Oklahoma State basketball: Why Marcus Smart wears No. 33

OSU BASKETBALL — The No. 3 is tattooed on the back of both of Marcus Smart's arms. It's on the back of his jersey, doubled as 33. Why so many 3s? It's a tribute to Smart's half-brother Todd Westbrook, who died following a long battle with cancer in 2004.
by John Helsley Published: March 13, 2013
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photo - The Cowboys’ Marcus Smart has the No. 3 tattooed on the back of his arms. He wore that number in high school before switching to No. 33 at OSU, where the No. 3 has been retired.  Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
The Cowboys’ Marcus Smart has the No. 3 tattooed on the back of his arms. He wore that number in high school before switching to No. 33 at OSU, where the No. 3 has been retired. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

Marcus Smart lives forever linked to the number 3.

It's tattooed on the back of both his arms. It's on his jersey, doubled as 33.

It's the family number, worn by each of his three elder brothers in high school and now carried on in tribute to the oldest of the boys, half-brother Todd Westbrook, the first to wear 3, who died following a long battle with cancer in 2004.

“Every time I put that No. 3 on,” Smart said, “it meant something special.”

Still does mean something special, even as 33, the number Smart adopted when he arrived at Oklahoma State and learned that No. 3 had been retired to honor former player Daniel Lawson, one of OSU's 10 killed in the plane crash in Colorado.

“I doubled the 3s,” Smart said. “That's how I look at it, more 3s. And my brother died when he was 33.

“I look at it as No. 3 was done in high school, this is a new stage in my life.

“And a new number.”

Always, however, Smart said he'll be tied to Westbrook and an earlier stage that helped form who he is today, with his role as the Cowboys' game-changer and Big 12 Player of the Year but a piece of what defines him.

The big brothers, Todd and Jeff Westbrook, were born to a different father significantly ahead of the younger boys, Marcus and Michael Smart. Still, they were all close, with Todd serving as a mentor, especially to Marcus.

Todd could play, too, with near legendary status as a shooter at Lancaster High, south of Dallas. But doctors found a tumor behind his eye at the age of 15. The cancer eventually spread to other areas of his body, taking a toll over the course of 18 years.

“That's a slow type of death,” Marcus said. “It was killing him slowly. He had to go through so much pain. And he had to sit through this while his body was getting destroyed. And to see him fight, it's so tough to see that happen to someone you're so close to.

“I was the youngest, he was the oldest, so we had a connection. It was weird, him being the oldest, I stuck with him a lot, whenever he felt like he could get around.”

Todd didn't always feel like it, but sometimes he pressed himself to get moving, for Marcus' sake.

“I remember one day, it was hot, like 102,” Marcus said, “and me and my cousin were like, ‘There's nothing to do, we're so bored.' And up and out of nowhere, Todd grabbed a towel and said, ‘Get some swim trunks, let's go swimming.' He didn't feel that swell. He got up, struggled out of bed and took us to the city pool.

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by John Helsley
OSU Reporter Sr.
John Helsley grew up in Del City, reading all the newspapers and sports magazines he could get his hands on. And Saturday afternoons, when the Major League Game of the Week was on, he'd keep a scorecard for the game. So the sports appeal was was...
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