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Russell Westbrook shows his softer side

OKC Thunder: Point guard's outfit after Game 1 showed that he's not Sergeant Stoic all the time. There's a little bit of Urkel in Westbrook, too.
by Berry Tramel Published: May 15, 2012

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.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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