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Damian Lillard Finds Refuge in Rap

USA Today's Sam Amick profiles Portland's star guard as he reveals one of the foundations of his identity.

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

USAToday's Sam Amick has published wonderful profile of Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard and his passion for rap.

While the idea of a basketball star rapping might be passé (thanks, Shaq!) the thrust of Amick's article is that for Lillard, this is more than a sideline or passing fancy.

"A lot of people might think, 'Oh he's a basketball player and he's rapping? That's so cliché,' " said Blazers assistant David Vanterpool, a 41-year-old mentor of Lillard's who, as an owner of the Sugar Hill Gang's original Rapper's Delight vinyl, fancies himself an expert on such musical matters. "But he's no joke. He's a rapper who plays basketball, in my opinion."

As with his basketball career, Lillard is already proving himself a student of the game.

"When I listen to music, I listen for the substance, I listen to the bars, I listen to the beat, and I try to paint a picture with everything that I hear in music," said Lillard, who routinely researches the meaning of words that he hears for the first time as a way to increase his vocabulary. "Whether it's R&B, rap, jazz, country, whatever it is, I try to paint a picture.

Amick also portrays Lillard's deep-seeded motivations and authenticity:

As is the case with most good storytellers, there is a substance that comes with Lillard that makes him relatable to the masses. His stories - like that haunting memory of a night in 2008 when three men robbed him at gunpoint at the Eastmont bus station after his practice with the Oakland High School team - aren't embellished.

There's far more to the article, including Lillard's relationship with his hometown, his friends, and his new-found fame. It's definitely worth checking out.