Russell Westbrook Serves Up Dinner, Memories
Six years ago, when Russell Westbrook hosted his first Thanksgiving dinner at the Boys & Girls Club on 35th and Western, Thunder fan Shona Smith was a teenager when she first encountered the point guard.
Moving shoulder to shoulder in line with plate in hand, Smith suddenly stopped dead in her tracks and stared at an apron-clad Westbrook.
Wielding a ladle, Westbrook flashed a smile at the wide-eyed teen and asked “You want potatoes?”
The nervous Smith turned into a statue before a nudge broke her mental gridlock prompting Westbrook to laugh followed by a prodding quip to get a reaction. She quickly traded a coy “I’m sorry” for a scoop of mashed potatoes before leaving the line in haste.
Now working as a youth development professional with third-graders for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Oklahoma County inside this same building, Smith could laugh off the cringe-worthy, yet unforgettable moment.
To see Westbrook playfully interact with the kids at the serving line during the sixth annual Why Not? Thanksgiving Dinner on Tuesday evening, generated flashbacks for Smith.
“I thought it was embarrassing, but it’s okay because he might not remember,” said Smith. “Now when I see the kids, I’m like ‘I know how you feel.’ That’s ok; he’s like 6-foot something.“
Smith came to the Boys & Girls Club at the age of five. Like many of the children on hand, she was a “Club Kid” at an early age enabling her to leverage her experiences to help position those with shared backgrounds at a chance for future success.
“It’s a lot easier when you’ve been in their shoes because you’re able to talk to them about those personal experiences,” said Smith.
While the feast featured turkey and ham, the interpersonal relationships served as the main course for Westbrook.
As a Club Kid himself, Westbrook cherished these opportunities to dish compliments, bump fists and pose for selfies with each of the youngsters working their way through the line.
“I remember growing up in the Boys & Girls Club and being there for different holidays with my friends, embracing these moments and wishing celebrities would come and see us,” said Westbrook. “That’s why it’s so important for me to come back and give back anyway I can.”
Looking up at Westbrook, a little girl readied her plate for some mashed potatoes. Westbrook asked how she was feeling. She told him she felt light-headed.
Like what he did for Smith, Westbrook not only provided the mashed potatoes for the little girl, but also something to remember.
Six years strong. Westbrook: “This is my sixth year doing it here. I’m honored to be able to do that. Seeing these kids grow up, go to college and do good things for their families, I’m blessed to be able to do that for them. “ Photo by Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder
“You want potatoes?” “They see someone like Russell Westbrook, once again, giving back to the community. He knows what this is all about,” said A. Jaye Johnson, senior community relations & facilities director at the Boys & Girls Club of Oklahoma County. Photo by Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder
Club lifer. Westbrook playfully side eye a fellow Club Kid showing a lighter side to the Brodie. Photo by Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder
Watch: Sixth Annual Why Not? Thanksgiving Dinner