Who is Damian Lillard? Four years ago the answer was an unknown talent out of Weber State. Three years ago the response was the NBA Rookie of the Year, and the last two years you could just call him an NBA All-Star for short. This year, however, the title’s changed again, as at only 25 years of age he’s become the undisputed leader of the Portland Trailblazers.
Rap phenomenon defying the laws of gravity, Dame Dolla has got more than just his bars up since becoming the face of Portland this offseason, averaging a career high 24 and 7 a night in the young campaign. A terror on the hardwood, a beast in the booth, he’s adding to his eclectic resume in 2016 with the launch of his second signature sneaker, the adidas D Lillard 2.
Picking up where his 2015 introduction, the adidas D Lillard 1, started, the sequel looks to continue the red-hot run by keeping a low profile in regards to cost and cut, all while remaining high on detail and performance. We spoke with adidas Basketball’s Head of Design, Brian Foresta, on the second signature for Oakland’s own and the pride of Portland.
Nice Kicks: When did work on the D Lillard 2 begin?
Brian Foresta: About 16 months ago, but when we really got deep into it, it was 14 months ago. It’s great that Dame is in town, we see him a lot – a lot, a lot. It’s one thing to practice in a shoe, but it’s another thing to go hard in it with the lights on and everybody around. That’s when you start to get real feedback.
Nice Kicks: When looking at the D Lillard 1 and getting feedback from Dame, what were the attributes you wanted to carry over and what were the flaws you wanted to address?
Brian Foresta: One of the main things we wanted to honor from the first shoe was that quick, step-in comfort. Out of the box, the D Lillard 1 was probably one of the most comfortable shoes. We wanted to take that construction and fine tune it. On the D Lillard 1, there’s no seams against the foot and a bootie construction. On the D Lillard 2, we made that even more padded. Not that that was a problem on the first shoe, but we just felt that it gave it a more secure and soft fit, just to fine tune it.
One of the things Dame always talks about is being able to stop on a dime and hit that step-back jumper. We wanted to fine tune that traction pattern all the way up on his toes. He plays a lot on his toes. We wanted to get that toe box vamp on the shoe really clean so that there’s no distractions in those key moments. He heats up so much in the fourth, we wanted to make sure there’s nothing that distracted him.
Nice Kicks: The collar and cut is a little bit higher on the D Lillard 2 as well.
Brian Foresta: It’s a little bit higher. We talk a lot about the sensory read of when you put a shoe on. What I mean by that is when you put a shoe on, does it fit close to your ankle? If it fits close to your ankle even though it’s a low, it buys that confidence.
Nice Kicks: One of the things I really liked about the D Lillard 1 was how soft the adiPrene felt. The D Lillard 2, conversely, introduces Bounce cushioning. What can you tell our readers about that?
Brian Foresta: We felt exactly the same way about that adiPrene bottom on that shoe. What’s cool about Bounce is it has two different softnesses of foam. The center of the shoe is actually really soft but it has a very high rebound rate so it gives you that really quick energy return. But then on the sidewall on the side of the shoe, we can stiffen that foam up so that it prevents blow over and roll over. If you’re coming off a pick and you put a lot of pressure on the outside of the shoe, it doesn’t give. It’s a lot like adiPrene, but it’s a step up. Bounce is in other categories, but basketball is the only category where we use the two different foam compounds to fine tune it.
Nice Kicks: Compared to the D Lillard 1, it also feels like the 2 has a lot more personal nods to Dame.
Brian Foresta: Definitely. I think the big thing for us is that we wanted to make sure that we got more of his story into his product. We always walk the fine line between what’s going to enhance performance and what’s going to inspire him during those key moments. The Oakland pattern comes directly from the Oakland tree city logo. We want to make sure that it crosses the heel counter, hits the lacing system and that it inspires the outsole pattern. But even simple things like having Brookfield on the midfoot means the world to him. Then all the way up on the toe you have the biggest pool of traction so you have that quick first step but also the ability to stop quickly.
You get the technical side with the patterns but we also think about those big moments. Dame holds so much responsibility when it comes to the Blazers. When it’s that moment in the fourth, everybody’s tired, he’s pulling his shorts and he looks down at his feet and what does he see coming back at him? He sees the city and that responsibility that he’s always talking about. Our hope is that it inspires him at that moment.
Nice Kicks: The “Home” launch colorway is definitely unique in that you play with a shade of off-white rather than the conventional home white. What factors influenced that decision?
Brian Foresta: Home and away is so important to the game, but we’re that outlier brand that always wants to press what that means. With the gum outsole, we kept working on this idea of how do you throw the eye off and what will make this shoe deceptive in the game. Gum came about first because we like the idea of the heritage feel as nobody’s been in the game of basketball as long as adidas — and we also liked the idea of gum fading into the hardwood so you don’t actually see the outsole when you’re on the court.
We like the idea of tricking the eye so it looks like the shoe is sitting lower than it actually is. There’s a couple places in the line where we’ve tried to throw off the opponent and their peripheral vision. Then with the off-white, you see it everywhere when it comes to us as a brand and our collaborations. I think there’s just something nice and familiar about it, without it being as sterile as pure white and it also matches the tone of the city as well.
Nice Kicks: How has having Dame around in Portland impacted the direction of the D Lillard 2?
Brian Foresta: Having Dame in Portland, he’s so involved in the process. It’s fantastic to have a resource in somebody that has a voice and is so confident in who he is as a person. I can’t stress enough how important that is from a creative standpoint. I think the nicest thing of working with Damian is not only does he have a good design aesthetic but I really like the fact that he thinks about it through the lens of what he would like when he was younger.
When it comes to price points he wants his shoe to be attainable for kids. If you only have so much money to spend, can you have a shoe to ball in and wear all day? He takes a lot of personal responsibility in that. He’ll definitely weigh the price point coming up to what that could mean to the average consumer.
He’s also not shy when it comes to his opinion on a shoe. If there’s anything he does not like or does not think is aesthetically pleasing he will tell you very quickly. I think that’s great. We’re a brand that works with the best creators in the world — whether it’s music, basketball or anything. We want their voice when it comes to the product, they’re our trusted editors. When somebody puts something on with their name on it, they’re full in on the product.
The D Lillard 2 ($105) launches January 22 in “Home” and February 5 in “Road” with a limited release of “Home” on December 26 at adidas.com, Eastbay.com and Foot Locker. Following a preview of the “Home” makeup in the interview, check out detailed images of the “Road” rendition in the photos below.