By trading for Russell Westbrook, the Washington Wizards not only acquired one of the most accomplished players in the NBA, they brought in one of the more mercurial athletes in sports. Westbrook is a lightning rod of sorts with a larger-than-life persona and a style of basketball that clashes with the analytics crowd.
Westbrook has often been closed off to the media, which hasn't helped, as it has allowed others to fill in the gaps and speak for him. At his introductory press conference with the Wizards, he was asked for he believes he is misunderstood.
He had clearly thought a good deal about it.
"Where do you want me to start? Listen, I think the underlining thing about that is 90 percent or 100 percent of it is not even true. A lot of times, the things that are made up are by people that don’t actually know me to be able to say anything about me or what I’m about, or what I believe in," Westbrook said, perhaps referring to rumors about him as a teammate.
"So, a lot of it kind of goes in one ear and out the other. But I think the biggest thing for me is just kind of being myself, which is easy. Being myself is genuine and loyal and understanding. Obviously, I’m not the easiest guy to understand or watch play, or whatever people may think. But as a teammate, me as a person and as a father, that’s the most important part to me. I stand strong and continue to uplift my teammates and organizations and inspire people around the world. That’s kind of all I worry about is impacting and inspiring. That’s something I’ve been with since Day 1 and that’s the most important part about me; being able to have this platform and use it to impact and inspire new people around the world because I’ve been blessed to be able to do so. I feel like that’s my blessing, to be able to impact and inspire as many people as possible."
Westbrook may have avoided specifics with some things, but he did explain what he feels is most important in his life and that is family and giving back. During his press conference, Westbrook made mention several times how his first priority is fatherhood.
Now Wizards fans will get a better sense of Westbrook the basketball player and the character. Head coach Scott Brooks already knows him well, having spent time with him in Oklahoma City when the two were with the Thunder.
Brooks said one misconception about Westbrook is that he is difficult to coach.
"He was one of the easiest guys that I've ever coached," he said.
Brooks also said there's another thing people don't know about Westbrook: he's cheap. Back when Brooks was coaching the Thunder and Westbrook was four or five years into the league, they happened to be on the same commercial flight heading back to OKC. Brooks took his seat in first class and was surprised to see Westbrook, then a budding NBA star, fly coach.
"He said 'I'm not going to spend an extra $300 when I'll get there [at the same time],'" Brooks recalled.
Maybe Westbrook's time in Washington will shed more light on who the real Russell Westbrook truly is.