Damian Lillard's Real Deal A Real Success
By caseyholdahl Posted in: damianlillard
Damian Lillard possesses various traits one needs to excel as he did during his rookie season, but none may be more vital to his success this season than his unflappability. Very infrequently was he unprepared or phased by whatever situation was thrown at him, from lining up opposite future Hall of Fame point guards Steve Nash, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul and Tony Parker in the first two weeks of the season to leading the league in minutes played as a rookie.
And over and over again he was asked if he was at all surprised by his play or the relative ease with which he transitioned from the Big Sky Conference to the NBA and invariably, his response would be that none of the success he achieved was unexpected, at least as far as he was concerned.
But there was at least one thing that caught Lillard by surprise. It wasn't the accolades from opposing players and coaches. Or the litany of awards. Or the magazine covers, the primetime interview requests or the national advertising campaigns. What took Lillard aback was seeing a line of people braving the wind and rain for as long as nine hours outside of Compound Gallery in downtown Portland just for a chance to buy his limited-edition adidas Real Deal sneakers.
"It is kind of surprising because you see this with Jordan's shoes," said Lillard of the people who waited for the opportunity to buy one of only 530 pairs of Real Deals produced by adidas to celebrate his Rookie of the Year season. "When the Jordan's come out, everybody is camping out waiting for them. Whether it's raining, snowing, no matter what it is, they're waiting for the shoes. And I appreciate the people in Portland sitting out, camping out waiting for my shoe."
Born in 1990, Lillard grew up in the age when sneakers became synonymous with the NBA. Fueled by the combination of Michael Jordan's transcendence and Nike's marketing prowess, the sneaker industry took on an undeniable importance in helping grow the NBA from a relative afterthought to one of the most popular sports in the world. For the first time, sneakers became a status symbol for both players and fans, particularly in urban cities like Oakland. You weren't an elite player until you got your own signature shoe, and you weren't a hardcore fan, let alone fashionable, unless you shelled out whatever the cost was to buy that shoe.
Lillard is a product of that era, which explains why of all the praise he garnered in his first season, having his own shoe, even a limited-run built off an already-existing model, is one of the most rewarding.
"It's kind of unreal," said Lillard of having his own shoe. "Growing up, I was always a fan of the Jordan's, Kobe Bryant's shoe and everybody that came out with their own shoe, so it's exciting to have my own."
The shoe features various elements that symbolize his journey
from a mostly-ignored prospect out of Oakland High School to one of the up-and-coming players in the NBA, a theme that started when Lillard decided to wear No. 0 as an homage to Oakland, Ogden (home of Weber State) and Oregon.
"A lot of it is going back to my roots," said Lillard of the shoe's details. "A lot of it is about the city I grew up in, the neighborhood I grew up in, pride in the city I grew up in, friends that I have around me. It represents everything. I felt like, if I was going to have a shoe, it should be about everything that I'm about, everything that I've kind of picked up on my way to this point."
Everyone who lined up in the wind and rain for the event at Compound at least walked away with an autograph and a picture with the 2013 Rookie of the Year, but only a select few were able to buy a pair of Lillard's Real Deals due to the limited release. Even some of the people closest to Lillard weren't able to procure a pair.
"There was a bunch of people," said Lillard of friends and family requesting a pair. "I had to get away from my phone. A lot of people called my brother, too. I just appreciate people actually wanting it."
Which, now that he's one of the toasts of the NBA, is no real surprise at all.