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Guest commentary: Damian Lillard proves he’s a star on and off the court (part II)

Published: Wednesday, May 14 2014 2:15 p.m. MDT

Former Weber State basketball star Damian Lillard, currently with the Portland Trail Blazers, greets fans and personnel prior to the Purple and White scrimmage game at the Dee Events Center in Ogden Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2012.

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Editor's note: This is part two in a two-part series about Damian Lillard's star qualities. View part one here.

One of reasons why Damian Lillard has been able to connect with fans around the league and across the globe is not just because of his sharp shooting and play-making skills, but his team-first approach and easygoing mentality.

This was evident by the fact that Lillard was awarded one of the biggest shoe contracts in NBA history last month. The deal is valued at over $100 million when adding in all the incentives — like signature shoes and apparel. The deal makes Lillard one of the highest-earning endorsers in the NBA.

In an interview with USA Today, Lawrence Norman, vice president of Adidas, explained in great detail what separates Lillard apart from other NBA athletes as well as the key decision-making factors that go into a major shoe contract.

According to Norman, most of it comes down to a player’s character and personality, as well as the position that he plays. While watching Lillard play during his time at Weber State, Norman noticed that he would often point to the front of his jersey (the team name) instead of the back (his name). Also, because Lillard is a score-first point guard, he gets a lot of camera time. This increases his exposure as well as the constant highlight reels that he provides. Winning also takes priority and Lillard certainly has delivered. The Trail Blazers went from winning only 33 games last season to winning 54 this year.

“We know what Damian Lillard is about. We know the value that he puts on family and friendship and the relationship we have. It was not risky at all, knowing that we had the right character, integrity and personality. There was no risk,” Norman said.

He continued by saying that while there are always risks associated with such long-term contracts (8-12 years), the risks simply were not there with Lillard. “Very few players are Rookie of the Year and then All-Star in their second year — that's rarely seen."

Respect

“I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.” ― Albert Einstein

It doesn’t matter how wealthy or good looking you may be, respect is earned, not given. In only his second year in the NBA, Lillard earned the respect from some of the biggest stars in the game. Last year, LeBron James endorsed Lillard for Rookie of the Year saying that he has exceeded all expectations and more. “Not only will he become great, he's one of the good point guards we have in our league today.”

This year, Kobe Bryant endorsed Lillard saying that while he won’t likely be healthy for the All-Star game, fans should instead vote for the "Damian Lillards of the world, because they're more than deserving to be out there and playing that weekend." For being in the league for less than two years, Lillard has already made quite an impact in the NBA.

Silencing the critics

Last week, during a segment last week on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption, hosts Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon talked about Damian Lillard, his game-winning basket against the Rockets and whether or not he’s an NBA star.

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