"The last thing I want to be is one of those guys who never won a ring."
In case you missed it, the Foot Locker x adidas "No Rings" commercial, starring Damian Lillard, released at the start of the 2014 NBA Playoffs, is one of the most comical basketball spots in recent years.
The "No Rings" reference is a dig at the retired players who co-star with Lillard in the commercial, including former NFL running backs Barry Sanders and LaDainian Tomlinson along with NBA retirees Chris Webber and Karl Malone.
With the Portland Trail Blazers in a hole to the San Antonio Spurs, the odds that Lillard will claim his first championship ring this season are long. Nevertheless, the All-Star point guard has elevated his name and game to superstar status this post-season, averaging more than 23 points a game (compared to 20.7 ppg in the regular season) and two more rebounds per playoff game (5.6).
Sam Amick of USA Today writes that "when it comes to the business of basketball and one man's brand, no one has won in these playoffs quite like the Blazers' second-year point guard."
In April, Lillard signed a long-term contract extension with adidas, reportedly worth as much as $100 million over 10 years. Lawrence Norman of adidas Global Basketball is quoted in the USA Today article: "In regards to a long-term deal with a player, there's always risk involved, but with [Lillard] that risk was minimal because he has such an incredible trajectory. Very few players are Rookie of the Year and then All-Star in their second year; that's rarely seen."
The last player to hit the ROY-All-Star-MVP trifecta in his first three seasons was fellow point guard and adidas endorser, Derrick Rose. Rose has struggled mightily since winning the MVP in 2011, battling through a series of knee injuries after tearing the ACL in his left knee in the 2012 post-season.
We're not here to jumpstart Lillard's MVP candidacy for 2015. Then again, as Lillard told us for his Spring 2014 STACK Magazine cover story, "I put a lot of pressure on myself. It comes from within. I expect more out of myself than anybody else could ever expect out of me."
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