The MVP chants started early, right after the crowd sang "Happy Birthday." DJ OG One might have proclaimed that Damian Lillard had "left" the Crystal Ballroom shortly before the All-NBA point guard's concert debut, only to be replaced by his hip-hop alter-ego, Dame D.O.L.L.A., but there was no fooling this crowd, which came dressed like it was attending the Blazers season opener rather than a rap show. (Is it gauche to wear a Lillard jersey to a Damian Lillard concert? There's not a whole lot of precedent for this.) The dude who did Game 6 is the same guy who raps about doing Game 6. Lillard might take music more seriously—and do it more respectably—than a lot of his peers, but basketball is the reason he sold out one of Portland's biggest theaters. If he decided to try improv comedy, or kabuki theater, or just stand onstage eating a sandwich, the city still would've clamored for tickets.
That's why "reviewing" Lillard as a rapper still feels beside the point. (Of course, haters are always gonna hate.) For the record, he sounded the same live as he does on SoundCloud: technically proficient, if a bit monotone. Surrounded by what seemed like his entire family—his cousins, Brookfield Duece and Danny from Sobrante, opened—Lillard paced the stage, often with one hand over his crotch, accentuating the heavy-looking diamond watch on his wrist. (Dame Time, indeed.) He carried himself with the same stoicism he brings to the court, hardly deigning to smile even while pausing the performance to get down to "I've Got 5 On It" and "Blow the Whistle." Tim Frazier ran out and did the Tim Frazier Dance. CJ McCollum jumped up and endearingly danced like a nerd. Ed Davis, Noah Vonleh and even Gary Payton were in attendance. Was it a good show? Good enough. But it was a great party, one we should all feel lucky to have been invited to. As OG One said at one point, "He didn't have to do this." All hail the MVP.