For Nipsey: Westbrook Dedicates 20-20-20 To Crenshaw’s King

Westbrook created magic with the pill and produced a tribute for Nipsey.

The murder of Los Angeles community pillar, rap artist and businessman Nipsey Hussle has hit the sports and music world like a ton of bricks. People have chosen to process the tragedy in various ways.

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook is from the L.A. area and had a close, personal relationship with Nipsey. Prior to Tuesday night’s game against the L.A. Lakers, Russell Westbrook sat alone on the Thunder bench with a basketball between his legs, zoned in to Nipsey’s “Grindin’ All My Life”.

This wasn’t your typical pregame motivation, because whatever energy Westbrook channeled from his slain friend, prepared him to have one of the best games of his life. 

Russ proceeded to post the second 20-20-20 game in NBA history. Wilt Chamberlain had the first. The walking triple-double finished with  20 points, 20 rebounds and 21 assists in a 119-103 win.

“That’s for Nipsey!” Westbrook yelled as he slapped his chest. 


This was a clear win for Westbrook on a few levels. Nipsey Hussle grew up as a member of the Rollin 60s Crips and with some quick math, proves that Russ’ 20-20-20 was a statement that holds weight in Crenshaw and in the record books.

His performance had nothing to do with NBA standings, TV ratings, or OKC’s drop to the 8th playoff seed. It’s not like the Lakers were going to go out there and let Russ torch them in an all-time great individual performance.

An angel was at work and Russ’ body was merely the shell, the vehicle moving without consciousness and driven by a higher power. A higher purpose.

This moment, one of the blackest and boldest sports feats in history, had the full cooperation of everyone involved.

OKC head coach Billy Donovan wanted to sub for Russ with 1:04 left in the game and the Thunder leading by 16 points, but Russ shook him off like a pitcher wanting to throw the fastball when the catcher signals for a curve. He stayed in the game and teammate Steve Adams even intentionally missed a free throw so that Russ could complete his dedication game in historical fashion.

“It’s just epic,” said Thunder forward Paul George, also a Southern California native. “Man, the heart of that guy over there, honestly, is what’s so amazing about it.

“It’s the way he’s made up. There’s not many made like Russ. It takes somebody special to go out and have a performance like that, especially with how heavy his heart was for the loss of Nipsey.”

After the game, Westbrook rocked Nipsey’s iconic “Crenshaw” blue shirt if the message wasn’t any clearer to who he was representing.

“Grateful to play the game, but that wasn’t for me, man. That was for my bro, man. That was for Nipsey,” Westbrook said on the TNT broadcast on the court after the game. “Rest in peace to Nipsey, man. I’m just thankful to go out there and compete at a high level, man. Thankful to have these teammates. Thankful and humbled to go out there and play the game I love.”

Nipsey’s death impacted a lot of people. He was a shining light in an otherwise dark environment. He understood the power of music as well as the streets and planned to use it to galvanize people of color and set the younger generation on a new path. He was the epitome of growth. That’s why the NBA’s entire board of L.A. big dawgs ( (DeMar DeRozan, Kawhi Leonard, Trevor Ariza, and James Harden) honored Nipsey in some way.  

His songs offered hope and his words inspired new ideas and directions beyond gang culture. He promoted a return to the original purpose of street organizations, which was too empower and protect the community and create financial wealth, mental health and community prosperity.

When details of Nipsey’s murder outside of his flagship store began to leak people wept. Some lashed out on social media and created bogus conspiracies to deal with the grief until a suspect was captured. Others made dedication songs and lit candles at his vigil.

Westbrook created magic with the pill and produced both a stat-line and tribute befitting for a fallen L.A. King.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.