become one of the most well-respected players in the game today. Coming from Brookfield, a small community in Oakland, Lillard was raised playing basketball on telephone pole backboards and milk crate hoops.
A two-star high school athlete, Lillard played at Weber State University, a mid-major school not known for it’s basketball success. Despite the lack of national awareness at Weber State, Lillard would thrive in Ogden, Utah and play three seasons with the Wildcats, averaging close to 25 points and becoming the Big Sky Player of the Year.
With the sixth pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, The Portland Trail Blazers selected Lillard with many not knowing who he was or what he could become. The pick was scrutinized by many, and people assumed he couldn’t play point guard.
In an article with Bleacher Report back in 2012, Grant Hughes said this about Lillard’s draft stock.
“For starters, he’ll probably have to play a lot of shooting guard in the NBA because he’s a poor passer and lacks the court vision a player of his size (6’3″, 189 pounds) should have. Despite an astronomically high usage rate, Lillard only averaged four assists per game.
So, Lillard lacks the skills to be a point guard, and he lacks the size needed to play the 2. He’s a one dimensional, undersized scoring guard.
The experts have spoken, as well. ESPN’s John Hollinger has Lillard slotted as a mid-to late first-rounder. With the no. 7 pick, the Warriors must stay clear of Lillard and his high bust potential.”
Many had the same feelings about Lillard, but once he arrived in Portland, that bust label was quickly removed (and probably regretted). Lillard went on to become the only rookie to have 20 points and 10 assists in their first game joining Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas while also taking home the Rookie of the Year award with a unanimous decision. Portland’s team looked to be on the rise and Lillard was clearly a step ahead of where anyone thought he’d be. The following season, however, he vaulted into a position no one (except himself) would think he’d be in.