Ray Westbrook was sweating.
And it had nothing to do with a certain tweet calling for a certain coach’s head.
He reclined on a red padded weight bench with a 70-pound dumbbell in each hand. As rap music thumped out of the gym’s sound system, he lifted the weights above his head, opened his arms, then raised the weights above his head again.
One. Two. Three. ...
After the last one, Ray tossed the weights onto the padded floor with a dull thud.
“Woo!” he exclaimed, standing up from the bench and smiling.
He’s always smiling. Saying hello. Shaking hands. Waving.
Would you guess he is Russell Westbrook’s brother?
For several years, Ray has been living in Edmond, going to college, trying to play football and riding shotgun with his brother. He wasn’t hiding, but he was content to do his thing. Then, he took a turn into a very public spotlight a week ago when he tweeted during the Game 3 loss to the Grizzlies that the Thunder needed a new coach.
Pretty sure that made him a hero to a segment of Thunder Nation.
But for a franchise that abhors anything that even hints at public dissension, this was DEFCON stuff for the Thunder. The delete button was hit. An apology was made. A chance encounter on the streets of Memphis with Oklahoman writers, however, made it clear that Ray still believes Scott Brooks should go.
It was no surprise that he stopped and chatted and shared his two cents. Ray is as friendly as they come.
Hang out in the arena after Thunder games, and you will see players’ families and friends. Ray might be the last guy who you would pick out to be Russell’s brother. They don’t look alike. They don’t act alike.
You mean, this is Westbrook’s brother?
On the day that this first-round playoff series between Oklahoma City and Memphis returns to the scene of his 140-character crime, it seems appropriate to pull back the curtain on this personality.
Meet Ray Westbrook.
Shannon and Russell Westbrook always encouraged their boys, Russell and Raynard, to stick together. They lived in Los Angeles neighborhoods where drugs, fights and gunshots were part of the fabric of their lives, so knowing who to trust was difficult.
“You’ll always have your brother,” Shannon often told them.
The brothers became inseparable. They looked to each other for advice, inspiration, even tough love.
Ray’s freshman year at Leuzinger High School was rough. He wanted to fit in and spent his time trying to be popular, and his academics suffered. His classes were a struggle. His grades were a mess.
Then a senior at Leuzinger on his way to play basketball at UCLA, Russell took his little brother into his bedroom one day and had a heart-to-heart about how Ray was acting.
“That’s not what you want to do,” Russell lectured. “If you want to get to the next level like I’m going, you’ve got to do this.”
Ray took notice, getting his grades right and getting his eligibility back. Even though he was only 5-foot-8, he worked his way onto the football team. He played running back, linebacker, even some special teams.
He looked a little like a bowling ball crashing into guys, but even at 220 pounds, he was a bowling ball with pretty darn quick feet. Search for “Raynard Westbrook #4” on YouTube, and you can see for yourself.
Before Ray’s senior season, Russell got drafted by the Thunder and wanted little brother to move to Oklahoma. The brothers were always together, so neither like the idea of being 1,400 miles apart. They looked into Ray finishing high school at Heritage Hall, but because of transfer rules, he wasn’t going to be able to play football, so he decided to stay in California.
It was a difficult decision.
“We never really spent that much time apart,” Ray said. “From us being together every day to us not really seeing each other was hard.”
Even when Russell had been in college, he didn’t leave town. He was only half an hour away at UCLA.
So, Ray flew to Oklahoma every chance he got. A long weekend. A school break. Even if it was only for a couple days, Ray would travel half way across the country to see Russell.
Ray finished his senior year, then went to El Camino College, a junior college in nearby Torrance, to play football. During his freshman season, a few colleges started recruiting him. Among them was Central Oklahoma, of all places.