Nearly fourteen years have elapsed since Michael Jordan overcame the dreaded fear of retirement, thus leaving behind an unparalleled NBA legacy after fifteen heroic seasons. It was during this time that Russell Westbrook entered Leuzinger High School in California as a young 5-foot-8 freshman point guard with a size 14 shoe — while just breaking an astonishing 140-pounds.
Now well over a decade later, Russell Westbrook is officially a member of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. Not coincidentally, Westbrook’s inductor was none other than the venerated Michael Jordan. Though Westbrook has proudly been a member of the Jordan brand team since 2012, the on-court resemblances between the two players are striking, making Jordan the perfect wingman choice.
When Westbrook began his high school basketball voyage, he spent his first two years in fastidious devotion to development, culminating with a coveted varsity roster spot by his junior year. Russell began to attract college eyes during his senior year when he averaged 25.1 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 2.3 assists, leading his team to a 25-4 regular-season record. It was also during this season that he recorded 14 double-doubles as well as his high-school best 51-points during a victory over rival Carson. Westbrook fulfilled a dream when Ben Howland, head coach of UCLA, offered him a full scholarship to play for the Bruins.
During Westbrook’s freshman year at UCLA, while playing behind Darren Collison, he was relegated to mostly reserve minutes. When on court, Russell played the role of high-energy defender as well as quick-hitting setup man and scorer. Having showcased two-way potential, combined with a Collision inury, Westbrook was assigned the role of starting point guard early in his sophomore year.
It was during this season that Russell averaged 12.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per contest — while shooting nearly 47% from the field. Westbrook was rewarded for these contributions with Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year honors, as well as an appearance on the All-Pac-10 Third Team. By the end of the season, he made the decision to forgo his last two years at UCLA, and enter the 2008 NBA Draft.
Later that year, Russ was selected as the 4th overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft by the Seattle SuperSonics. Signing on July 5th, 2008, Westbrook would join young star-forward Kevin Durant — and current teammate, veteran Nick Collison. Since July of 2008, Westbrook has done nothing but impress fans of the Thunder organization. During his first three seasons for OKC, Russ managed 17.7 points per game whilst sharing the court with Kevin Durant and famed to be ball-hog, James Harden.
Now as 2017 approaches, Russell and Nick Collison are the only two holdovers from that fabled original Thunder iteration. Though a multitude of faces have come and gone since Westbrook’s entrance to the NBA, he has continued to shine night in and night out. As mentioned during Russell’s induction into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, Jordan praised Westbrook's determination and passion for the game – "When I watch him play, I see a lot of resemblance of his passion for the game of basketball, the way I played the game of basketball."
As for this season? Westbrook has valiantly proven Jordan’s point. Other than the occasional self-centered mistakes that Westbrook will perhaps never stop making, he has continued to outperform his challengers. The Thunder’s last game, a Friday night match-up victory against the Brooklyn Nets, acted as just another blank canvas for Russ to turn in a riveting master piece. Playing 33 minutes, Westbrook managed yet another triple double with 30 points, 13 assists, and 11 rebounds. In addition to this, Westbrook’s partner-in-crime, Victor Oladipo, kept the backcourt strong with 26 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds.
This being said, Westbrook has no doubt performed to lofty expectations. Though a long season still lies a head, fans of Oklahoma City should certainly be proud to have such a talented and experienced guard at their hands. From the furious game-winning posterization of Clint Capela, to the 51-point triple-double victory over the Suns, Westbrook refuses to relent until he seizes an MVP trophy.