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Adidas: Damian Lillard’s Forever Home in Portland

Ahead of his Trail Blazers return, Boardroom sits down with Lillard to talk about his lasting relationship with Three Stripes, the love he’ll forever have for the city, the impact he’s left there, and much more.

The day before Damian Lillard is set to face off against the Portland Trail Blazers for the first time in a visiting uniform, Adidas hosted its longtime signature athlete at its “Adidas Village” headquarters in northeast Portland. With employees clad in Lillard-logoed hoodies reading “ALWAYS H0ME” across the front, the brand surprised the future Hall of Famer with a first-of-its-kind distinction.

Adidas is officially naming its basketball gym floor The Damian Lillard Court, marking the first time in the brand’s 75-year history that they are naming a company location after an athlete.

“It’s a lot of a great athletes that have been with the brand and that have a lot of accomplishments,” Lillard said at the dedication ceremony. “But I know that something like this is accomplished by who you are, the kind of impact that you have, and how you live your life outside of yourself. The fact that that part of me is being acknowledged on this level is much appreciated.”

After first signing with Adidas as an NBA rookie in 2012, Lillard has gone on to become the Trail Blazers franchise’s all-time leading scorer, a perennial All-Star, an esteemed member of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary team, and a brand partner behind nine signature sneakers. 

Damian Lillard Adidas
(Photo by Jeff Attila)

“There’s never been a more loyal athlete or partner for the brand. That’s what makes this moment so special,” said Chris McGuire, Adidas Director of Sports Marketing. “We don’t have another building or court named after an athlete in any of our offices around the world. This is the first time ever.” 

Joined by his parents, siblings, and children — along with lifelong friends from Oakland and his longtime Adidas rep JR Duperrier — Lillard shared a heartfelt message with employees on hand for the ceremony. 

“This is definitely a gesture that I’m moved by,” he said. “I feel the respect, the love, and the appreciation for not just what I’ve been able to do in my career, but how I’ve been able to handle it as a partner and as a person.”

Just before Dame took in the atmosphere of The Damian Lillard Court for the first time, he spoke with Boardroom on his time with the brand, his memories in the gym over the years, and his impact on the Portland community, even from afar in Milwaukee. 

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Nick DePaula: How big of a moment is this for you with Adidas naming the court after you? 

Damian Lillard: It’s a huge moment. You don’t get a court named after you just by performance. It also goes into who you are as a person and how you’re able to lift other people up. I think it’s more about who you are and what you come with, outside of just me as an athlete.

It means a lot to me that Adidas is recognizing me on that level, just because of all of the things that I come with and not just who I am as an athlete. It’s just encouraging me to keep being who I am. 

Damian Lillard Adidas
Lillard works out with his trainer, Phil Beckner, at 8 a.m. at the Adidas Village during the summer of 2015. (Photo courtesy of Adidas)

NDP: I’ve been in the gym when you’re working out with your guy Phil Beckner during the dead of summer. What memories come to mind when you think of your time in that gym? 

DL: I’ve had a lot of memories. Two come to mind. When I was in the Draft, I got picked obviously by Portland, and all of the rookies that signed with Adidas came out to Portland to be introduced to the brand. I was pretty much unknown. Nobody really knew who I was like that. 

We played a pickup game in the gym. I ended up having like 50-something. After the game, JR [Smith] came up to me and was like, “Bro, I didn’t know you was nice like that.” I said, “What you thought?!” [laughs] 

From that point on, it was just a different respect, even with my peers that signed with Adidas. JR, now being one of my good friends, that was the first moment where he realized that I was going to be serious in the NBA. 

Then, just living here in Portland, being here through the season and staying here in the summers with my family. As a young player, there were times where you don’t always want to be in the practice facility. I would try and find gyms to train in, but I wasn’t really known like that. I would come here and work out. We used the gym a lot during the summers. That’s my second memory.

NDP: There’s a third one that sticks out to me, too — your Dame 1 launch event was in the gym and Future was there. 

DL: Getting my first signature shoe was a moment. Even when I came to the event, I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal. When we got there, Future was there, my family was there, there were fans and a whole setup. I still got the videos on my phone. It was just one of those moments, like, “Something is about to kick off.”

NDP: How beneficial was it being in Portland to be able to connect with the product and marketing teams here at Adidas so frequently early on? 

DL: It really helped develop a relationship that you need with a partner. They’d call me and say, “Hey, we want to show you something,” and I’d just get in my car and drive over. Moreso than anything, just being able to do it organically. We’d get to develop individual relationships; you’re always around and people get to see you for who you are on a regular basis. 

Instead of something where I’m popping into town, we have a meeting, and they only get to talk to me in those moments. I might run into dudes at restaurants, run into ’em at the mall, or we’d go out to dinner together. I’d come to Adidas just to kick it with JR, and then I’m there for three hours. It was very helpful for people at the brand to get to know me. 

Damian Lillard Adidas
Lillard during his 2015 Adidas Tour in China

NDP: What are some of the milestones with Adidas that stick out for you?

DL: Reaching my first signature shoe. When I first entered the Draft, I signed with Aaron Goodwin, and he was like, “You’re going to get a signature shoe.” I said, “You don’t gotta tell me all that.” Once we finally got to that point where we started to design the shoe, reaching that was a major milestone for me because it was one that I didn’t really expect to happen. 

I’ve never been a world traveler. After my rookie year, we went to China, and it was a good experience just seeing how far the fans go, what they appreciate, and how much they know about you, in places that you wouldn’t even think of. 

I became an All-Star the next year and the next year, and we went on a tour again. This time, people knew that I was rapping, and they had my shoes and my jersey everywhere. Those two were milestones that I still think about today, where it’s like, “This was the start of everything that’s happening now.”

NDP: Now that you have the court named after you, what are you looking forward to building with Adidas ahead in the future together? 

DL: The way I view myself is, not just as somebody that, “While he’s playing, he’s going to have fans and people are going to love him,’ and I gotta take advantage of that [during that time]. I see myself as somebody who can be useful and powerful for the brand, even when I’m done playing, because of what I represent. Something like this is a step in that direction. The things that I care about and what I put my time into … it’ll allow the partnership to go beyond my playing career, where I can still have the type of impact that I had as a player. 

Damian Lillard Adidas
Photo courtesy of Adidas

NDP: What kind of reception are you expecting tomorrow night? 

DL: I expect it to be a lot of love, honestly. I’ve always had a great relationship with the city and a great relationship with the fans. I don’t see that changing at all. We had a lot of great times, a lot of high moments, and we’ve shared some low moments.

We was always in the fight. We always had sell-out crowds, and I showed up and did what I needed to do, every night. I was never a no-show, whether I played good or I played bad.

In the community, I was present in the city — not just on the floor. That’s why it is what it is when I come here. That’s why this is my home. I expect it to be a lot of love. 

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About The Author
Nick DePaula
Nick DePaula
Nick DePaula covers the footwear industry and endorsement deals surrounding the sporting landscape, with an emphasis on athlete and executive interviews. The Sacramento, California, native has been based in Portland, Oregon, for the last decade, a main hub of sneaker company headquarters. He’ll often argue that How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days is actually an underrated movie, largely because it’s the only time his Sacramento Kings have made the NBA Finals.