When Portland Trailblazers star Damian Lillard got cut from the USA Basketball squad over the weekend, he didn’t sulk about it. He reminded his Twitter followers that he was “good” and proceeded to strut out in grand style, posting an image of a red, blinged-out Star Wars trooper walking out with a boombox in hand and thick gold chain around his neck.
It served as a reminder of just how cool Lillard is. That cool-factor is just part of the reason why he was selected to be the cover athlete of EA Sports’ NBA LIVE 15.
“Being the face of a video game says a lot because you represent that game,” Lillard said. “I can just think back to being a kid, and even know, when I think back to playing a game, the first way to tell somebody what game you’re talking about is to say ‘who’s on the cover of the game?’ Just the thought that there will be kids one day saying ‘that NBA LIVE, you know, the one with Damian Lillard on it,’ that means a lot to me.”
The Oakland-native said he spent a full day working with the game producers to capture his likeness, his cross-over dribble, his jump shot and even his mannerisms and facial expressions. Landing the game cover is another accomplishment on a growing list for the 24-year old, who has been making waves in the NBA since catapulting into the spotlight after spending four years at Weber State University.
Lillard played with Team USA’s as the team prepped for the World Cup in Spain until the roster was reduced to 12 players, but he is taking a lot of positives from the experience. “Not a lot of guys get the opportunity to play against the best players every day in practice, to be around them and to see their habits and how they approach practice,” Lillard said last week before the cuts were announced. “There’s a lot of stuff I can learn from them, so it’s been a great experience so far.”
After winning the 2012-13 Rookie of the Year, Lillard made an even bigger case for why he should be considered one of the best young players in the league last season. He earned his first All-Star appearance and competed in all three skills events and hit the most memorable shot of the 2014 NBA playoffs, a Game 6 buzzer-beater against Houston, that helped land the Blazers in the second round for the first time in 14 years. Lillard then signed a monster contract extension with Adidas that puts him on par with the highest-paid endorsers in the league.
Lillard talked to Men’s Fitness about his time with USA Basketball, his style and his eating habits now that LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony have sworn off carbs.
Who surprised you as the best athlete in the USA Basketball training camp?
I think everybody here is in really good shape. But I think Kenneth Faried is a monster with his motor and how hard he plays and goes after rebounds and loose balls. The same for Anthony Davis. He’s just so long and runs the court like a deer.
How will your personal style reflect your influence in your Adidas apparel?
I’m really into fitted stuff. The tapered sweats, the hoodies, the three-quarter cut-off shorts, tank tops, graphic t-shirts, snapback (hats) and beanies. Just relaxed gear. That’s what I like.
Does your style originates from your neighborhood in Oakland, or have you started to develop and style your own look?
I think growing up, I’ve started to like different things. I think certain things look good and I don’t really care what other people think or what people think is nice. Whatever I look at and I like, if I try something and it looks good on me, in my eyes, that’s the style I get comfortable with.
LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony made big news with their off-season no-carb diets, is that something you’ll try?
Actually just a couple weeks ago, I got on a different meal plan. I wouldn’t even call it a diet because I’m not as big as those guys. I just got on a more strict meal plan where I don’t eat as much sugar and salt and fried food. Just for health reasons, to feel better and take better care of my body and treat it like the machine that it is so it can function better and longer.