Damian Lillard: Lessons From Oakland

Damian Lillard has developed a reputation as one of the game’s most clutch players. When the game’s on the line, he’s the one that all of his teammates turn toward. He’s the superstar – the unquestioned face of Portland’s franchise. But he started out as just a kid from Oakland. And it’s the lessons he learned there that made him into the man he is today.

Lesson 1: Be Accountable In Everything You Do

Nobody becomes successful by taking shortcuts.  Lillard’s parents instilled a high level of accountability in him as a kid and he’s never looked back. When he was younger, that meant simple things: doing the dishes before bed, raising his hand in class, and keeping his grades up.

It also made him into a better basketball player. He touched the baseline on every sprint, he always repped out extra sets in the gym, and he always stayed late to get up extra shots.

“That’s something that quietly separated me,” Lillard said. “I held myself to a higher standard. A lot of that came from my parents. Over time, I learned to own that and do it by myself.”

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Lesson 2: Lead By Example

Being a leader isn’t always easy or glamourous. The role comes with high expectations, pressure-packed situations, and a lot of hard work. You’re the one that has to take responsibility not only for yourself, but for the whole team.

“It’s a little bit of pressure, but I embrace it,” Lillard said. “It’s just who I am. I actually enjoy it.”

He likes to lead by example, showing his teammates that he’s putting in the time and effort and encouraging them to do the same.

“I make sure that I take care of my own stuff. I’m on time to the gym. I work hard. I’m coachable. I show my teammates that I have their back. Now I can hold the other guys accountable because they see me doing the same thing that I’m asking of them.”

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Lesson 3: Be Who You Are

Damian Lillard isn’t trying to be the next anyone. He’s only interested in being the first Damian Lillard. He’s got a unique game, a unique personality, and he embraces that. It helps him shine on and off the court. He doesn’t let himself get boxed in. It’s why he’s widely considered the best athlete-rapper in the game.

Dame D.O.L.L.A. got his start in church choirs before making songs as a hobby in high school and college, and eventually seriously pursuing music once he made it to the league.

“I think the music thing comes from Oakland,” Lillard said. “It’s a part of the culture I was raised in. It just became a part of me.”

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Lesson 4: Always Give Back To Where You Came From

Lillard always embraces his Oakland roots. From his signature shoes to his music, he always makes sure to rep the place that made him who he is today.

“It’s different growing up in Oakland,” Lillard said. “I think you take a lot of pride and toughness in that – just the culture we have here. A lot of successful people came from here and you just want to be the next person to make it out.”

Lillard lives in Portland year-round now, but his heart is always at least partly in his hometown. Damian Lillard has done a lot to give back to his community, ranging from building a recording studio in his old school to putting on a show with hip-hop stars Fetty Wap and Lil Uzi Vert as a reward for students with good behavior.

“For me, it means a lot to be able to do stuff for the community. I think more than just doing stuff financially, it’s about your presence. As a kid, I always wanted that presence from the people I looked up to. I wanted them to come back. So now I want them to have access to me. Stuff like that is what counts.”

Check out more about Damian Lillard, including a look at his newest signature shoe, the adidas Dame 4 here.


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