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Damian Lillard has been here before. Last year he embarked on his journey into the NBA season without perennial All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge who went to the Spurs. Lillard’s team did better, despite the odds and critics who felt the Portland Trail Blazers should take a step backwards, they didn’t. Lillard put his team on his shoulders.

Yesterday (October 25th) when he announced Lil Wayne would be removed from his album forcefully by Wayne’s label; Lillard has been here before. Although Lil Wayne multi-platinum selling Grammy winning is a big hit, Lillard is trying to become one of the only professional athletes to release a commercially successful albums while being respected by his rap peers.

Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal is only one athlete who has received a platinum plaque for his rap persona. In 1993 Shaq was bigger than life coming out of LSU to the NBA’s Orlando Magic. He eventually captivated fans through movies, video games and music. As a native of New Jersey he had street appeal, was an unstoppable force in the pain and that appealed to the hip hop generation. Shaq’s allure allowed him to draw enough rap fans as well. If Lillard reaches a level of success it will be due to the fact he can actually rap.

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Not to detract from Shaq’s rhymes, because that was an element that helped in his equation but Shaq’s popularity gave him the stage, the skills earned him the respect. Lillard through YouTube clips, commercials and other content has flashed his rap skills sparingly and could impress with his debut album The Letter O.

And while losing Weezy off the track “Loyal to the Soil” may damage his product in the end, it isn’t losing him headlines, “Despite my agreement with Wayne, his parent label is forcing me to remove him,” Lillard tweeted.

His album is currently the fifth on the Itunes rap charts.