For a long time now it’s been fairly common to see or hear about professional athletes dabbling in hip-hop. There are fairly close ties between the genre and the sports industry, and it seems a lot of athletes just can’t resist – and some of them aren’t half bad! After all, we wrote not long ago about G Cinco, who plays shortstop for the Minnesota Twins and is building himself a side career in hip-hop.
Maybe the best example of an athlete-to-rap crossover these days however is Damian Lillard. Over the past few years, Lillard has become one of the best guards in the NBA. His Portland Trail Blazers won the race for the spot right behind the Finals-bound Warriors in a tight Western Conference, and though they went on to disappoint in the playoffs they’ve become one of the more consistent teams in the league. Lillard has anchored that consistency, and as a result won the individual honor of a selection to the All-NBA First Team just recently.
Somehow though, en route to becoming a top player in the NBA, Lillard has managed to put together a successful hip-hop career. He’s earned praise from serious figures in the industry, including Lil Wayne among others. And his music, under the moniker “Dame D.O.L.L.A.,” has earned legitimately strong critical responses; there aren’t many “good for a basketball player” qualifiers when people praise his music. Just last fall the release of his new album “Confirmed” was viewed as a sign of growth for an artist who appears to have a lot to offer.
For his part, Lillard appears to want to achieve separation between the basketball player and the hip-hop artist, and he’s actually having some success doing just that. In the meantime, however, it’s clear that his hip-hop career is paying dividends. For instance, earlier this year we learned that Adidas would be designing a new signature shoe inspired by the Dame D.O.L.L.A. alter-ego, rather than Lillard as a player. He is an Adidas-sponsored player in general, but this is the type of endorsement deal he wouldn’t be getting solely through basketball. Additionally, Lillard just made ESPN’s “World Fame List” for the third consecutive year, solidifying him as one of the most consistently famous athletes on the planet. That could primarily be due to his aforementioned success on the court, but many of the athletes who make this list have large profiles beyond their respective sports – which has certainly become the case for Lillard.
All in all, Lillard’s side focus on hip-hop is paying off, and it’s making him an artist to keep an eye on regardless of whether you care about basketball.