Damian Lillard Says Lil Wayne Inspired His Adidas Dame 4 x Bape Sneakers

The Trailblazers All-Star dishes on the most hyped sneaker he’s ever created.

It’s Damian Lillard’s day off, but he’s spending it at the U.S. Adidas headquarters in Portland, Oregon, filming social media spots in what the brand calls its “Maker Lab.” In between takes, he sits on a large leather couch in the studio, watching ESPN and asking the room about what trades are happening across the league. Just a few miles away is the Moda Center in downtown Portland, where Lillard goes to work as the Portland Trail Blazers’ All-Star point guard, breaking ankles and draining threes in his new signature sneakers, the Adidas Dame 4. It’s those sneakers that have dragged him away from home and into this sneaker workshop on his off day. But for good reason. On February 16, Adidas is dropping a version of his signature shoes that’s sure to be his most coveted to date—the Adidas Dame 4 x A Bathing Ape.

Wait, Bape, as in the Japanese streetwear brand? The label beloved by Pharrell, Kanye West, and even the late Robin Williams? (No, seriously.) The primate-and-camo-loving company that’s been without its founder Nigo for almost five years? Yes, in the early aughts, the brand was the hottest streetwear on the planet, and today it’s steadily making a comeback for a few reasons nostalgia not being the least of them. ape has collaborated with Adidas before on its Superstar and NMD models, but never for an on-court sneaker shoe. Like many of the label’s diehards, Lillard says his fondest memories of Bape were during the Lil Wayne’s heyday, when the rapper was a mixtape god dressed in oversized Bape camo hoodies.

“I just remember him having on all of these wild colors, and that was when it became hot to me,” says Lillard. “Also, when he had on all the Bape on the cover [of Vibe], he kind of set that trend for hip-hop fans and inner city people.” Lillard himself is a part-time rapper, and the two albums he’s released both feature Lil Wayne—so the inspiration makes a lot of sense. But despite his nostalgia for Weezy’s Bape days, Lillard doesn’t believe the brand’s best days are behind it. “Bape is as relevant as any [streetwear label],” he says.

Lillard’s Bape sneakers certainly aren’t subtle, but they use many of the classic Bape prints that fans have loved since the brand’s inception: duck camo, shark teeth design (printed on the midsole), and the brand’s signature varsity jacket letters WGM (“World Gone Mad”). And though that phrase might feel particularly appropriate to the large globe in the year 2018, it’s especially true in the sneaker world, too, with resale prices climbing through the roof and limited-edition sneakers trading like hot stocks. With the release just over a week away, the hype index for the Bape Lillards is climbing. (The last pair of the green version sold on StockX for $340, more than twice its $150 retail price.)

A limited release seems somewhat counterintuitive to the Adidas Dame brand, which Lillard has made sure to make affordable and accessible to kids from all walks of life. But he knows that hype is also something that draws interest—and that could ultimately help the more readily-available Lillard 4s down the line. “It’s beneficial to both sides. This will bring attention to the shoe, and build up that buzz and build up the hype,” he says. “With it being limited, that’s just how it is. The real sneakerheads and people who pay attention, they’ll find a way to get ’em.”

$150, buy at Adidas’s 747 Warehouse pop-up in Los Angeles on February 16. An online release has yet to be announced.

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