Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame late Thursday night with a ringing endorsement from NBA’s unanimous “GOAT,” Michael Jordan. In his comments, MJ praised the Thunder’s MVP candidate for his loyalty to the organization that drafted him.
“Another thing you guys should be proud of is the sense of loyalty this kid has shown,” said Jordan, who owns a majority stake in the Hornets. “He could’ve easily come to Charlotte. But he decided to stay here in Oklahoma.”
“I’m not here to try and bash anybody that’s not here. Everybody has a choice. I’m not saying everybody doesn’t have a choice. But when I saw he chose to stay in Oklahoma I was so proud, and as Clay [Bennett] knows and Russ know, I texted him to show a sense of respect.”
Shortly after his former teammate, Kevin Durant, ditched Oklahoma City to play with the 73-9 Golden State Warriors in July, Westbrook signed an extension to lock him in with the Thunder until at least the 2017-18 season.
“There’s nowhere else I would rather be than Oklahoma City,” Westbrook said during his Aug. 4 press conference. “Definitely when I had the opportunity to be able to be loyal to you guys, that’s the No. 1 option. Loyalty is something that I stand by.”
Jordan continued his praise, highlighting Westbrook’s community activity that earned him the NBA’s Community Assist award in 2015.
Westbrook is having a historic season, averaging 31.8 points, 9.8 assists, and 9.5 rebounds through the Thunder’s first 12 games. If he keeps it up, he could join Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history to average 30 points and 10 assists in a season and the only ones to average a triple-double.
“I’m truly a fan of his,” Jordan said of Westbrook, the face of Jordan Brand. “If you can ever say, being that we’re so many years apart, that I can now watch him play, I see a lot of resemblance in his passion for the game of basketball in the way I play the game of basketball.”
Westbrook returned the praise, calling M.J.’s appearance and kind words “an amazing honor.”
After fielding questions from reporters, Westbrook shifted the conversation to building unity amid the level of social unrest in the country.
“After witnessing the divisions and the challenges of our nation we have been facing for the past several months, I’ve realized this honor’s not about me nor about the people in this room,” he said. “Oklahoma is an unbelievable community. I’m so appreciative of the fact that the people of Oklahoma have been so supportive of welcoming my family and I. However, I feel there’s always room to grow. I can be better, you can be better, and we can be better together.”