Tragic details about Russell Westbrook

NBA player Russell Westbrook has a lot to offer aside from MVP awards, Olympic gold medals and NBA Finals. The famous scowl he wears when facing opponents has become legendary. There has been a lot of talk about the next speed he will reach when he drives to the basket. And behind it all are the tragedies and obstacles he faced as a child and as an adult.

Born in Long Beach, California, the former UCLA player was an early star in the NBA. In 2021 he was called one of the top 75 players ever in the league. He also won the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award for the 2016-2017 season. Not to mention that he received an Olympic gold medal in 2012.

But Westbrook would likely give back the medal and award, maybe even his NBA career, if he could trade them for the darker times in his life. We’ve listed some of them, so read on to learn some of the tragic details about Westbrook.

Russell Westbrook had a humble start

When Russell Westbrook arrived on November 12, 1988 and uttered his first cry, no silver spoon came out of his mouth. Long before he became one of the highest paid NBA stars, he came from humble beginnings and lived in different parts of Los Angeles. As he told Bleacher Report, his family was short on money, but his parents did everything they could to raise their two sons to success.

“My childhood was interesting,” Westbrook once told ESPN. “I was born in LA, at the Long Beach Memorial, and we moved through downtown LA. … I lived on 83rd and 66th and in Normandy, downtown. I was in Hawthorne when I got into high school and it got rougher and rougher as I got older.”

He said he navigated the surrounding pitfalls thanks to his father, Russell Westbrook Jr., who was said to be strict. The NBA star also had to be a good role model for his younger brother Raynard Westbrook. “My childhood, I wouldn’t say it was bad. She helped me grow up. I stayed out of trouble,” he said in another part of this ESPN interview. “My parents taught me what was wrong and what was right, and knowing that my little brother was following me, I had to make sure I was doing the right thing so he knew what was right, too. I was in the house nine days out of ten. There was nothing good out there for me.”

As a teenager, he suffered tragedy

Unfortunately for Russell Westbrook, tragedy came early. It was during his teenage years when he was attending Leuzinger High School in Lawndale, California, that his best friend suddenly died. His name was Khelcey Barrs III and he and Westbrook lived across the street in Hawthorne. Not only that, they shared a deep passion for basketball and dreamed of one day being teammates on the UCLA roster. According to Vice, Barrs was considered one of the best players to ever walk through the Leuzinger halls.

He died on May 11, 2004, aged 16, after falling to the ground during a scuffle due to an undiagnosed enlarged heart. From that point on, Westbrook would use his friend’s death as motivation, and to honor him, he wears a bracelet and sneakers that say “KB3”.

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“Khelcey will always be a part of my life,” Westbrook said in an interview with ESPN. In 2016 he spoke to sportswriter Graham Bensinger about the drive his late friend gives him. “I just feel like I have to come out every day, every game … to work as hard as I can to put myself in a position to be the best player I can be,” Westbrook explained. “He’s always a part of me, no matter where I am or what I’m doing.”

Russell Westbrook mourned the loss of Nipsey Hussle

On March 31, 2019, rapper Nipsey Hussle was shot dead in Los Angeles. This loss hit him hard, and Russell Westbrook was one of the many public figures to share his grief on social media. “YOU ARE ONE OF A BRO!!! Rest up King 🙏🏾🙏🏾”, he tweeted after the news broke. Then, a day later, Westbrook shared a photo of himself and Hussle, and the following day he dedicated his 20-20-20 game to him. In a match against the Los Angeles Lakers, the NBA star scored 20 points, had 20 rebounds and had 21 assists. And on the last rebound, he formed the words“This is for Nipsey.”

“It wasn’t for me, man. It was for my brother Nipsey, man,” Westbrook said after the game. “Twenty plus 20 plus 20, you know what that means man, and that’s for my brother. Rest in peace, Nipsey man.” Hussle was a well-known member of the Rollin’ ’60s Crips street gang in Los Angeles, so Westbrook added up his stats to make 60 to pay tribute. The beloved musician was shot dead outside The Marathon clothing store, which he owned. In July 2022, a man named Eric Holder was found guilty of first-degree murder.

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He was sued by fans who mocked him

First there was heckling, then a heated verbal confrontation, followed by a lawsuit. In 2019, Russell Westbrook and Utah Jazz fans Shane Keisel and Jennifer Huff got into a fight when Keisel mocked the basketball player. Swear words and threats were exchanged during the argument. Peace was soon restored, but Shane and Huff were banned from all Jazz home games. They were also not allowed to attend events at the team’s Vivint Smart Home Arena. For his part, Westbrook was fined $25,000 for swearing and making threats.

“A young man and his wife in the stands told me to get on my knees like I used to.” said Westbrook after the game. “To me it’s just completely disrespectful. I think it’s racist and I think it’s inappropriate in the sense that there’s no protection for the players.”

Keisel relayed his side of the story a local reporter, and claimed he molested Westbrook about the heat packs he used on his knees during the game. Keisel and Huff later sued him and the Jazz for $100 million, alleging defamation and infliction of emotional distress, per Sports Illustrated. But the lawsuit was eventually dismissed by a judge. However, Westbrook would have many other run-ins with fans after that.

Russell Westbrook was left with a bump on his face

Seeing a dent in a car door is fairly common and most probably wouldn’t turn a blind eye if they saw a dent on, say, a soda can or some other tin object. But someone’s face gets dented? Well, that’s something in a category of its own and it happened to Russell Westbrook in 2015. It went down at the end of a game between the Portland Trail Blazers and Westbrook’s Oklahoma City Thunder. In short, Westbrook had a deep dent in his cheekbone area, as if part of his face had imploded.

The LA native at this point was trying to get his own rebound and score a goal after intentionally missing a free throw. It’s a common basketball move used when time is almost up and a team needs more than a single free throw point to win the game. But instead of getting a tip, Westbrook was accidentally kneed in the face by teammate Andre Roberson. Westbrook was later found to have fractured the cheekbone in his right cheek, which required surgery. ESPN eventually reported that proceedings went well, and Westbrook ended up missing just one game. Boy, talk about a speedy recovery from a horrible injury.

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He received “death wishes” for bad play

Consider these two factors: Russell Westbrook is from the Los Angeles area and grew up with the Los Angeles Lakers. So it seemed like the West Coast stars lined up for him in 2021 when he was traded to the Lakers by the Washington Wizards. It should have worked out wonderfully for him, right?

But things didn’t go well for Russell in his first season. In fact, they were rockier than any of LA’s mountain ranges. Not only did he statistically have one of his worst seasons ever, Lakers fans kept him online and dubbed him “Westbrick” for missing so many shots. Russell and his family even received death threats for the underplay.

“When I’m being harassed on a daily basis for playing basketball and being sent obscenities and death wishes for myself and my family because you’re expressing your ‘truth,’ it’s hard for me to get on board with it,” tweeted Westbrook’s wife Nina Westbrook in March 2022. “This is my life, my children’s life and my family’s life. Shaming someone for any reason is never the answer,” she said added. Westbrook later addressed the harassment in a post-game press conference, saying he would no longer allow people to shame his name as it was disrespectful to his entire family.

The loss of Kobe Bryant

Russell Westbrook dealt with death early in his life when his best friend Khelcey Barrs died, and a few years later another loss would rock him. Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2020 along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant and seven other people. A few days after the news broke, Westbrook praised the great basketball with a heartfelt message he posted to Facebook.

“I met Kobe when I was 16 playing him in a pick-up game at UCLA,” Westbrook recalled. “He played like it was the NBA Finals. From that point on, I decided I wanted to emulate his mamba mentality. It didn’t have a name back then, but I recognized in him what I’ve always had in me felt myself. He.” became a friend, a brother, a mentor, a teacher, he defended me, he believed in me and he taught me how to weather the storm.”

In 2021, Westbrook was signed to the Los Angeles Lakers, the team Kobe played for throughout his 20-year career. After being traded to the basketball legend’s former team, Westbrook told reporters he would be talking to Kobe about becoming a Laker at some point in his career. “I’ll have that with me every time I put the Lakers jersey on,” he said.