Russell Westbrook practically grew up in the shadows of the Los Angeles Lakers former home, The Forum, in Inglewood, California, before they moved downtown to the Staples Center.
Westbrook’s return home to play for the Lakers has fans excited as he is often viewed as a veritable energizer bunny and triple-double machine who plays with a fierceness that the late legendary Kobe Bryant appreciated about Westbrook.
During his introductory press conference as a Laker, Westbrook who starred at Leuzinger High School in L.A. before going onto UCLA, indicated it’s surreal to play on the team that the Black Mamba helped make legendary.
“That is something I think about daily. Coming into the gym, you come in here, you look up in the practice facility, you see 8 and 24, and I know he is looking down and making sure that I need to do what I need to do,” Westbrook told Spectrum SportsNet.
“And that’s the only thing I could think about … knowing, being in this uniform, understanding the impact I can have of being home and being a Laker and creating a legacy not just for myself but for my kids, for the community of Los Angeles, for the people here. I’m gonna make sure I just do my part in going out and playing for him and through him as I compete in this uniform.”
"I'm going to make sure I do my part in going out and playing for him & through him in this uniform." @russwest44 on what looking up and seeing Kobe's 8 & 24 in the rafters means to him. #LakersMediaDay pic.twitter.com/ijGIXCGIrd
— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) September 28, 2021
Despite the fact that Westbrook has been criticized about his game throughout his career, Bryant previously told the media that he loves the way Westbrook plays.
Kobe Bryant asked this in 2015:
"Anybody have that same fire, that same passion that you have for the game?"
Kobe: "Westbrook plays mean. He plays mean like I did." pic.twitter.com/Ii74gLdzIc
— Carson Cunningham (@Carson_OKC) January 26, 2020
After Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, passed away on Jan. 26, 2020, Westbrook decided to dedicate his play to Bryant. But little did Westbrook know then that he’d become a Laker.