“The thing about me you have to know is, I don’t care what other people are doing. I. Don’t. Care,” Russell Westbrook tells GQ’s Daniel Riley of being pitted against Steph Curry and LeBron James for last year’s league MVP. “I’m so busy worried about how I can improve, I just don’t have time to worry about what any other person is doing.”
Despite Kevin Durant’s departure from Oklahoma City Thunder last spring, Westbrook doesn’t seem to have any hard feelings. “The whole thing in the NBA is that people sometimes have an opportunity to go where they want,” he says. “And Kevin chose a place where he wanted to go.” Despite his seeming indifference to Durant’s leave, Westbrook says that they haven’t talked much since. But did Westbrook ever considering leaving the Thunder, himself? “It was very simple,” he says. “I wasn’t trying to figure out if I was leaving or not. I was happy where–––I am happy where––I’m at.”
Explaining his aggressive, yet effective, playing style––his need to drive into traffic on every play––Westbrook is refreshingly humble: “I don’t know how to be cool. You know what I mean? That’s not in my nature. I only know how to play one way. I can’t, like, decide to turn the switch on and off. I’m not good enough to do that.” Despite other people jumping to conclusions about his off-court personality based on his aggressive plays, Westbrook seems pretty indifferent. “I just don’t care,” he says. “A lot of people don’t really know me. All they know is what they see on TV. So I don’t mind it. Because I play basketball different than how I am off the court. When I’m on the court, everybody thinks I’m angry and I’m mad. I’m fine with that. But that’s why I think some people are confused until they see me off the court. They’ll run into me and be like: ‘Oh, I thought you were gonna be mad.’ But why would I be mad?” Westbrook doesn’t let this generalization wear on him, though. “For me, I feel like, if they’re talking about you, then you’re doing something right. When they stop talking about you, that’s when you should worry.”
Reflecting on the beginning of his basketball career, Westbrook admits: “I was never the best player. Not ever in my life. Though even when I was younger, I felt that on any given day I could be. And that mentality’s what’s helped me get over the hump each and every day to where I was meant to go.” The best basketball player he knew growing up, and someone he learned a lot from, was his best friend and teammate Khelcey Barrs. During their sophomore year of high school, Barrs, collapsed and died during a game of pickup, on account of an undiagnosed enlarged heart. “Obviously, it’s something that’s always going to be a part of my life,” says Westbrook. “What I do and where I do it. Always playing for him and his spirit.” So when a teammate’s pivotal injury thrust Westbrook into the starting lineup during his sophomore year at UCLA, he didn’t let the moment pass him by. “That was a turning point for me,” he says. “I had the opportunity to showcase my talent––since we were a very well-watched team that year––to help draw the attention of the NBA.”
To read the full story, go to: http://www.gq.com/story/russell-westbrook-thunder-profile
The November issue of GQ will be available on newsstands nationally October 25th.
Photo credit: Peggy Sirota exclusively for GQ