Damian Lillard wrote the song that tells the story of his brand-new D Lillard 1, the first signature shoe from Adidas for the young Portland guard.
Each of the four colorways of the D Lillard 1, unveiled Jan. 13 in Portland (the home of Adidas in North America), features specially crafted rap lyrics in the insole, written by Lillard himself.
“They are my lyrics, they are all four bars,” Lillard tells SI.com’s Sneaker Hub, a nod to Lillard’s social rap movement. “They all related to the story of the shoe and each has something behind it.”
Look to more than lyrics to reflect Lillard’s personality, though, in the D Lillard 1. A reflective stripe across the bottom of the laces nods to his ability to “light up the scoreboard,” while you see boldness from the graphic treatments. The heel of the right shoe features an oversized Adidas logo and the heel of the left shoe shows the brand-new Lillard-specific logo.
The stylized D and L initials fuse together to create an “O,” a visual representation of the 0 that Lillard wears for the Blazers and also to signify his three homes: Oakland, Ogden (when he played at Weber State) and now Oregon. A three-striped wing on the D and L is said to “represent his crew of close friends, the ‘Fly Guyz.’”
“When we started to talk about the shoe, we had to come up with the logo,” Lillard says. “It took a while and we looked at a bunch of logos we did like and a bunch we didn’t.”
Robbie Fuller, Adidas basketball design director, tells SI.com that going large on the logos was something new, akin to Lillard’s game. But he was going to go even larger. “We don’t have stripes on the side,” Fuller says, “so let’s scale up the logos so they are real prominent. We had a few versions bigger than this, but the final scale was based on [Lillard’s] recommendation.”
Apart from the logo on the back, the bold “DAME” gives life to Lillard’s nickname on the right tongue and snakeskin prints were added to the toe cap overlay, a style choice approved by the 24-year-old.
“I really like fashion, so I’m happy they allowed me to such a big part of it,” Lillard says. Being located in Portland, Lillard says there was nothing that came as a surprise to him in the design phase. “I wasn’t missing in action.”
Moving forward, with his own logo and signature shoe that releases on Feb. 6 for $105, Lillard plans to play a major role in apparel too, from shirts to sweatsuits to hats.
Fuller says that having the former Rookie of the Year and All-Star living in Portland allowed the company ample time to create a true signature look, both aesthetically and technically. He even joked that he needs to print up Adidas business cards for the player as the “creative director” of the shoe.
The low-cut design gears toward Lillard’s quick-moving game. Full length adiprene+ cushioning aims for a smooth heel to toe transition during aggressive movements. Using the Adidas Sprint Frame for stability through the heel and midfoot, forefoot lacing helps in the front. An inner booty adds heightened comfort and fit, Fuller says.
“He wanted fit, energy and traction,” Fuller says. “We made a long list and went to work.”
Adidas went premium with the upper, using the soft, velvety nubuck leather on the main Rip City black colorway. “Instead of more plastic, we were able to deliver premium, rich materials that were soft to the touch,” Fuller says. “It is kind of like his style, chill to thrill.” The purple Weber State colorway features real suede.
Adidas engineered a new herringbone pattern on the outsole, tight near the toe to limit dust and durable on the heel.
The three items Lillard says were a must for him were the sockliner-like feel, a low top and something that he could wear off the floor. And for a guy who says he generally plays in one pair of shoes for quite some time, he’s getting ready to make the switch. “Now that I have my own,” Lillard says, “I’ll be playing in a lot of different shoes.” And each one will reflect Lillard’s signature song.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.