Clark Kent walked into the interview room Monday night in the wee hours after the Thunder routed the Lakers in Game 1 of the Western Conference playoffs.
But we're not those dolts from Metropolis, who never could spot the resemblance between Superman and Clark. We knew it was Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook wore his mask, those giant red nerdy eyeglass frames that are lens free because, Westbrook simply said, “I see better without 'em.”
Westbrook calls those glasses — and his $115 fishing shirt from LaCoste — a fashion statement, and who can argue, after everyone from the TNT crew to his own teammates chimed in. A sampling:
Charles Barkley: “Well, at least we know they got a TJ Maxx in Oklahoma City.”
Kobe Bryant: “He wears weird s----. It's a generational thing. I'm glad I didn't grow up in his generation.”
Thabo Sefolosha: “Hopefully we're not going to see it again this year. I don't know where he got it from, but it was, uh, fun.”
Ernie Johnson: “Is this Sally Jessy Raphael?”
Lazar Hayward: “Sometimes I think he'll wear something just to see what guys will say about it.”
Shaquille O'Neal: “It's Toys R Us. I've got one word for you — Garanimals.”
Scotty Brooks: “Obviously, he didn't get dressed with the lights on.”
Funny stuff, and even Westbrook chuckled at some of the critiques. But he refused to step down. “I've been knowing how to dress for awhile,” he said.
I don't know if Westbrook's look is fashion statement or faux pas. But I do know this. It's a disguise. Camouflage. A mask designed to make us think Superman really is mild-mannered Clark Kent. Or maybe to offer a clue that Westbrook, a dragonslayer of a ballplayer, really does have an alter ego. A clue that there's a little bit of Urkel in him.
That's what Thunder insiders keep telling us. That Westbrook is a barrel of laughs in the locker room and meeting room and on the team bus.
We don't see that, of course. Westbrook is Sergeant Stoic in interviews. All the charm of a sticker patch. And a commando on the court, playing with an intensity that trumps even Kendrick Perkins' Gran Torino persona. Westbrook even has an edginess to his celebrations.
That's not the real Westbrook, swear the Boomers.
“I don't see him the way you see him,” Brooks said. “He's always talking, socializing, having fun with the guys. That's the Russell I know. Sometimes I tell him to tone it down.
“When we do appearances, around kids? The best. He's engaging, he's fun, he's a goofball. He likes to have fun.”
Yeah, and Superman was a laugh a minute himself. But Westbrook's witnesses are many.
“When he's dealing with the media and when he's on the basketball court,” said Hayward, his teammate since December, “I think he wants to have this perception of being this tough, hard-nosed type of guy. He just doesn't get away from that.
“(But) he does a good job of making us realize who he really is. He's fun-going, and he loves fashion, too. It's really just his personality.”
Sounds like a great guy. So why is Westbrook so guarded? Why won't he let us see the Urkel side? Why won't Westbrook crack the door a little and let a whole state of adoring fans see beyond those silly glasses?
Maybe it's because Westbrook is that rarest of NBA players. He reached superstardom with no revelry. No trumpets or parades. No one wrote love sonnets to Westbrook, except a precious few of us here in OKC.
He was never better than the third- or fourth-best player at UCLA. Someone like Kevin Love or Darren Collison or Arron Afflalo always had more pub.
When Westbrook was drafted fourth overall, the refrain was “too high.”
When Brooks made him the Thunder quarterback, the response was, “he's no point guard.”
When Westbrook became an all-star, all he heard was, “he shoots too much.”
How in the world little ol' Oklahoma City produced the NBA's most critiqued player this side of LeBron James is a sociological question for the ages, but it's true.
Listen to that crap enough, especially at the ages of 20, 21, 22, and who wouldn't build a shell? Who wouldn't say, “you want Superman, you'll get Superman.”?
But maybe those lenseless frames are a sign that the ice is slowing melting. Maybe Superman is coming out of his Fortress of Solitude.
Maybe the contract helped. The Thunder put its money where its mouth is, in January giving Westbrook a five-year, $78-million extension. The Thunder is careful with its money and who it lets in the locker room. Sam Presti obviously believes in Westbrook on and off the court.
And when Westbrook signed, when he told the world he would spend the next five years playing hoops in Oklahoma City, jubilation reigned.
Down-to-Earth Kevin Durant committing to OKC is one thing. But when a dragonslayer from L.A., who would have been courted mightily by the stately Lakers, pledged his talent to the Thunder, the relationship between city and hero blossomed.
Remember that night in December when for the second straight game Westbrook was missing everything, and late in the game, when he stepped to the foul line, the fans in unison rose and chanted, “RUSS-ELL, RUSS-ELL”?
Maybe Westbrook slowly is learning that the world is not against him. That despite the eggheads who don't see him for the transcendent player that he is, he has this city and even this league by the tail.
Hey, Clark, take off the frames and let us in.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.