Ask Damian Lillard what he goes by and he'll tell you "everybody calls me Dame
," though it wasn't long ago that almost nobody knew who who he was. If you followed high school basketball in Oakland, were a fan of Weber State or lived in Utah, you might have heard the name. But for the most part, Lillard toiled in relative obscurity in Ogden, UT.
All that changed once Lillard started to impress scouts by the quality of his performances at the Chicago Pre-Draft Camp and in individual workouts with teams like the Trail Blazers
. Suddenly Lillard had, for the first time in his young adult life, earned a little bit of profile, so much so that a guy who even hardcore NBA fans couldn't have picked out a lineup had people trying to assume his identity on Twitter
"It's weird. But I say it all the time, it's good attention," said Lillard. "It's obviously a position that a lot of people wish they were in, to have someone want to pretend to me you. A month ago, nobody wanted to be me."
Now, Lillard, who general manager Neil Olshey described as "our franchise point guard," is set to join a Trail Blazers team with a fan base who will forever have have his name on their tongues, especially if he ends up being the long searched for answer at the point.
Though that's not to say their won't be skeptics. Portland has had a different starting point guard in six of the last eight seasons, so there are going to be those who question why things will be different this time around. And some are going to assume that just the third player in Big Sky history to be drafted in the first round is going to struggle making the jump to the NBA.
But while people knowing who he is might be a new experience for Lillard, having his abilities questioned is something he's plenty prepared for.
"Whenever I got frustrated in college about not getting respect and people saying he's not that good or something like that, I would always come back to the gym," said Lillard. "Instead of getting mad about it, I just let the chip on my shoulder get bigger and I'd be in the gym putting in work. So whenever the chance presented itself, when it was on the line, all of that work that I've been putting in, they would know 'He's the real deal.'"
The Trail Blazers obviously agree.
Now that he's had his name called, Lillard will have to prove himself once again. But there might not be a player in this class more equipped to prove people wrong.
"… Coming from where I come from," said Lillard, "it just shows that I have won people over, and I've always been the underdog, high school, college, being overlooked.
And to finally see that my body of work, how hard I worked to get in this position has paid off and other people see it, it's just a good feeling."