How Russell Westbrook became a $205 million face of Oklahoma City

3:18 PM ET

OKLAHOMA CITY — It was mid-August and Paul George was holding a luminary fishing contest in Los Angeles. He had usually been a member of a Oklahoma CIty Thunder for a small some-more than a month, yet a vast fortuitous of a classification done a approach to attend — GM Sam Presti and partner GM Troy Weaver, conduct manager Billy Donovan and fundamentally each support staffer.

Only dual teammates, though, done an appearance: Josh Huestis and … Russell Westbrook. Westbrook was even a initial to arrive.

A elementary gesture, yet a suggestive one, laced with intent. And it came on tip of some particular time Westbrook had spent with George following a Pacers’ trade. The day after fishing, they were off for their initial examination together. The dual were pouring a substructure for a clever relationship, yet with George’s capricious destiny a prohibited topic, it was also Westbrook’s approach to start sowing seeds.

But no gesticulate goes as distant as what Westbrook did Friday by finally signing a Thunder’s five-year, $205 million extension. He has strictly planted his dwindle in Oklahoma City for a primary of his career, and with it, done a commercial to both George and, now, Carmelo Anthony. I’m here.

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  • It all started final summer with a jump of faith for Westbrook, signing an prolongation in a arise of Kevin Durant bolting for a Bay Area. He re-upped in OKC with a walls on glow around him, and gave a classification a trail forward. A month after a lowest indicate in authorization history, Westbrook responded by providing a highest. When a book on this epoch of Thunder basketball is finally closed, Westbrook’s initial prolongation will remembered as a stabilizing flashpoint, yet this prolongation outlines a landmark impulse that cumulative Oklahoma City’s place in veteran basketball.

    That preference essentially manifested with hellfire and brimstone as Westbrook brought his rage on a joining with a ancestral 2016-17 deteriorate where he averaged a triple-double and won MVP. It was a deteriorate of validation and acclamation for Westbrook, going from a polarizing unhappy indicate guard, to one of a many dignified and reputable players in a joining — a people’s champ. Westbrook relished his deteriorate in a spotlight and a concept leisure to do what he wanted yet any co-star to accommodate alongside. It was fun. It was exhilarating.

    It was also exhausting, and in a end, ineffective. The Thunder fizzled out in 5 games to a Rockets in a opening round, essentially since a group totally derailed when Westbrook went to a bench. As Westbrook met with Presti during a finish of a season, a summary was straightforward: small help, please. Westbrook enjoyed heading a group solo, yet he didn’t wish it to spin a norm. The fuel that drives Westbrook is winning, and maybe a many rival actor in a NBA wasn’t going to make a robe out of first-round exits as his best years slipped away. It’s not that Westbrook presented some final — help or else. But there was an bargain that if a Thunder wanted Westbrook’s prime, they best not exhaust it.

    Presti came through, alighting George, and afterwards again, hauling in Carmelo Anthony. Clay Bennett is doing his partial as good with potentially a $30 million oppulance taxation check subsequent summer. If Westbrook had any remaining hesitation, a Thunder proactively answered a bell.

    Despite a apparent complexities, Westbrook is unusually transparent. You won’t find a bigoted quote from him. As one chairman tighten to him pronounced final summer, “He doesn’t work in a shadows.” You’ll know what he’s thinking. It’s usually a matter of when he decides to tell you.

    All summer a feeling was that Westbrook would sign. He was a bustling male — apropos a father, roving to Paris and China, releasing a book. Thursday night, a understanding was effectively concluded to with a devise to announce it on Sunday before a open group struggle during a internal high school. But Westbrook showed adult during a use trickery on Friday and pronounced currently was a day. Typical Russ.

    The pronounce of faithfulness and adore for OKC and a Thunder wasn’t bluster. It was Westbrook effectively revelation everyone, even if they weren’t listening — I’m not going anywhere.

    Loyalty is a two-way street, and a difficult one in veteran sports. But as most as Westbrook has had a Thunder’s back, they’ve had his. They’ve stood firm in fortifying him opposite all critics, and upheld him during each turn. It’s not been a attribute of convenience, yet mutual respect.

    The Thunder have walked corresponding with Westbrook by his evolution, from a presumably overrated No. 4 altogether pick, to a turnover disposed “point guard,” to an romantic firestorm that was prepared to explode during any moment. Westbrook has left by a lot of forms, yet it’s wise in a way, as a Thunder (and Westbrook) start their 10th deteriorate in Oklahoma City, he’s spin entirely satisfied as a personality of a organization. Westbrook’s a compare for Oklahoma, and has spin a loyal influence. He understands and embraces how he and a group lift a city. He doesn’t usually have corporate relations in a state. He’s no passerby. He impacts lives.

    Westbrook has redefined this epoch of superteaming, doing it a usually approach he knows — on his terms. He didn’t demeanour to shaft somewhere else to join forces. When Durant left, many around a joining approaching him to do a same. But Westbrook doesn’t play by required rules. He devoted in his intelligent and tactical executive, acted unaffected in proof himself all over again and waited for it to get better.

    What Westbrook is counting on, though, is that it’s not usually another one deteriorate outlier. George’s giveaway group will now open behind into a tip of a conversation, and while he’s observant good things about OKC and a organization, a lift of Los Angeles isn’t going away. The Thunder have positioned themselves well, yet a biggest offshoot they can penetrate into George is Westbrook’s cemented future. Like final summer, step one was gripping a star with a megawatt energy of Westbrook. Step dual was alighting a co-star, that afterwards translated into a Big Three. If we keep him, they will come.

    Now, Westbrook has a whole deteriorate to partisan George (and Anthony). But it won’t be about off-court friendlies. It will be about what happens on a floor, and how it all comes together. And it’s adult to Westbrook to make it work. Some will perspective this deteriorate as a referendum on him. Is his gravitational lift too most to co-exist with other stars? Westbrook has a second chance, an event to learn and grow from any viewed past transgressions.

    Besides, as Anthony pronounced on media day, Westbrook’s not unequivocally a ‘convincing” kind of guy, preferring actions to pronounce louder than words. And zero is articulate louder than his new contract.

    Westbrook has drawn his line in a sand. This is his franchise. His city, his state. You can possibly join him, or conflict opposite him. Your choice, since he’s done his.

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