OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — For decades, basketball players have dreamed of being like Mike.
Thunder guard Russell Westbrook really is like Mike.
So says Mike himself.
Basketball great Michael Jordan inducted Westbrook into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame on Thursday night and heaped high praise on Westbrook, one of the most visible and accomplished Jordan Brand athletes.
“I am truly a fan of his,” said Jordan, the six-time NBA champion and five-time MVP. “When I watch him play, I see a lot of resemblance of his passion for the game of basketball, the way I played the game of basketball.”
Westbrook is a two-time All-Star MVP and was the 2014-15 scoring champion. Last season, he posted 18 triple-doubles. This season, he has three triple-doubles and is averaging a Jordan-esque 31.8 points per game.
Even with all that, Westbrook declined when asked to compare himself to Jordan, instead focusing on how fortunate he feels to have built a relationship with him.
“Michael’s obviously the best that ever played the game,” Westbrook said. “He’s done so many things for the game of basketball, so many ways and broken so many barriers for guys like myself to be able to go out and compete at a high level, so it means a lot in that aspect. Off the court, he’s carried a great brand. It’s something I eventually want to do when I’m done.”
Jordan commended Westbrook for re-signing with the Thunder after Kevin Durant left and signed with the Golden State Warriors.
“I’m not here to try to bash anyone that’s not here,” Jordan said, drawing laughter from the crowd at the Cox Convention Center. “Everybody has a choice. I’m not saying you don’t have a choice. Everybody has a choice, and when I saw that he chose to stay here in Oklahoma, I was so proud.”
Westbrook appreciated the fact that Jordan, the current Charlotte Hornets owner, answered Thunder owner Clay Bennett’s call to attend.
“M.J.’s one of those guys — obviously, I’m a part of his brand, and he’s a guy that respects you and the things that you do,” Westbrook said. “He took time out of his day to come all the way to Oklahoma City to do this for me is an amazing honor. I’m happy to have him here.”
In 2015, Westbrook won the NBA’s Community Assist Award for his philanthropic efforts. He has opened several reading rooms, providing books for kids in low-income areas. Westbrook served at his WhyNot Foundation’s annual Thanksgiving Dinner at the Boys and Girls Club on Tuesday. Jordan specifically mentioned Westbrook’s off-the-court accomplishments as a reason he was proud to be the presenter.
It was a memorable night for Westbrook, whose teammates all dressed up and attended the banquet.
“It’s an unbelievable honor to go in,” he said. “It’s definitely a blessing. It’s something that you won’t forget.”
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