Damian Lillard accomplished much on the court so far in his NBA career, and soon he will have a diploma for his hard work outside basketball.
The Signpost, the student newspaper of Weber State University, reports that Damian Lillard will graduate from WSU in May. Since leaving the college three years ago to play for the NBA, Lillard spent the offseason working toward his degree in technical sales.
“At the time, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Lillard said. “So I chose something that I felt like I could do different things in. I could go into business with that degree. I think the most important thing is that it taught me how to sell myself. I’ve been able to do that with the profession that I fell into.”
Lillard believes the classes he’s taken have prepared him for multiple aspects of his career away from the court, from public speaking to participating with companies that endorse him.
“It helps,” Lillard said. “I didn’t know that I was going to need it. It’s kind of funny how it worked out.”
Lillard entered the 2012 NBA draft without a college diploma. He was taken sixth overall by the Trail Blazers, became the unanimous rookie of the year, was selected to two All-Star teams and was named to the All-NBA third team in 2014.
Lillard describes his degree as “one of the greatest accomplishments” of his life.
“This degree and Weber State mean so much to me,” Lillard said. “I don’t have any plans to continue further right now, due to my career, but I am honored to have a diploma from WSU to take with me wherever I go.”
Lillard never expected to graduate from college.
“Growing up, this was one of the things I never really saw myself having an opportunity to achieve, and it’s a small dream come true,” he said.
Lillard grew up in Oakland, California and was recruited for the Weber team in part by coach Randy Rahe. Lillard had no plans for college but Rahe made a promise to help him succeed.
“Being the special talent that he was, I let him know that we could help him achieve that here as a Wildcat, but it would require hard work and dedication on all parts from him,” Rahe said. “I let him and his parents know that it also meant that he would have to work hard enough to get his degree.”
It would have been easy to forgo those final credits to avoid the hassles of pursuing a college degree. In just a few months, he made millions off his rookie contract and several lucrative endorsement deals. This summer, he’ll sign a contract extension that will make him wealthier than he ever imagined.
But earning the degree was about more than the money. It was about proving to the next teen dreamer in Oakland that college is within reach.
“Growing up in Oakland,” Lillard said, “you see a rapper, you see a basketball player, a football player, but it was never like, ‘I’m going to get a college degree. That was never the talk. So that wasn’t something that I said I’m going to go out and do.”
Lillard’s mother was the final push for him to complete his last six credits through online courses before the 2014 training camp.
Although he will be unable to join his graduating class due to a playoff series during the commencement ceremony, Lillard plans to return to WSU over the summer when the university may hold a special celebration.