Russell Westbrook is 23 years old.
He comes from a working-class family, and he was never given a thing in his life.
And at some point in the past 48 hours, Westbrook sat down to sign his name to an eight-figure extension with the Oklahoma City Thunder. It will pay him in the neighborhood of $80 million over five years, quite possibly more money than Westbrook or anyone in his family could ever dream of.
Think about how you would react to reading all those zeros that would soon belong to you. I know what I’d be screaming on the way to the bank. But Westbrook was a bit different. He didn’t do back flips or cartwheels. He didn’t run around the room like he had just hit the jackpot. When he was handed the stack of papers that signaled his biggest success and the start of lifelong financial security, Westbrook kept his composure and, somehow, proceeded with sanity.
“At the time, I was just reading what I was signing,” Westbrook said.
When Westbrook shared that detail with me during a telephone interview Thursday evening, I found it to be extremely impressive. After all, Westbrook is a ballplayer not a businessman. But still, he had the presence of mind, despite all those dollars, to actually read what he was getting into. That might sound like an obvious thing to do. But imagine someone offering you $80 million. How fast would you say the words “Where do I sign?” and not think twice? Besides, Westbrook has an agent, and many pro players unfortunately just trust what they’re being told by the men they’ve hired to handle their business affairs.
Now, that’s not to say Westbrook wasn’t elated. During our near 10-minute chat, I could feel him smiling through the phone as he cheerfully answered however many questions were asked. He soon admitted he was indeed overjoyed as he continued through the pile of papers, penning his John Hancock.
“I was kind of speechless, just kind of sitting there thinking about all the stuff I did to get to this point,” Westbrook said. “It kind of reminded me of draft night all over again and making another jump; of all the work I’ve put in and all the people that have helped me get here, I was just thanking God.”
Westbrook said he was happy for the Thunder organization, for his family, his teammates and, of course, himself.
He then expressed his gratitude. Over and over and over again. Westbrook wanted the fans to know how much he has appreciated the support he’s received. He said he loves Oklahoma. Called it “one of the best places.” He said the fans are great. Called the organization “the best in the league.”
“I just want to tell the people that I’m thankful and that I appreciate the organization for believing in me,” Westbrook said. “And that I’m going to go out and give it 110 percent every night for the city and for the organization and for my family and the fans. I’m very happy for the position that I’m in.”