Was there ever any doubt? Thunder fans may have been on pins and needles, but if Russell Westbrook has proven anything over the course of his nine-year NBA career, it’s that when the chips are down, he’s the guy you want in your corner.
Once again, at a crossroads that signified a huge moment in his career and the Thunder’s trajectory, Russell Westbrook locked in with the organization and signed a long-term contract to stay in OKC. On Monday’s Media Day he hinted at it.
“This is a place I want to be,” Westbrook said. “I love being here.”
“I love the people here,” Westbrook added. “I like where I’m at. I like where our team is.”
Today, he made it official.
The city and the state has been buzzing all summer long because of the additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, but this will be the crescendo. The league’s reigning MVP decided that this is his home, and once again defined leadership and commitment to younger generations who look up to him. The Thunder will be a contender once again this year, and with Westbrook’s relentless spirit, always a threat to make a postseason charge.
His story began by being overlooked, and as a result he has carried a chip on his shoulder and lived by a Why Not? attitude. That propelled him to becoming a six-time All-Star, and the 2016-17 NBA MVP when he put up a 30-point, triple-double average while racking up a record-setting 42 triple-doubles during the season. The rise has been remarkable, and Oklahoma City has gotten to witness every moment of it.
“I wish I could tell you that any of us had any idea that he would become the player that he has developed into,” Thunder General Manager and Executive Vice President Sam Presti said. “His commitment and work ethic and I think his character, those things combine to make a unique personality and person that allows him to be different.”
It’s an honor and a privilege for the Thunder to retain a player of Westbrook’s caliber, but Presti made sure to highlight the commitment that the leadership of the Thunder made to Westbrook, the team and the city.
“I want to make sure that we recognize our ownership, obviously our ownership group led by Clay Bennett, and there’s several other people involved that are tremendous individuals and citizens of Oklahoma City, as well,” Presti said. “A summer like this or opportunities like this really are only ideas and opportunities unless we’re given the opportunity and the support to execute on those, and I just can’t say enough about the group as a whole and what a pleasure it is to work with them.”
Now, it’s time to get to work on the floor, as Head Coach Billy Donovan guides the Thunder through U.S. Cellular Training Camp to prepare the group for opening night on October 19th. With Westbrook in for the long term and a talented, veteran roster around him, this Thunder squad is primed to make a charge into April and beyond.
“I’m looking forward to making a great run,” Westbrook said.
Watch: The Loyal Leader