OGDEN — After Damian Lillard had signed autographs and delighted the crowd with deep 3-pointers in Saturday’s Weber State Alumni Classic, he sat with a small media contingent and held serve about a variety of questions.
As usual, Lillard was open and accommodating — no surprise from a winner of NBA awards for community citizenship and for cooperation and dignity with the media.
Why is it important for him, now a multiple time All-NBA player, to come back and keep the classic going in its third edition?
“This is something we all share,” he said. “You look at all these lists — top 20 scoring in Weber State history, top 20 in rebounds, assists — our names are next to all these guys but we don’t really know each other. We need to know our history and know the people of our history. This type of event gives us the opportunity to get familiar with each other and have more pride in what we’ve experienced.”
He’s become synonymous with Weber State University, which he says is a source of pride not only for him but all who share the experience.
“Being successful and coming from this university and this program, people take pride in that. It’s no different than when my mom is out somewhere and they’re like, ‘you’re Damian Lillard’s mom.’ She has pride about that,” Lillard said.
“I think it’s the same here. It wasn’t like I just floated around campus while I was here and didn’t know anybody. I knew people, we had relationships, so I think because of that, because of how things were when I spent time here, there’s a lot of pride about the fact I come from here.”
Though not all of us know what it’s like to effortlessly drain 35-footers — whether that’s in an alumni game or in a series-clinching playoff contest — many of us can relate to how fatherhood, or parenthood, changes life. He became a father about 18 months ago when son Damian Jr. was born.
“It’s been special. It’s the best thing that’s happened to me in my life,” he said. “Just having that unconditional love, having your own, somebody that you’re responsible for raising them and the kind of person they end up being.”
It’s a self-regulating experience of awareness.
“The main way that it’s changed me is I’m just more calm. Wins and losses, I was much more up and down: ‘Oh, we lost and they’re talking about me on TV,’” he said.
“Everything was just kind of like this” — he moved his hands up and down alternately — “but since I had my son, everything rolls off just a little bit more. The criticism, the hate on Twitter, the hate in the Instagram comments, everything that could be on your mind and disturb you in your everyday life is to a minimum, just because I know when I come home, my son — I could have 50 points or go 1 for 20, and nothing’s going to be different when I walk through that door.”
The Renaissance man also recently released his third studio rap album as Dame D.O.L.L.A. titled “Big D.O.L.L.A.” which has drawn praise from his colleagues and racked up more than 1 million song streams on Spotify in the first day of availability.
Lillard, whose mic skills are apparent across all three of his albums — or when he put away Sacramento Kings player Marvin Bagley III in a surprise rap battle on NBA Draft night — said, while he appreciates support from his basketball fans, the attention of “musicheads” is what’s gratifying in that endeavor.
“For me, it’s been one of my goals to capture the attention of that audience ... the people who really just focus on music, and care about music, when you get them to listen to your stuff and they start giving positive feedback, that’s when you know you’re doing the right stuff,” Lillard said. “And I think that’s where I am now.
“It’s a great feeling knowing they respect it when I’m talking to real high-level artists and they’re like, ‘let’s do a song,’” he said. “Before, it was a hassle to get a hold of them and get them to be a part of stuff, and now that you have everybody’s attention and people talk about it, they’ll reach out to me: ‘Dame, I want to work with you, I’ve got some ideas about this ...’
“It’s like, OK, I’ve got the attention of the music industry.”