Recently, unseen footage of Russell Westbrook’s groundbreaking interview with Emmy-winning journalist Graham Bensinger was made public. During his sit down with the eponymously titled In Depth With Graham Bensinger host, Oklahoma City’s newly re-signed superstar elaborated upon a wide range of topics, both personal and professional.
Among other themes, the 2015 NBA scoring leader spoke openly with Bensinger concerning his trailblazing fashion sense, fierce style of play, aversion toward the spotlight, relationship with former teammate Kevin Durant, and the life-altering 2004 death of his best friend, Khelcy Barrs.
Throughout their poignant and informative conversation, Westbrook displayed an unprecedented degree of public authenticity with Bensinger. Highlights from the rare interview include:
Westbrook’s take concerning how the media views his private nature.
Bensinger: (From the media) “Do you feel you get a fair shake?”
Westbrook: “I don’t know. I don’t care, to tell you the truth. My job is not to please anybody that don’t need to be pleased, that I have no relations with. You know, my job is to come in everyday and try to find a way to help my teammates and try to find a way to help us win.”
Bensinger: “Why are you so private?”
Westbrook: “I just like my own space, because there is a lot of different things that can be misconstrued. You can see different pictures and think something of one thing and you could see one thing and think another and so I just think it’s best to stay to myself when it comes to certain things.”
Switching gears, Westbrook emphasizes his affinity for fashion and expressive outfits - claiming to have roughly 1,000 pairs of shoes:
Bensinger: “You were called by the Vogue entertainment editor, the Kate Moss of the NBA. Your reaction when you heard that for the first time.”
Westbrook: “I was surprised. I mean, Kate Moss - she dresses obviously out there and that’s kinda how I do my thing as well. So I was definitely surprised and it was an honor to hear that...”
Bensinger: “Your brother was telling me the other day, he was like, ‘Even though it’s reported he has 700 pairs of shoes, it’s actually more like a thousand pairs.’”
Westbrook: “Probably. Yeah, for sure. I have shoes all over the place. I have some at his house, my house, my closet, in storage.”
An impassioned Westbrook then offers Bensinger insight regarding his aggressive, emotional style of play -admitting his pride can negatively impact performance:
Westbrook: “I feel like to be the best, you gotta take pride in every possession. Every time somebody either may score on you or you may turn the ball over… you have to take pride in it and take it on the chest and try to fix it.”
Bensinger: “I understand you used to get so frustrated when that would happen that it would negatively impact your performance on the next play. How were you able to overcome that?”
Westbrook: “... It’s still hard to overcome now… I think it’s just my nature, man. It’s my competitive spirit… And throughout games there may be times where I may be mad at myself and it may reflect on the next play... Quickly, I have to be able to transition out of that, because the game is not about me…”
Bensinger: “You’ve said you play mad. How so?”
Westbrook: “I’m just playing with a chip on my shoulder… For me, I always feel like there’s something to prove or something to do. Every night, my job is to come out and compete for my team and bring that edge.”
Then a somber Westbrook expresses the impact his best friend Khelcy Barrs’ death has had upon his life. Barrs, a star basketball player, fatally collapsed during a high-school pick-up game due to an enlarged heart.
Bensinger: “You wear his initials on you for every game that you play, and you’ve said before you feel like in a way you are playing for Khelcy.’’
Westbrook: “Always. I mean that’s why I always have the band on. I have it on my shoes. He’s just always a part of me regardless of where I’m at or what I’m doing… As long as he knows and I know that this is for him.”
Westbrook: “It impacts me to this day… You could never take life for granted. I mean, he definitely, probably would have been right here with me playing or would have been in the NBA a long time before I would have.”
Finally, when the inevitable Kevin Durant questions came about, Westbrook had these words for Bensinger, praising both Durant’s skill-set and work ethic.
“He’s 6’10, he’s able to do whatever he wants at anytime but I think his work ethic, I think he works probably harder than anyone I’ve seen other than myself, but he works harder than me.”
As Graham Bensinger’s interview with Russell Westbrook occurred prior to Kevin Durant’s July 4 free-agency decision, much of the sentiment held by Westbrook — and Thunder Nation— regarding the 2014 MVP has since been altered.
However, Westbrook reiterated in a recent presser that his feelings toward Durant aren’t as hostile as first reported.
While Westbrook is now the unquestioned leader of Oklahoma City basketball, his session with Graham Bensinger was certainly one to remember. For more of Graham Bensingers’ critically acclaimed interviews, check your local listings for In Depth With Graham Bensinger air times.
WTLC would like to thank Mr. Bensinger and his Public Relations and Promotions Manager Brian Gaffney for helping make this article possible.