Russell Westbrook is ruthless.
During a game against Boston at TD Garden on Tuesday night, Celtics center Aron Baynes was on the ground, tying his shoe in the paint. Noticing an opportunity, Westbrook blew past defender Jayson Tatum and sprinted toward the basket.
At that point, Baynes abandoned his laces and scrambled to stand up and meet Westbrook at the rim.
Lucky for Baynes, he avoided getting turned into a poster and was able to contest Westbrook's shot as he lost control of the ball. Regardless, the moment was an illustration of Westbrook's ongoing determination to find any kind of advantage for the Thunder as playoffs approach. The Celtics end up wining the game 100-99.
The play also called to mind a story of Westbrook's obsession with tightly tied shoes while doing charity work with school children last year. A New York Times article published in early 2017 used the anectode to illustrate Westbrook's unique focus:
From that point on in his Book Bus session, Westbrook’s focus was locked onto the children’s shoelaces, a strangely high percentage of which seemed to be loose. “Your shoe is loose,” Westbrook would say as a child walked onto the bus. “Tie your shoe up.” He was cheerful but firm; he seemed genuinely concerned. Dozens of kids passed through the bus, and Westbrook scrutinized each of their shoes, and not a single loose lace was allowed to pass without comment. Over and over, he told the kids to tie their shoes. Even when the laces were not all the way untied, just trending in that direction, Westbrook pointed it out: “Tie your shoes up.” It was as if he had identified a public safety epidemic that he was single-handedly going to fix, one child at a time.
One boy stepped onto the bus with both of his shoes intentionally untied, laces dragging like catfish whiskers.
“You like to wear your shoes like that, huh?” Westbrook said. “That’s what I used to do, so I get it. But you gotta tuck ’em in.” And before the boy could go back and get his book, Westbrook actually knelt down on the floor of the bus and tucked the boy’s shoelaces into the sides of his shoes.
Take that as a lesson for today: Keep your shoes tied or you might trip—or get dunked on by an All-Star point guard.