When news broke yesterday morning of Damian Lillard’s behemoth deal with Adidas, I was mostly surprised. Well, I was first and foremost extremely happy for Lillard. It’s always nice to see when a likeable athlete’s hard work pays off. But with that being said, I definitely found Lillard’s contract curious.
He has made only one All-Star appearance (albeit in only a two-year career), and truthfully, even that one was somewhat questionable (as much as I like Lillard, I think Goran Dragic of the Suns had a stronger case). The exact figures of the contract are not known, but various reports peg it as below but in the range of Derrick Rose’s $185 million contract, which means Lillard will be raking in some serious cash.
Lillard is certainly an excellent basketball player, but Adidas is really banking on him becoming a bona fide superstar. There’s nothing saying that Lillard can’t accomplish this, but I would say he is a solid two steps away from reaching this level. With Rose, Adidas’ marquee representative, sidelined for two straight years now, perhaps this move was partially motivated by desperation.
No matter how you slice it, a second-year player with only one All-Star appearance who hails from a small market is a risky proposition. Added to this, the contract’s size makes for one big eyebrow-raiser.
Moving away from my negative Nancy-ing, and looking at this development from a Blazers fan perspective, I love it. I absolutely love it. Damian Lillard’s face is going to be plastered everywhere. Commercials, billboards, store displays, etc. You name it, and you can bet Adidas is going to utilize Lillard as much as possible.
For a small market team such as Portland, this coverage is invaluable. This massive surge in exposure will move Lillard closer to becoming a household name, which comes with its own set of benefits. Maybe it will lead to more Blazers games being played on national TV. Maybe it will be easier for Lillard to start getting favorable foul calls. I can almost certainly assure you that fan-vote All-Star berths will become easier for Lillard now. Signing a major contract like this opens up a whole host of doors, which I am ecstatic for a Blazer to have.
These benefits don’t come without concerns, though. Namely, if Lillard doesn’t quite live up to the massive size of the contract, pressure could mount. He is one of the most unfazed athletes I have ever seen, but now there are more forces essentially demanding that he become better and better.
Additionally, with such a large contract, there will be a boatload of additional demands on his time. Signings, photo shoots, commercial shoots, shoe releases, etc. will all be competing for Lillard’s attention. There’s always the danger that they can take away an athlete’s focus from basketball, but I find this to be a smaller concern. Lillard seems to have his head on straight enough that he won’t let such issues affect his on-court appearance.
I am excited to witness the exposure that Lillard will be able to obtain. It may honestly become excessive, but I don’t really care – I’m happy for any opportunity the Blazers have to become more recognizable. Here’s hoping that Lillard lives up to every dollar of that contract.