Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers is one of the most recognizable players in the NBA, due in large part to his signature accessories – his sunglasses. Lillard is rarely seen without his shades, wearing them before, during and after games and in interviews and commercials. His sunglasses have become an integral part of his persona and personal style.
But why does Lillard seem to always have sunglasses on? There are several possible reasons:
- Light Sensitivity
- Vision Protection
- Part of His Pre-Game Routine
- Creates a Signature Look
- Reflects His Personality
- Pays Tribute to Oakland
- Relationship with Sunglass Brands
- Covers Up Emotions
- Avoid Eye Contact
- Part of His Warm-Ups
- Makes a Fashion Statement
- Creates an Intimidating Look
- Keeps Focus Off His Eyes
- Productive Use of Downtime
- A Personal Challenge
One potential reason is light sensitivity. The bright arena lights necessary for televised NBA games can be harsh on players’ eyes. Lillard may simply find it more comfortable to wear shades to help cut down on glare while on the court. The dark lenses likely help him see the ball and his teammates more clearly under the bright lights.
Wearing sunglasses also offers protection for Lillard’s vision. As an elite NBA player, his eyesight is critically important to his game. The tinted lenses shield his eyes from errant fingers, elbows and arms that could do damage during gameplay. Protecting his vision ensures he can play at the highest level throughout his career.
Part of His Pre-Game Routine
For many athletes, superstitions and pre-game rituals are an important part of their preparation. For Lillard, donning his go-to sunglasses may be part of his routine to get in the right mindset before tip-off. The shades likely help him focus and get in the zone. The familiar feel of his sunglasses probably provides a sense of comfort and confidence as well.
Creates a Signature Look
In the NBA, a player’s look and sense of style go a long way towards building their brand. Allen Iverson had his cornrows and sleeve tattoo, and LeBron James had his headband and wrist chalk clap. For Lillard, his sunglasses complete his signature style. The shades make him instantly recognizable even with his helmet-like mask on. His distinctive dark lenses have become a key part of his image.
Reflects His Personality
Lillard is known for having a laidback, chill personality off the court. He’s collected, cool under pressure, and exudes a sense of confidence. His ever-present shades perfectly reflect and complement his demeanour. When he keeps his sunglasses on during interviews, it reiterates his relaxed, unflappable attitude. The shades have become shorthand for his offbeat, competitive nature.
Pays Tribute to Oakland
Lillard grew up in the Brookfield neighbourhood of East Oakland, known for producing basketball stars like Bill Russell, Jason Kidd and Gary Payton. Oakland natives take pride in their city and Lillard is no exception. His sunglasses may be a subtle shoutout to his hometown, where shades are a staple accessory. Oakland’s unofficial motto is “Oakland Grown, Oakland Proud” – and Lillard’s sunglasses remind fans where he came from.
Relationship with Sunglass Brands
Lillard likely has endorsement deals with sunglass brands like Nike (he has his own Nike Dame shades), Adidas and Oakley. Part of these deals probably include wearing the brands’ sunglasses during games, interviews and appearances. The additional income and exposure from repping sunglass brands is an added benefit.
Covers Up Emotions
Some speculate Lillard relies on sunglasses to hide his eyes and conceal his emotions on the court. When he’s faced with a big shot or frustrated call, his shades stop opponents and cameras from reading his facial expressions and seeing his eyes. This may allow him to keep his cool when tensions are high.
Avoid Eye Contact
Similarly, Lillard may use sunglasses as a shield to avoid making eye contact with booing crowds on the road. Tuning out harsh road crowds may help him keep his head in the game in hostile environments. Keeping shades on also stops opponents from trying to stare him down or goading him into confrontation.
Baseball pitcher Turk Wendell famously wore a shark tooth necklace and chewed black liquorice while pitching to bring him luck. In the same vein, Lillard may see his sunglasses as a good luck charm that he dares not abandon. Even if he doesn’t need them for practical reasons during a game, he sticks with them out of superstition.
Part of His Warm-Ups
Extensive warm-ups are another game-day ritual for athletes. Lillard likely starts off wearing shades for his warm-up routine to shield his eyes from sweat and get him used to playing with tinted vision. By tip-off, he’s used to competing with sunglasses on so he opts to leave them on.
Makes a Fashion Statement
Sunglasses are a versatile fashion accessory that adds an element of cool to any outfit. Lillard may simply see shades as part of his pre-game fashion, along with hoodies, sweatpants and sneakers. His sunglasses collection probably contains bold designs and colours that express his personal style. He knows cameras will be on him before and after games, giving him the incentive to sport unique frames.
Creates an Intimidating Look
Hidden eyes can create an air of mystery and intimidation. Lillard may use the imposing appearance of his dark lenses to put unease into opponents. Not being able to see his eyes could be unsettling and make it harder to predict his movements. His stony glare behind nearly opaque lenses gives him a poker face that’s hard to read.
Keeps Focus Off His Eyes
Some athletes feel self-conscious about their eyes being on camera, due to conditions like red eye or sty. Lillard may prefer keeping sunglasses on during interviews so close-up shots don’t highlight any eye imperfections. The simple solution of wearing shades keeps the attention off his peepers.
Productive Use of Downtime
NBA players spend a lot of time travelling, waiting around, and sitting on the bench. Having sunglasses handy gives Lillard something to do during downtime. Idle hands can lead to trouble, so occupying himself by switching up sunglasses kills time productively. He can also review plays using sunglass-mounted cameras without being obvious.
A Personal Challenge
Lillard is known for seeking out motivation in unusual ways, like building a loyalty test with his college coaches. Wearing sunglasses could be another personal challenge – seeing how often he can don shades. Or he may compete with himself over how outrageous a pair he can get away with wearing on TV. Turning it into a goal likely appeals to his competitive side.
These are just some of the possible reasons that Damian Lillard seems to always have his signature sunglasses on. His shades are part of who he is, both on and off the court. His UFO-like lenses make him instantly recognizable to NBA fans around the globe. So next time you see those opaque lenses and laidback demeanour, you’ll know there’s a good chance it’s Dame DOLLA keeping his cool under pressure.CopyRetry