It was every young NBA superstars dream to be like Mike. And now, Oklahoma City stud Russell Westbrook is closer than anyone to being the kind of guy Michael Jordan would embrace personally.
Sure, MJ has sang the praises of royal talents such as LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Their scoring prowess and multiple MVPs have put them in the conversation as best of this ERA, but Mike says Westbrook is the dude that he would compare himself to, as far as basketball principles and competitiveness goes.
MJ inducted Westbrook into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame on Thursday night and in an unusual display of open sweat, he showered the Thunder guard, who is also a gem in the Jordan Brand athletic stable, with adulation.
“I am truly a fan of his,” said Jordan, the six-time NBA champion and five-time MVP. “When I watch him play, I see a lot of resemblance of his passion for the game of basketball, with the way I played the game of basketball.”
Westbrook, who joins such sports icons as Mickey Mantle, Jim Thorpe and his ex-teammate KD as a HOF inductee, is a two-time NBA All-Star MVP and the 2014-15 scoring champion. He is an all-around player like Jordan was, posting 18 triple-doubles last season.
Entering the weekend, he was averaging 31.9 points per game and he has five triple-doubles this year after recording one in a 115-111 OT loss to the Indiana Pacers on Sunday night.
Westbrooks 42 career triple-doubles leave him one shy of tying King James for seventh place on the all-time list. James is tied for sixth with Fat Lever with 43. Westbrook could pass Larry Bird (59) for fifth at some point this season.
According to ESPN’s Stats and Info, Westbrook has the most 30-point, 15-assist, 10-rebound games (3) in a season in the last 30 years.
Dope ball skills aside, during the ceremony, MJ let it be known why he is digging Westbrook — so much that the two have developed a close personal friendship.
“I’m not here to try to bash anyone that’s not here,” Jordan said, drawing laughter from the crowd at the Cox Convention Center. “Everybody has a choice. I’m not saying you don’t have a choice. Everybody has a choice, and when I saw that he chose to stay here in Oklahoma, I was so proud.”
Thunder owner Clay Bennett’s put a call into The GOAT to attend the induction and Jordan came through like Game Seven at the buzzer.
“M.J.’s one of those guys — obviously, I’m a part of his brand, and he’s a guy that respects you and the things that you do,” Westbrook said. “He took time out of his day to come all the way to Oklahoma City to do this for me is an amazing honor. I’m happy to have him here.”
In 2015, Westbrook won the NBA’s Community Assist Award for his philanthropic efforts. His popularity in Oklahoma has as much to do with his social and community effort as his play on the team.
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Westbrook has opened several reading rooms, providing books for kids in low-income areas. He’s served a trailer load of kids at his WhyNot Foundation’s annual Thanksgiving Dinner at the Boys and Girls Club. Jordan specifically acknowledges Westbrook’s off-the-court accomplishments as a reason he was proud to be the presenter.
The induction and MJs praise is more accolades for Westbrook, who has certainly established his worth as one of the high-powered members and most familiar faces of the NBAs marketing giant.