With each day that passes, the fan base of the Oklahoma City Thunder grows a little more worried that Russell Westbrook hasn’t signed his Designated Veteran Player Extension (DPE). Now that Stephen Curry, James Harden, and John Wall have all extended their contracts using the DPE, Westbrook is the only one left that has the eligibility to sign that type of extension this off-season. The extension, which could pay him as much as $229.5 million over the next 6 seasons, to include this upcoming season, would be the richest contract in sports history in terms of average per year.
The fact that Westbrook hasn’t rushed over to Thunder headquarters and signed the contract yet has given many in the fan base a little bit of pause. Why would someone leave that much money on the table for that long? If any of us were in that position, we would’ve signed the contract at 11:00:01 pm CST on June 30th (remember, the NBA operates out of the Eastern Standard Time Zone, so free agency began at midnight on the East Coast, but 11 pm in Oklahoma).
That’s the problem, sometimes, in thinking like a fan. We tend to look at the fortune and the fame, and forget that athletes are people too. And like many of us, their schedules are sometimes so chock-full of commitments, that it makes it difficult to do something as simple as signing a piece of paper. I know, I know. Making a 5-year commitment to anything should never be compared to just signing a piece of paper. But in essence, that’s all Westbrook has to do to ensure his future.
But in reality, Westbrook probably hasn’t had the time to sign the contract. It isn’t just about signing the contract. There will also likely be a press conference. And, with the Thunder’s new M.O., probably a celebration at some swanky, hip establishment in downtown Oklahoma City. All that takes preparation and planning. The logistics of those events will likely take place over a 2-3 day period. All that has to be worked out before announcing that Westbrook has signed. And honestly, Westbrook likely hasn’t had 2-3 free days since free agency began on July 1st.
But let’s not even look at July 1st. Let’s go all the way back to May 16, 2017. More than any record he has broken or any award he has won, this is likely the most prized gift he has received this year. This was the day Noah Westbrook was born. Becoming a father does things to a man. It does something to their psyche; to their mentality. It changes what they deem important. It changes their perception on life. But most of all, if a man is a good father, it changes what they do with their time.
The life of an athlete is one that is spent away from family for much of the season. Even when an athlete is home, their life can be so regimented that the schedule of their day and the schedule of the baby’s may not intertwine. Simply put, to Westbrook, there is still time to sign the contract. But father/son time may be limited once training camp starts.
Let’s skip forward to June. Around June 22nd, Westbrook spent a couple of days in Paris for fashion week. One of his passions is fashion, and Paris week is one of the premier fashion events of the year. Of course he would be there. On June 26th, the globe-trotting Westbrook headed to New York for the NBA Awards Show, where he won the MVP award.
On June 30th, around the time the Thunder acquired Paul George, Westbrook was enjoying life with friends and family in California. After July 1st, Westbrook headed back to Oklahoma to do his annual kids camp. The Oklahoma City camp took place on July 6-7, while the Tulsa camp took place from July 10-11. Then Westbrook had to travel back to LA on July 12th to attend the ESPYs, where he won Male Athlete of the Year. Then on the 13th, he attended the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Sports Award where he won Clutch Player of the Year. Luckily that was also being held in Los Angeles. Then on the 18th, to his luck again, Westbrook attended the Sports Illustrated Fashionable 50, where he was being honored as the most fashionable athlete of 2017.
And as of the last few days, per his Instagram, Westbrook and his wife appear to be enjoying life in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Between fatherhood, award shows, and well deserved vacation time, Westbrook just hasn’t had time to sign a piece of paper. So don’t fret Thunder fans. Westbrook’s schedule should begin to slow down here in the next few days. And if he is going to sign the contract, that would probably the best time to do it.
But also remember this. When Thunder fans were down and out last year at this time, remember what brightened our spirits. On August 4th, exactly one month from the time Kevin Durant broke our collective hearts, Westbrook showed up with a crisp, white button up (first 4 buttons open, of course) and a nice pair of royal blue slacks to sign his extension. That will always be known as Russell Westbrook Day to me. And that day may hold some significance to Westbrook as well. So don’t panic yet Thunder fans. Now, if August 4th passes by without Westbrook putting pen to paper, then I’ll start to sweat. But for right now, I’m cool. And you should be too.