In his debut POWERADE campaign, basketball star Damian Lillard shows how grit and hard work has helped him ascend from consummate underdog to one of the greatest players in the game.

In a new 30-second TV spot titled “No Easy Bucket”, Lillard pushes his body to the limit in a series of punishing workouts, including a sparring session with renowned boxing trainer Virgil Hunter. With sweat pouring and his breathing heavy, Lillard reaches for a POWERADE as fuel to power through the workout.

The spot will debut during NCAA® Division I men’s basketball tournament coverage and will be supported by three digital shorts: “Knock ‘Em Out”, “Heart” and “Work.”

“Damian Lillard is one of the top basketball players in the world today, but it’s easy to forget how he came up under the radar and took the game by storm,” said Shannon Watkins, senior director, POWERADE. “Some athletes are preordained, but Damian’s story is a testament to the good that can come from an absolutely relentless work ethic. POWERADE is excited to tell his story to inspire others and be a part of his journey. We believe he’s just getting started.”  

We caught up with Lillard to learn more about the campaign and what drives him on and off the court:

Why does the message of the POWERADE campaign – that no matter where you started, or what obstacles you face, that you can power through and achieve greatness with hard work and determination – resonate with you?

This campaign means a lot to me because it literally is my real-life journey. A lot of times you have an actor portraying your part, but with this campaign, I get to be involved with something that is directly attached to who I am and what my journey has been.

What do you hope fans take away from the spot?

I hope they recognize the realness of the campaign. Know that this is really my life, my grind, my passion. Along with the boxing aspect, because I'm such a huge fan. Working with Virgil, one of the best trainers in boxing who trains my favorite boxer and fellow Oakland native Andre Ward, was special.

You’ve been a consistent over-achiever. How does your so-called underdog status, which you’ve now transcended, motivate you today? Would you be where you are today if you were not overlooked earlier on?

I'm able to keep that edge and passion of my underdog self because even though I’ve outgrown it, I have convinced myself that the politics will never be in my favor, which kind of keeps me in the underdog mindset. I do feel I would be here today if I wasn't overlooked early on, because I think my work ethic would be the same. My attitude would be the same, as well, because all of the intangible things I come with are deeper than being an underdog. It's my upbringing, the foundation from my family, and my neighborhood.

Damian Lillard Just a Kid Powerade

Speaking of your neighborhood, what does it mean to be ‘Just a Kid’ from Oakland?

That I'm just a kid who comes with everything my city embodies – the tough, grimy and resilient place it is. That I’m passionate about our culture and what makes us different. It’s a place I represent proudly.

You’ve also made your mark as a rapper. How would you describe your persona and perspective as an MC with your on-the-court identity? How does music inspire your game?

As an artist, I just say what’s real because I rap about who I truly am and what I have truly been through in life. I wouldn't say the basketball side of me fuels the music side, but it inspires it because it allows me to experience so much. And with that, I have more emotions, more to share, and more opinions.

As an Oakland native – a hotbed of both hip-hop and hoops talent – how does it feel to be carrying the torch for both?

I think I'm definitely carrying the torch for basketball, even though there are so many others in college and other professional leagues representing us well. For music, I'm the biggest name, so it may seem as if I'm carrying the torch. But there are great artists from Oakland both now and before me. My hope is to use my platform to give those artists every opportunity to show their talent.