Despite the additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony over the summer, there was some unease around the Oklahoma City Thunder, as reigning NBA MVP Russell Westbrook had left a five-year, $205 million extension on the table for months. With all three All-Stars eligible for free agency in 2018, the possibility existed for a mass exodus just two years removed from Kevin Durant’s departure.
That anxiety seems to have all been for naught, as Westbrook was either waiting to take the deal on Durant’s birthday, or it’s an awfully big coincidence that he agreed to the richest contract in NBA history on the same day the guy with whom he’s spent a season beefing was born 29 years ago.
“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, there is no place I would rather be than Oklahoma City,” Westbrook said in a statement. “I am so honored to have the opportunity to continue my career here with the Thunder. … When you play in Oklahoma City, you play in front of the best fans in the world, I’m looking forward to bringing everything I’ve got, for them, this city and for this organization.”
Westbrook’s new contract, first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, guarantees the six-time All-Star $233.5 million through 2022-23. The $205 million extension kicks in next summer, after his current deal pays him $28.5 million this season, and the final year of the contract includes a player option.
Westbrook’s total contract exceeds the $228 commitment the Houston Rockets gave his former Thunder teammate James Harden through 2022-23 earlier this summer. Westbrook also just signed a new shoe deal for roughly $200 million, pushing his career earnings to nearly a half-billion dollars.
Thunder GM Sam Presti made clear his intentions to offer Westbrook a max extension at midnight on July 1, but the explosive point guard refused to answer questions about it on multiple occasions — first at his post-playoff exit interview in April and again at the first annual NBA Awards Show in June.
That caused some “anxiety,” even as the Thunder constructed a contender around a superstar who maintained, “There’s nowhere else I’d rather be than Oklahoma City.” Westbrook pledged loyalty upon signing an extension shortly after Durant left, and he lived up to his word with this latest contract.
“Russell’s commitment to the Thunder organization since its inception in 2008 has helped propel us to great heights and stare down great challenges over our first decade,” Presti said in the press release. “We are extremely fortunate to have an athlete, competitor and person such as Russell wear the Thunder uniform. To have him cement his legacy as a leader as we enter into our 10th season in Oklahoma City is extraordinary. I am extremely grateful to Russell, his family and to our ownership for the commitment and support that they have demonstrated in supporting our vision for the Thunder.”
The next step for Presti is persuading George to stay, too. “If we get a killer season in Oklahoma, we make the conference finals or upset the Warriors or do something crazy,” George told Sports Illustrated in July, “I’d be dumb to want to leave that.” The recent acquisition of Anthony made the objective an even more realistic possibility. And with Westbrook now committed long-term, it’ll be a whole lot easier to sell George on the Thunder. You can bet Westbrook will be selling him hard on OKC.
It is high comedy, though, that Westbrook made his loyalty the NBA’s biggest story on Durant’s birthday. The beef between the two since KD left for Golden State without so much as a phone call has been well-documented. Westbrook has trolled Durant by labeling him, in one form or another, a laughingstock, a cupcake, a poser and a “b**** a**.” KD responded with cupcake hats and sneakers, and then dropped the hammer, trashing the entire Thunder organization in two third-person tweets.
— City of OKC (@cityofokc) September 29, 2017
Vegas futures currently give OKC the second-best odds (behind San Antonio) to meet Golden State in the Western Conference finals. Speaking of riches, beefs and cupcakes, wouldn’t that be delectable?
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