Russell Westbrook was intense and focused, leaning into the huddle intent on hearing the words of wisdom. He was also about eight inches taller than anyone else in the huddle.
It wasn’t his normal huddle at Chesapeake Energy Arena with Head Coach Scott Brooks in the middle, but a lesson around the nutrition table at the Thunder Fit event, presented by Homeland at US Grant High School in Oklahoma City. Westbrook, along with Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb and Daniel Orton all took time out of their off day after a six-game road trip to help ninth through 12th graders learn more about the benefits of good diet and exercise.
“The Thunder Fit is one of the things we do in the community with the kids,” Westbrook said. “It gives them an opportunity to learn some fitness, play a little sports and learn a little bit about their bodies... It’s a great event for high school students to come out and have some fun.”
From layup drills and dribbling drills to an exercise station and nutrition seminar, Thunder Fit programs help students learn just how important diet and exercise are to their long-term health. During the NBA's FIT Live Healthy Week, the Thunder did its part to help the youth in Oklahoma City. In addition, Monday's FIT Clinic gave kids an opportunity to play basketball with Thunder players.
“I think it’s just great to give back to the community,” Westbrook said. “These kids, probably some of them sit at home and watch us every night when we play on TV. They don’t get the opportunity to interact with us or the opportunity to work out with us and do different things. I think this is a great opportunity for us to come back and have a little fun.”
15 students from each grade at US Grant were selected to participate in the Thunder Fit on Monday afternoon, and there was a mix of athletes and other students who administrators like Kandy Hunt thought might enjoy the event. With players like Westbrook so engaged in the different stations, particularly the ones that weren’t directly related to basketball was a great example for students, according to Hunt.
“It was awesome,” Hunt said. “When the players came in, their faces lighting up was priceless… I think this will get them active. Of course our athletes, they work out all the time, but the ones that don’t I think this will help motivate them to get them started.”
Westbrook said that as an inner-city kid growing up, he can understand just how special a visit from professional athletes would have been for him as a high schooler. Before disclosing that high school was a very important time for him as he decided whether to pursue basketball as a career, Westbrook and his teammates made sure to be fully engaged with the students.
Lamb and Orton helped the student with the basketball drills, and Jackson even managed to look like he’d been through a workout after running back and forth with the students all afternoon.
“It’s been sweaty, but it’s been fun,” Jackson said. “We’re just having fun being in the community. They come out and support us so much that we want to give back. Especially with the Memphis game coming up and a few home games, it’s good to get our faces out here because they show their faces in Chesapeake all the time.”