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“The combination of his hoop, rap and neighborhood truly tells his story.”

Marc J. Spears profiles NBA star Damian Lillard - who also is an acclaimed rapper dedicated to his Oakland, Calif. hometown - for ESPN Cover Story

On the court, Portland Trailblazers point guard Damian Lillard is a four-time All-Star averaging 23.6 points while dishing more than six assists per game in eight NBA seasons.

Off it, he is Dame D.O.L.L.A. – an accomplished musician/rapper with three critically acclaimed albums among his credits.

In the second installment of ESPN’s multiplatform storytelling franchise, Cover Story (published today), The Undefeated’s senior NBA writer Marc J. Spears reveals that there is even more to Lillard than his successful hoops and music careers. His persona is a product of his past, growing up in the East Oakland, Calif., neighborhood of Brookfield.

Oakland resident Spears discusses his Lillard “ESPN Cover Story: As Real as it Gets” with Front Row:

How did this Damian Lillard story come about?
[ESPN NBA coordinating producer] Amina Hussein, an Oakland native, first brought the idea of the Dame story to me. Then, I heard from feature producer Michael O’Connor who asked for my thoughts on it.

As we explored the story, I told Michael that while Dame’s rapping was worthy of a multimedia piece, to really tell his story with the depth it demands, I thought that going to his seventh annual picnic in his hometown, in the Oakland neighborhood of Brookfield, can best tell who he is and how he got here. Dame is definitely among his people and can be touched there. His family is also very involved in the picnic and understandably proud of it. The combination of his hoop, rap and neighborhood truly tells his story.

What is your biggest takeaway from the story?
I am impressed that Lil Wayne said that if Dame rapped for a living instead of playing basketball he would do well and that he respected his depth as an artist. To be outstanding as a professional athlete and a musician is very hard to do and impressive.

Damian Lillard and the Portland Trailblazers will host the Los Angeles Lakers, led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis, in the second game of ESPN NBA Doubleheader Friday (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

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