According to Adidas, there was supposed to be a launch for Portland Trail Blazer and rapper Damian Lillard’s latest signature sneaker on Friday (Dec. 16). But thanks to a series of surprise guest stars, the shoe launch became a full-blown hip-hop concert — in the middle of the afternoon and at a high school gym, no less.
“This is beautiful,” said school district official John Sasaki, speaking on behalf of Oakland High School. “Any time someone wants to help our kids here in Oakland, we’re all about that.”
According to Lillard, combining the launch of his Dame 3 with a return to his teenage alma mater was a no-brainer, and he got full support from Adidas.
“They realize how much my roots and my upbringing mean to me,” the two-time All-Star told Billboard. In addition to the shoe launch, Lillard and Adidas teamed up to renovate the gym, weight room and music studio of Oakland High School, which was Lillard’s third and final prep school growing up and the one that had the biggest impact on him. It’s where he turned the corner, he told Billboard, where the coaches were the first to make the future star feel respected and cared about.
As the students poured into the gym Friday afternoon, they found a stage and concert light rig had been assembled on the basketball floor. Joining Lillard was platinum-selling artist Fetty Wap and Lil Uzi Vert.
By the time DJ Esco took the stage for a quick set, the students were in a near frenzy.
“I’ve never been in a high school more lit,” Esco told Billboard. “That felt like we was at the Summer Sixteen concert with Drake or something.”
As Lillard made his way up the stage, the DJ put on Bay Area rap legend Mac Dre. Lillard paused to appreciate the song, dancing along with the students.
“When I walked in there and saw all the students jumping, bouncing around, having a good time, that made me happy,” Lillard said. “That got me excited.”
Mac Dre is just one of his favorite rappers, Lillard said, as are J.Cole, Tupac and Juvenile. He was able to rap with Juvenile on his debut album, The Letter O (going by the moniker Dame D.O.L.L.A.).
Also at the event was Lillard’s high school basketball coach, who joined him onstage for the retirement of his jersey, the first retirement in the program’s history.
“I just want to let you guys know that I believe in y’all,” Lillard told the students. “I come from the same high school… anything is possible. Y’all be responsible. Y’all represent the city the right way, the way I take pride in doing.”