Damian Lillard is paying attention to the next generation of hoopers and doesn’t like what he sees. As a result, he created the Formula Zero camp, which started last week at the YMCA in Beaverton, Oregon. The camp took 40 talented student-athletes from high school and college and placed them into Dame’s hands to learn the “formula” that gelled the Portland Trailblazers by none other than their leader, who wears jersey number “zero.”
However, what they received was more than a basketball clinic. It was a gut check.
“All of these people hanging onto them and kissing they ass and putting them in a position where they feel entitled and they mentality is messed up a bit about what it’s going to be and having to earn stuff and having to work and taking criticism and listening and being coachable and stuff like that,” said Lillard to the media at an Aug. 5 news conference.
For Dame Dolla, today’s world of NIL deals and early talent brokers distorts the way a student-athlete approaches the game, and he wants to provide the balance.
“It puts them in a position to where those things, it lets them down when they get to a professional environment and they talent can’t get them though,” Lillard continued. “You got to be stable and strong mentally. You got to be sturdy. You got to have something that you can stand on, because it gets tough. I want to help these kids that they ranked, they got all these followers on Instagram, but I want to help them have the stuff that is not just a talent.”
The individualism is striking for Lillard, who believes in a team-first mentality in basketball. He hopes that Formula Zero will showcase to them how to have the longevity and stability at the top of your craft that he has had by thinking “we” instead of “me”.
“I’ve seen interviews from kids in high school when somebody’s asking them, ‘What team would you like to play for?’ And they’re like, ‘I want to go to a good situation where the ball is in my hands.’ I would’ve never said that as a kid. I would’ve been like, ‘I want to win a national championship,’ so it’s just different,” Lillard continued. “This camp is about changing that type of thought process. There’s no humility. There’s a lot of fake humility where people know how to play the role, but they don’t have people around them who are showing them how to be humble and how to handle stuff so it’s just natural.”
Now with NIL deals as the common goal for young players, Dame is looking to keep teaching younger athletes the stuff that was around before NIL opportunities, togetherness, and a shared dream. Without that, the game will become a self-absorbed financial grab before entertaining on the highest level.
“What we wanted to share with these kids is that we’re going to push you guys to be better athletes and better basketball players, but what’s going to make you guys successful in life and make you guys successful as professionals, if that day does come, is not just going to be your talent or your ability because everybody has that. It’s going to be the other things. Your character, your work ethic, how you treat people, how coachable you are.”