How long does it take to become an overnight national sensation?About 0.9 seconds, if your name is Damian Lillard. However, before that shot, the Portland Trail Blazers, now two-time All-Star, Point Guard made an impact on the NBA in his first year. His first summer league game he scored 25 points (all in the second half) and I knew he would be a special player. He was named Western Conference Rookie of the Month every month of his rookie year, making him the obvious choice for Rookie of the Year. He is just the fourth unanimous selection in NBA history for the ROY award. However, playing in the Northwest part of America, Lillard still couldn’t get any real national attention. Following a 13-game losing streak to end his rookie campaign, Lillard started his second season with his eyes on the prize.
“I don’t want to be called Rookie of the Year. That was last year. I’m going for All-Star, MVP, NBA Champion,” Lillard said.
He did become an All-Star, and the Blazers took another step towards a championship. The team won their first playoff series in 14 years on one of the rarest shots in NBA history: a walk-off, series-winning three-pointer to beat the Houston Rockets.
Those 0.9 seconds exploded Lillard from a Northwest star to a national icon. He was featured in several commercials before his “shot heard round the world,” but he has more pull and publicity now. He also started a Friday tradition for himself and his fans. #4BarFriday.
Lillard is the guy who thinks he can rap, but actually can. He thought of the idea when Instagram started allowing users to post videos.
“I noticed you could put 15 second videos on Instagram, and I realized that’s just enough time for four bars,” he said.
Lillard shares his 4BarFriday’s every week and is able to connect with fans. He’s even got SportsCenter guys trying to take part.
However, to me, all of that pales in comparison to who Lillard is as a person. If you don’t know he wears the Letter O, not the #0. The 3rd year guard wears the letter O for three reasons. He grew up in Oakland, played in Ogden at Weber State University, and now plays in Oregon with the Blazers. As a player, Lillard is a star still finding his brightest shine. He loves where he’s come from in Oakland and Ogden, and where he is in Oregon. Lillard’s care for the city of Portland and the fans in it show that he just wants to perform and be the guy in Rip City for years to come. Lillard also volunteers his time to visit kids in the hospital, a trade that seems to be getting overdone by athletes, but Lillard always enjoys his time in the Portland hospitals. He's also an advocate and ambassador for the Special Olympics. The story is from Lillard attending the ESPY's last year. Lillard was going to walk the red carpet with one of the Special Olympics athletes. A Twitter Troll tweeted, that could take awhile, that guy looks easily distracted. Lillard snapped back with a "watch your mouth" reply. Lillard is a genuine guy and cares about the people around him.
To wrap up, Lillard is a one of a kind athlete in today’s professional game. Athletes are consumed with themselves, their money and their own progression. Lillard looks out for his teammates, his fans and the city of Portland. Lillard is always out in the community, putting in more time than most expect out of athletes. Lillard has the heart and determination to become a superstar in the NBA and in Portland. It took 0.9 seconds to get Damian into the limelight, but it's going to take a lot more than that to get him out.