When Kevin Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Golden State Warriors, all eyes turned to Russell Westbrook. His team just got measurably worse, and with a year before his own free agency, many wondered if he was going to follow Durant’s lead and join a team more ready to contend for a championship. And if the Thunder were worried he would do that, they would have to consider trading him ahead of that decision. But all the people who speculated like that didn’t know Westbrook at all.
In Lee Jenkins’ amazingly deep feature on Russ, we learned a lot more about what makes the phenomenal guard tick, and if you know that, you knew that Russ wasn’t going anywhere.
“I like my team,” Westbrook told [his friend Donnell Beverly]. “I still really like my team.” His tone took Beverly back a decade, to the blank navy thermal sweatshirts they wore in layup lines at Leuzinger High, as rivals from Westchester and Artesia rocked shiny jackets with shoe company logos. Westbrook, desperate for a college scholarship, could have mulled a transfer. “Oh no,” he says now, cutting off the question. “No, no, no. That school was where I’m from. It’s where my friends went. I was never going to leave. I was never going to be a follower.”
Any personal insight about Russ that has trickled out through the years has mentioned how long it takes for him to build trust with a person or and individual. He just likes to keep things close to the vest, as his lack of public reaction (aside from some cupcakes) when Durant left showed. But once he forms a bond, it’s going to take heaven and earth to get him to break it. Let’s go back to that high school story once more to prove it: