October 29, 2014
Russell Westbrook, the greatest player in NBA history, opens a reading center in Oklahoma City
by Alex Shephard
Ok, maybe that headline is a bit hyperbolic. But to say that Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook is my favorite NBA player, or even that he’s simply my favorite NBA player to watch would also be to understate just how great I think Westbrook is. Watching him bound up and down and across the court is a goddamn delight. Hell, even watching Russ pull up from 20 feet on the fast break gives me a thrill, even though I know it’s completely stupid. The elements that make up Westbrook’s game—his boundless drive, seemingly limitless energy, and DEFINITELY limitless swagger—often lead to contradictory results (they give and they take away) but they’re everything I love about basketball.
This play, in which Russ flies in from the 3 point line to maintain possession for his team, catches an inbound pass from a flailing Serge Ibaka, ignores his teammate Kevin Durant (who is demonstrably better and would win the MVP trophy seven months later), and hits a TOTALLY INSANE 3 to win the game sums him pretty well. There is no Good Russ. There is no Bad Russ. There is only Russ.
Russell Westbrook’s interests aren’t limited to basketball and fashion, however. (Did I mention Russ’s fashion sense? I should have because it’s the best.) According to NewsOK, Westbrook’s also passionate about reading and literacy, which led him to fund a reading center in an Oklahoma City elementary school:
Reading wasn’t always easy for Westbrook, he admits. The hyper-athletic superstar guard understandably found it hard to sit still. But he understands its importance. And that’s why Westbrook—through his Why Not? Foundation—is launching a reading initiative.
It started on Monday afternoon at North Highland Elementary School in North OKC, where Westbrook participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Russell’s Reading Room. It’s a reading center funded by Westbrook’s foundation that stocks 1,200 books for all ages. He is opening two more centers in the next couple months and hopes to expand beyond that.
“It’s very important,” Westbrook said. “As you get older, whether you become successful or not, you kind of forget how it is to be a kid. When you kind of look back, if you were a kid in that situation when you come to school and you see a room like this and you like, ‘Oh, I want to go get a book to read.'”
As part of the initiative, Westbrook is also joining Scholastic’s national Read 100,000 program, encouraging students to log 100,000 minutes of reading throughout the year.
Westbrook has a lot on his plate this season. With last season’s MVP, Durant, out for at least six weeks (and probably longer) with a foot fracture and a depleted (and already questioanble) supporting cast, the Thunder will be more dependent on the wily guard than ever. I think Russ is up for the challenge. Either way, it’s good to see him using his platform to help his community and advance literacy in his community.
That matters more than knowing what a meme is.
In other basketball/book crossover news, Steve Nash is a librarian now.
Alex Shephard is the director of digital media for Melville House, and a former bookseller.