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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.
To read more, please visit http://www.espn.com/blog/okc-thunder/post/_/id/925/russell-westbrook-surprises-13-year-old-boy-to-fulfill-christmas-wish