Russell Westbrook is an interesting dude. We didn’t really need an 8,000-word New York Times Magazine cover story to tell us that. Westbrook is, after all, the guy who wears crazy outfits like this without batting an eye and sings along to Taylor Swift songs like no one’s watching. And don’t even get us started on how crazy competitive he can be when it comes time to take the basketball court. He’s truly one-of-a-kind.
But just in case you somehow haven’t realized Westbrook is a special breed, NYT writer Sam Anderson caught up with him on several occasions throughout the first half of the 2016-17 NBA season and observed him both up close and from afar to try and paint a clearer picture of who he is. We don’t know if Anderson was 100 percent successful in doing it—Westbrook seemed to crack the front door and allow Anderson to peek through it rather than inviting him to step all the way into his world—but while profiling the Thunder superstar, Anderson did turn up a handful of weird things about Westbrook that illustrate the type of person he is.
Some of these things were already out there in the world but are worth repeating, while others are new facts about one of the most dynamic and exciting players in the NBA. We would encourage you to go and read Anderson’s entire story here to see what else he revealed about Westbrook. But for now, these are the six weird things we learned about Westbrook in his NYT Magazine feature…
1. Westbrook writes with his left hand and tried his best to keep it a secret.
It’s not a secret that Westbrook is ambidextrous. He’s listed on the Wikipedia page for ambidexterity alongside LeBron James, Gary Payton, and others. But back in 2012, Anderson was working on a different NYT story about Westbrook when a Thunder PR person told him about how Westbrook shoots with his right hand and is listed as a righty in the media guide but writes with his left hand. Westbrook’s response? "Don’t put that in your article," he said.
2. Westbrook starts the Thunder’s layup at the same exact time before every single game.
Before every Thunder game, Westbrook is in charge of telling his teammates to form two lines for layups. He does it at 6:17, on the dot, every single time. Not 6:16, not 6:18, 6:17. And while there’s probably some weird reason for it, Westbrook wouldn’t tell Anderson why he does it. "No particular reason," he said. "I just do it. Nothing special."
3. Westbrook pays his own bills.
This is something that appeared in Lee Jenkins’ excellent Sports Illustrated feature on Westbrook earlier this season, but it’s worth repeating since it pops up in Anderson’s story as well. Westbrook is making more than $26 million this season, but he still brings his bills to the Thunder facility so that he can pay them on his own during his downtime. He’s even known for crunching numbers to make sure he isn’t paying too much for certain things.
4. Westbrook routinely wakes up his teammates in the middle of the night to study film.
As Anderson explains throughout his story, Westbrook is always on the go. Working out in the gym, lifting in the weight room, repping the Thunder at charity events—go, go, go. So you might think that he would be the kind of guy to take it easy on team flights, which offer a rare opportunity for NBA players to disconnect and get some shuteye. But that’s not the case. Westbrook’s teammate Steven Adams claims Westbrook will often wake him up to watch game film on the Thunder team plane. "Watching video, especially after a game, at like 2 in the morning—it’s rather hard to stay up," Adams said. "He maintains the same focus. It’s amazing."
5. Westbrook doesn’t allow reporters to speak with any of his family members.
Westbrook speaks about both of his parents openly and glowingly, but he doesn’t like to give reporters access to them. If anyone could get to them, it would be the New York Times. But when Anderson proposed the idea of him doing an interview with Westbrook’s dad, Westbrook said no and suggested possibly talking to his mother instead. But Westbrook also added this: "My mom never talks. She never talks. She doesn’t like to talk." Not surprisingly, Anderson didn’t end up speaking with her.
6. Westbrook was worried he might not get selected at all in the 2008 NBA Draft.
Westbrook was the fourth pick in the '08 Draft. But he readily admits that he didn’t expect to get chosen that high, and in fact, he didn’t necessarily expect to get chosen at all. "I was like: Damn, am I gonna be the only one left in the greenroom?" he said. "This is about to be embarrassing."
As you can see, things ended up working out just fine for him. Go read the rest of the NYT Magazine piece for more.