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

“(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 btramel@opubco.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.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
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...
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