Russell Westbrook surprises 13-year-old boy to fulfill Christmas wish

Russell Westbrook surprises 13-year-old boy to fulfill Christmas wish

Russell Westbrook had a pretty standard Monday ahead of him. He’d go to practice that morning, review film of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s overtime win over the Utah Jazz the night before, then that evening he’d attend the annual Holiday Assist charity event where the team buys gifts for underprivileged kids.

But in between, Westbrook had a different Christmas wish to take care of.

Janneh is a 13-year-old boy from Moore, Oklahoma, who has spent the last six months at the Children’s Center Rehabilitation Center in Bethany. He’s there because in June, while riding his bike, a bullet from a drive-by shooting hit him in the neck, crushing his third vertebrae and leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. He has gone through months of surgeries and rehabilitation and is coping with the fact he probably will live the rest of his life a quadriplegic. His one Christmas wish: to meet Russell Westbrook.

And on Monday afternoon, showing up unannounced and entirely by himself, Westbrook met Janneh.

“We literally just got a call that Russell Westbrook was in our lobby ready to see Janneh,” said Melissa Richey, director of communications at the Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital.

No cameras. No handlers. No photo op. Just Westbrook with some signed shoes and an autographed jersey.

“The way that it happened was exactly how it should’ve happened,” Richey said.

“That’s something that, I think, made it even more special because you could tell it wasn’t a publicity stunt,” she said. “It was the kindness out of his own heart to take time out of his day, knowing he had another event that night, to take time to do that was really cool for us to see that.”

Westbrook spent almost an hour at the center talking with Janneh. The normally very talkative 13-year-old was “starstruck,” Richey said, but eventually loosened up to exchange a little smack talk with Westbrook. You see, Janneh is also a big fan of LeBron James, and claims the Cleveland Cavaliers as his favorite team. And the Thunder play the Cavs on Thursday.

“Russ had to do some of the talking to get him going, but once Janneh started getting comfortable, the smack talk started,” Richey said. “It was really funny between the two of them. Russ was such a great sport and gave it to him back. He didn’t hold back with him. It was really fun to watch the two of them together.”

Janneh hasn’t been home since the accident, and before he can return to his house, his family has to raise enough money to renovate the home to be handicap accessible. Working with an organization called ServeMoore, the family is looking to raise $80,000 for a van, to widen the front door to fit his wheelchair through, build a ramp, raise the ceilings in his room and supply a generator.


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Russell Westbrook makes largest donation ever to UCLA by a former Bruins basketball player

Russell Westbrook makes largest donation ever to UCLA by a former Bruins basketball player

Russell Westbrook gave plenty to the UCLA basketball program while he was a student-athlete in 2006-08, helping the Bruins reach the Final Four of the NCAA tournament both seasons.

Now an NBA superstar with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Westbrook is still helping his former university — this time financially.

Westbrook has made what UCLA says is the largest financial contribution it has ever received from a former basketball player. His donation will go toward the construction of the Mo Ostin Basketball Center on the Westwood campus, the university said Monday in a statement.

“I loved my time at UCLA and jumped at the opportunity to give back to the University that provided me with amazing opportunities and great memories,” Westbrook said in the statement. “I am truly honored to be part of the legacy that is Bruin basketball.”

The amount of Westbrook’s contribution was not specified, though the university said in the statement that it’s “significant.” UCLA added that more than $17 million in private funds have been raised for the new men’s and women’s basketball practice facility, including the initial $10 million by music industry executive and philanthropist Morris “Mo” Ostin.

The facility’s practice floor will be known as Russell Westbrook Court. Westbrook will also be on hand when he is honored by the Bruins at their Jan. 7 game against the Arizona Wildcats.

“Russell himself is an inspiration,” Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said. “We could not be more proud of his leadership both on and off the court since he left Westwood, and I know the Bruin faithful will be excited to welcome him back home next month and thank him for this tremendous gift.”


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