Swagger is a word that has been around awhile in hip hop culture. Swagger has been known to be a walk, the way you carry yourself and the confidence that exudes around you. The interesting facet about hip hop culture is that it impacts so many others areas of life, especially in sports.
Popular hip hop artist Drake said in a song a couple years ago, “I swear sports and music are so synonymous cause we want to be them, and they want to be us.”
In my columns last year, I have really hit on the fact that I think that this Trail Blazer franchise needs more swagger, more of an edge on the court. After last June’s draft, I wrote a column on Damian Lillard and how I believed that he would bring some swagger to a team that desperately needed an edge. In it I quoted an article and wrote:
Lillard told Shaw, “I want to be rookie of the year. I want to be an All-Star in the next few years, and after that, I want to be in the Olympics in 2016." About the opening of the season he said, “I think I can take Steve Nash. I got Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul and Tony Parker after that, so I might have some rough nights with them. But Steve Nash, I think I got him.”
To some, those quotes may spell some over confidence, but to me, that is exactly what the Blazers need with their point guard of the future. This confidence and swagger will give the Blazers the edge they need.
Hindsight is 20/20 and now that we are sitting here with Lillard as the Rookie of the Year, we can honestly say that he has lived up to his lofty expectations so far. He is now on a media tour frenzy that has been brought on by his success. Adidas released a special edition shoe in honor of his R.O.Y. campaign, he has been on multiple television shows as a studio guest and he has represented the team at the Draft Lottery.
This is as well and fine, however my concern is that this is nothing like what got him here. He has been seen as the kid from a small school that nobody gave a chance. Now everybody is aware of this phenom from Oakland. He will begin to attract double teams; he will be the focus of scrutiny of fans and media and he will have more outside influences determining his mindset.
About a week ago, KGW reported a scuffle that supposedly happened between some Blazer fans and a few members of Lillard’s entourage. I have learned to take these reports with a grain of salt. With cell phone cameras in hand, people have far too much courage and a strong desire to get their name in the media. When these “victims” took the pictures and were confronted, I’m sure they saw it as an opportunity to get some notoriety of some sort.
I am not necessarily concerned about Lillard as an individual and representative of the Trail Blazers, but you are only as good as those you surround yourself with. It will be interesting the see what comes of the reports, if anything. Lillard has proven to bring an attitude and swagger to the team, but now people are calling him a thug, saying that he doesn’t have the maturity to lead a franchise. That is a knee jerk reaction.
Last summer was widely recognized as the most important in franchise history, and Lillard really made General Manager Neil Olshey look like a genius. Let’s just hope that Lillard can keep things together and turn into the long-term leader that this community, team and franchise long for.
Garrett Thornton is on Twitter. Follow him at @PortlandGarrett