LOS ANGELES - It’s the season of giving and the Los Angeles Clippers continue to make their philanthropic mark on the community.
On Thursday, future Hall of Famer and Clippers guard Russell Westbrook attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Jesse Owens Park in South LA's Gramercy Park neighborhood in celebration of the renovations of an additional 117 Clippers Community Courts in LA County. Now, the court at the park is officially called the Russell Westbrook Community Court.
Just hours prior, Westbrook and members of his Why Not? Foundation hosted its 12th annual Thanksgiving Food Distribution event and handed out 1,000 meals to families in need.
During the unveiling ceremony, Westbrook said his mission goes beyond the world of basketball and he believes he was born to give back.
Thursday marked a nostalgic and full-circle moment close to his heart. For the nine-time All-Star, the ceremony occurred on the same court he grew up playing on.
The two-time NBA scoring champion attended Leuzinger High School in Lawndale and for the LA native, he didn’t have a traditional path to greatness. For starters, unlike many of his NBA contemporaries, he was not a McDonald’s All-American and his mailbox wasn't overflowing with recruitment letters.
In a 2015 interview with Bleacher Report, he explained he never thought he’d make it to the big leagues. "A lot of people who are in the NBA now have been good since they were eight. I wasn’t good until I was 17," he said.
Russell Westbrook pictured in 2006 and in 2023. (Getty Images)
One day, Ben Howland who coached at UCLA at the time, decided to stop by Westbrook's high school gym after hearing about him. Howland liked what he saw not only on the court but also his leadership skills. From there, the rest is history.
Russell Westbrook in action vs Georgia Tech. (Photo by Greg Nelson/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images) (Getty Images)
Westbrook played for two seasons at UCLA and in 2008, Westbrook was selected fourth overall in the NBA Draft by the Seattle Supersonics before they relocated to Oklahoma City. "Mr. Triple Double" earned the league MVP award for the 2016-17 season.
He never forgot where he came from and since catapulting to the NBA, he's been dedicated to giving back to his family and the community that raised him.
Clippers Community Courts expand in Los Angeles County
In 2018, the Clippers Foundation committed to donating $10 million to the LA Parks Foundation to renovate every single one of the city’s 350 indoor and outdoor basketball courts, in an initiative called the Clippers Community Courts project.
On Thursday, that number grew to nearly 500 community courts in Southern California that the Clippers have completed or committed to renovating.