CGTN exclusive interview with three-time NBA All-Star Damian Lillard
Updated 22:08, 29-Sep-2018
Charlotte Bates
"How steady I am and how consistent I do what I do at a high level kind of gets overlooked sometimes."
Portland Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard sat down with CGTN to address his return to the NBA All-Star Game, and talk about his biggest hardship getting to this point in his career.
Dame received his third All-Star selection last season, his first since 2015, becoming one of only six players in the franchise's history to do so. The point guard was also named to the All-NBA First Team over the likes of Stephan Curry, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul, but his journey hasn't been easy.
Lillard opened up about constantly being overlooked despite averaging 23.1 points per game during his six-year career, a statistic which includes roughly 27 points per game in the last two seasons.
"That's been one of the hardest things, to keep doing it over and over, even when it's not respected the way it should be."
CGTN sits down with NBA player Damian Lillard

CGTN sits down with NBA player Damian Lillard

Since the start of the 2015-16 season, the six-foot-three guard has not received nearly as much recognition as he deserves. For two years Lillard was the highest profile All-Star snub, but after a season that saw him lead the Blazers to a third-place finish in the competitive Western Conference with a 49-33 record, and produce stunning displays that resulted in a 13-game winning streak, he earned his All-Star return.
Mr. Clutch
Throughout his career, the 28-year-old is known for making countless buzzer-beaters that have gone down in the history books, most notably during the 2014 NBA playoffs to beat the Houston Rockets 99-98 and propel the Blazers to the Western Conference semifinals. While last season, Dame was named as the most clutch player, receiving the National Basketball Player Association Mr. Clutch award nominated by his fellow players.
And the numbers don't lie, in 151 clutch minutes the dynamic guard scored 127 points, which ranks him 10th in the NBA. When asked what has made him so fearless on the court, the point guard revealed he couldn't put it down to just one thing.
"I can't think of one time, but I've had a lot of moments where something just didn't go my way at the time that I needed it to in a game. It just made me not fear what the outcome would be."
CGTN sat down with NBA player Damian Lillard

CGTN sat down with NBA player Damian Lillard

"I remember in the eighth grade I had a game winning shot. I think we were down by two. I hit a three-pointer with one second left and I took my jersey off and started celebrating. It was one second left and I got tech and the other team got two free throws. We ended up losing the game by one and that was the worst thing that could ever happen."
"I think it just made me more calm in those situations and it just going to be what it's going to be."
The Letter O
Dame's work ethic and focus is something he developed long before the NBA. Raised in Oakland, California, the player bounced around a few different high schools before finding a basketball program that suited his style. Although his early years in the sport were never plain sailing, it was his love for the game that kept him on the right track.
"I had so many trying times where it was what I had to lean on. I had a situation in the eighth grade where I was going through something. It went through school and into the summer, but in the summer I had my AAU team that I was traveling with and practicing with."
"Going into the ninth grade, something else came up at my school so I had to leave that, but then I had another father figure, the guy who coached my AAU team in high school, pulled me in and said how bad do you want it, you got to work out."
"I always had the game to lean on when the opportunity presented to go down the wrong path. My appreciation for the game, that's why it's always beyond a hundred. That's how I developed that real love for the game."
Portland Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard shoots his winning shot against the Houston Rockets during the last .9 of a second of game six of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series game in Portland. /AP

Portland Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard shoots his winning shot against the Houston Rockets during the last .9 of a second of game six of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series game in Portland. /AP

It's this admiration for the sport that allows Dame to appreciate the quality of other players, naming Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry and CJ McCollum as three of his top ball handlers.
"I think I handle the ball well, as far as you aren't going to take the ball from me, but when it comes to messing around with the ball, I think those three, Lance Stephenson and Kemba Walker."
Hip-Hop's favorite NBA player
Not only has Lillard used basketball as an escape throughout his life, he also utilized the game as a platform to launch his rap career back in 2015. After releasing two albums back-to-back and with new material on the horizon, the All-Star has never had an issue juggling the game with his hip-hop alter ego "Dame D.O.L.L.A."
"I balance basketball with my music. We have a long season during the summer time and that's usually when I do my music."
"Say we have a road trip and we get blew out and I have a bad game. When I get on the plane, beat myself up about it, maybe I'll pull my laptop out and I listen to instrumentals and I write music. I write about how I'm feeling or how the way I'm feeling is connected to something that isn't connected to basketball."
As its still technically the NBA off-season, Dame D.O.L.L.A was persuaded to give CGTN an exclusive performance. Check out the NBA star freestyling for our cameras.
On Lillard time
Although rapping has brought Dame a new type of fan base that has seen him perform to countless sold out concerts – most memorably during his 26th birthday, when he hadn't even released his first album yet – basketball still takes priority.
"Basketball defines who I am, You got to keep proving it every year. So you have got to come correct. I think I was raised that way. Someone who is steady, always there, always doing what I'm supposed to be doing in a game of basketball, especially at the level we play at."
"I think basketball is who I am"
Dame's self-knowledge and confidence in his own abilities has always been a feature in his direct style of play. His six-season output is the most in Blazers history, ranks 22nd in NBA history and is third among active NBA players, trailing only LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
Even if he's often overlooked, he is not one to shy away from a challenge and that, along with his numbers, is what makes him such a threat going into the upcoming season.
Video Editor/Cinematographer: Anosi Wang
Sports Reporter: Charlotte Bates