That incredibly euphoric and surreal feeling—that giddy, this is actually happening kind of feeling—doesn’t exist for Damian Lillard anymore. He’s not going to lie to you. Because when he got his hands on the Dame 6 this past summer, it was nothing like the first time he held a pair of his signature sneakers.
“I don't think you can really compare it,” says Lillard. “When I came into the league I wasn't even planning on having a signature shoe.”
Four All-Star Games, four All-NBA teams, a Rookie of the Year Award, and a massive contract later, the 29-year-old Lillard is a superstar worthy of a signature sneaker. Considered among the 10 best players in the league in the humble opinion of the Complex Sports squad, Lillard is the face of the Portland Trail Blazers, their franchise player, and the most high-profile Adidas Basketball endorser not named James Harden.
Just don’t let his lack of unbridled enthusiasm cloud how grateful, honored, and hyped Lillard is for the latest iteration of his signature sneaker. Officially hitting stores November 29 ($110), the Dame 6 is the most technologically advanced sneaker with Lillard’s name on it and is meant to highlight his duality—as one of the NBA’s best point guards and a multi-hyphenate off the court.
“I feel like it's a good representation of me,” says LIllard.
Lillard’s a loyal person—when it comes to his family, the city of Portland, and to the brand that’s been with him since he entered the league as the sixth pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. He grew up wearing the Three Stripes and was ecstatic when he signed on with Adidas. But the idea, upon entering the league out of tiny Weber State, that he would have his own signature sneaker on day? Never in a million years.
“My mind was on being a high level player so I never really thought about my own shoe,” says Lillard. “I would think about what shoes I wanted to play in. I'm going to play in these and Crazy Eights and all that stuff, I wasn't thinking about a signature shoe.”
After his second season, Lillard signed a big deal with the brand and that’s when his agent told him he was getting his own signature sneaker. Only Lillard didn’t believe him. When he showed up to a photo shoot and his first signature sneaker was presented to him, that’s when it finally hit.
“I was just like, ‘Is this my shoe?’ And I didn't care, I didn't even care what it looked like, I was just like, ‘Man, this my shoe.’” says Lillard. “So I mean like, [the sixth signature sneaker] don't really compare like, this feeling? It's more like, ‘OK, I think this one is going to hit.’ You know what I'm saying? I think this one is going to be the one that could take off.”
The Ruthless colorway will be the first Dame 6 to release—its name will be obvious since “RUTHLESS” is painted across the medial midsole. The 6 will be Lillard’s first signature sneaker to feature Adidas’s LIGHTSTRIKE technology that’s supposed to marry light-weight cushioning with ultra responsiveness. Another colorway called the “Hecklers” pack will drop in January and will feature four team colors and a graphic print with zipped up emojis.
“The silhouette embodies Dame’s multi-dimensional persona from both sides of the shoe,” says Jimi Taylor, senior footwear designer for Adidas Basketball. “The outside speaks to Dame’s focus, while the interior peels back the layers to showcase the inner workings of the shoe and celebrates Dame’s ruthless mindset on the court.”
Lillard’s gone through trials and tribulations with his signature sneakers, trying to tweak each subsequent model with the Adidas design squad to make it better and more responsive than the last. The Dame 4 was the first pair he played in right out of the box, something he had previously never preferred, and he loved the Dame 5. “I just think the quality of them is complete 360,” says Lillard. Even though the Dame 6 is a low, he’s giving it rave reviews after testing it out during the summer and playing in them through the early NBA season.
“It’s comfortable. I can play in it right away,” says Lillard. “Usually low tops don’t really work for me, but they’re comfortable and I can play in a brand new shoe. It’s always good when I can play in a brand new shoe.”
Being in Portland has been huge for Lillard’s relationship with Adidas and, predictably, the construction of the Dame 6 was a collaborative process. One of the things Lillard loves about living in his adopted hometown is he can head over to campus whenever he wants to talk shop and offer immediate feedback to the designers.
“When they're working on a new shoe, I just drive up there and I'm like, ‘Let me see some stuff,’” says Lillard. “That's been a huge part of why we've been able to be so connected, but I think the other thing is stuff that's important to me, and stories that I want to tell, and things that I want to see come to life—they listen.”
They’ve listened. And Lillard thinks Adidas delivered his best pair of signature sneakers yet.