More than a decade into his NBA career, Portland Trail Blazers superstar Damian Lillard continues to elevate his game.
Lillard’s career-high average of 32.2 points per game this past season at age 32, a scoring masterclass that helped him earn All-NBA Third Team honors, solidified once again he’s one of the NBA’s premier players.
How Lillard attacks the summer partially explains his continued ascension. He uses the off-season to add more levels to his game — whether it’s a deeper 3-point shot, a tighter handle or better finishing — while still leaving enough time to pursue other passions.
Through his partnership with Modelo, Lillard and the beer company are hoping to spread that growth mindset to fans with the Modelo Summer Bucket Sweepstakes. Each month in June, July, and August, Lillard will unveil a personally curated bucket list activity on his and the Modelo Instagram channels. To enter the sweepstakes and get the chance to win a Dame-inspired Modelo beer bucket, fans must share a video or photo of themselves completing the latest bucket list activity on their Instagram feed before each monthly entry deadline. At the end of sweepstakes, all participants will be entered for the chance to win grand prizes.
Ahead of the sweepstakes, Conor Bergin of Blazer’s Edge talked with Lillard over Zoom to discuss the event, a little bit of NBA Draft analysis, and how his summer is changing on and off the court.
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Bergin: Can you tell me about your partnership with Modelo?
Lillard: It’s been a couple years now. [I’ve] always been a big fan of the Modelo commercials, and I think when I look at my story and where I come from and a lot of the obstacles I’ve had to overcome, a lot of the adversity I’ve faced, I think that’s just where it began — just being a fan of those commercials and that fighting spirit and feeling like my story can be a part of that, like my story represents that. This particular Summer Bucket Sweepstakes is another prime example of where we align at in taking advantage of the summer and not taking the time off.
Bergin: Can you talk more specifically about how the Modelo Summer Bucket Sweepstakes represent your personality as an athlete and as a person?
Lillard: I would say as an athlete, I’m always going into the summer looking for a challenge. I’m always looking for a way to level up, whether that’s how hard I work, whether that’s things I might’ve struggled with or things I might’ve been distracted by — how do I eliminate those things? I would say as a person, it’s just when I get to the summer I take advantage of everything that I’m interested in. I usually do more of my music in the summer. When the season is over I turn into an artist, and for part of that I turn into a boxer, I’m in the ring. I turn into a trainer, I train my mom and my sister. I’m watching my kids, I got daddy daycare going on. That’s the time where I really just come alive. I’m always looking for things. It’s not just like, “oh, basketball is over, and I’m about to just go sit down.” Everything else that I’m passionate about, that I care about, that I have real interest in, I’m leveling up in those things, too, and taking them seriously.
Bergin: What are some of the grand prizes that participants in the sweepstakes will win?
Lillard: My signature shoe, I’m gonna have some nice headphones for ‘em, and then I’m gonna leave the rest for a surprise. You just gotta participate.
Bergin: In a Men’s Health Profile on you from December, you talked about how you were trying to “bulletproof” yourself now with your training. Can you talk about how your mindset has changed in that way and what you’ve been doing with your off-season training this summer?
Lillard: In the past I would just do everything hard and try to push myself to the limit, and prepare myself that way. I would say it’s changed most by how smart I do it as opposed to how hard I’m doing it. It’s mapped out, it’s scheduled. All of my coaches and trainers — whether that’s a massage therapist, my [physical therapist], my strength and conditioning [coach], my on-court trainers, my speed and agility coach — they’re all connected on one file. I’ll be with two of ‘em some days and three of ‘em some days, and it’s like “today is an easy day when he’s with you, it’s a medium day when he’s with you, and it’s a hard day [when he’s with you].” So I’ll be with all of them at some point in the day, but each person has a designated day where I’m going hard with ‘em, or we’re going light just to get some maintenance type stuff in, and then it’s another medium workout to get a sweat and to address certain things. I think having that team together has allowed me, to as I said, “bulletproof [myself].” [I’m] making sure I’m sharp, making sure I’m getting rest, and I’m recovering. Just doing all of those things so that my game is not just tight, but my body can sustain it and back it up.
Bergin: With the NBA Draft coming up, what has impressed you most about prospects Scoot Henderson and Brandon Miller as players?
Lillard: I just think they’re impressive players. I saw Brandon Miller in college. He’s a good playmaker, he can pass the ball. You see him [make] pull-up 3s, catch-and-shoot 3s, finishing over the top of people in the paint. He’s just a confident player, so he’s a part of that consensus top three players, and it’s for a reason. If it was any other year he’d probably be the favorite to be number one, and you can say the same for Scoot. Being a young dude and coming in and playing in the G League, and being able to have that physical presence and his athleticism jumping off the page like that. It’s impressive how young they are and how ready to be in the NBA they are.
Bergin: How is summer changing for your family now that your kids are getting older?
Note: Lillard and his wife Kay’La Hanson have three kids. Damian Jr., is 5, while twins Kali and Kalii are just over 2.
Lillard: It’s changing a lot because when they were younger, you don’t want to have them moving around too much. You don’t want to take these young kids on flight after flight and across the country, so you’re much more of a homebody. I think now that they’re getting older and talking and walking and they have interests — they know every animal, they got favorite colors, they pay attention to everything — now you can take ‘em to San Diego to the zoo. You can take ‘em to Dinosaur World. You can take ‘em to the movies. You can just pack ‘em up in the car, get ‘em on the plane. They move around like people now, so I think it’s changed in that way where they can participate in a lot more things now, so it’s not as much of a standstill.
Bergin: This season you had talked about how you had never been to the Oregon Coast, is that a bucket list item for you this summer?
Lillard: That’s on my summer bucket list, to make it to the coast.
Bergin: Do you have a date confirmed?
Lillard: I don’t have one confirmed, man, it ain’t at the top of the summer bucket list.