The reigning MVP of the NBA, Russell Westbrook is about to get the biggest pay-cheque ever issued by Nike’s Jordan Brand. But what about his team? The Oklahoma City Thunder have a pending issue with their superstar: he has yet to decide whether or not to sign an extension on his contract.
On Tuesday, 12th of September, Russel Westbrook signed new contract extension with Jordan Brand. After 4 years, Westbrook and the “Jumpman Logo” decided to extend their 5 year contract by a further 10 years. The deal also includes his own on-court signature shoe (Westbrook previously had off-court shoes called “The Jordan Westbrooks” 0.1 and 0.2) as well as the Jordan Brand contributing an annual donation to Westbrook’s Why Not? Foundation. Since first signing for the brand in 2013, Westbrook, who averaged a triple-double throughout the entire 2016-17 season, has ascended himself into the top tier of NBA players. The reigning MVP will now be the owner of the most lucrative deal that Air Jordan has ever given. The fee has been undisclosed for now but it is safe to say that Westbrook will be financially comfortable until the 2025-26 season. Westbrook also endorses True Religion and Mountain Dew.
So why is this all so critical?
Westbrook has one more contract ending in a year: his contract at the Oklahoma City Thunder. The MVP has a little less than a month before the new season begins to decide on what is his next step with the franchise. He has 3 options on the table.
1. Sign an extension with the team
2. Opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent next summer (could still sign with the Thunder)
3. Sign a short term contract with the Thunder
So let’s deive into each option. But first, know that Westbrook’s current contract is worth $85.6 million with a player option in 2018-19. He is already guaranteed $28.5 million this year.
If Westbrook backs up his claims of loyalty to the OKC fans and signs an extension then he would be up for a designated veteran supermax extension that is worth roughly roughly $207 million over 5 years. In total, it would be worth over $235 million and be the most lucrative contract n NBA history. Sense the pattern here?
Westbrook could shock the world (much like his off-court fashion sense) and decide to opt-out of his contract and be interested in hearing what other teams have to offer him come next off-season. As an unrestricted free agent, Westbrook would have the freedom to enjoy league owners, GMs and players giving him fancy tours and gifts to persuade him to join their team, much like Kevin Durant did a year ago. More on him in a minute…
Remember, Westbrook can easily just sign back with the Thunder as an unrestricted free agent. The only difference would be that a no-trade clause would be added when signing a new deal and not an extension.
Westbrook decides that he would like to stay in Oklahoma City to give the front office a chance on giving him support on the court and building something special to challenge the Golden State Warriors. This summer the Thunder have added a major piece like superstar forward Paul George on a trade deal. This option does not seem so far-fetched. Westbrook is more than good now financially, so a rich NBA contract may not be his number one priority.
One reason why that might be scary to Thunder fans is that it has already happened to them in the past. Current reigning Finals MVP Kevin Durant made a similar decision before leaving the Thunder. Prior to leaving, he also earned financial compensation with Nike. Could that be the reason why he opted out of a huge contract offer from the Thunder and decided to sign short contracts with the Warriors for two years in a row? Possibly. Winning also helps. If Westbrook falls short in the playoffs, even with George, he may decide to leave and win somewhere else. Rumours of the Lakers plotting big next summer with transfers for George, Lebron James and Westbrook have been gaining traction as the season looms.
So does this smell like Durant 2.0? Dennis Chambers from basketballinsiders.com weighed in:
“It’s hard to say for sure. Oklahoma City will do whatever they can to keep Russ, even more so than they were willing to do for Durant. GM Sam Presti can’t stand the sight of drafting the likes of Durant, Westbrook, and James Harden just to see them all leave without bringing a title to the franchise. However, were Westbrook to actually leave, it would be just as shocking to the front office and fan base as Durant’s departure.”
Where would he likely end up if he does leave?
“The easy answer is a team like the Los Angeles Lakers, and honestly, it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Say the Lakers take a swing at LeBron next summer and miss, they still have money for two max contract players. In that event, who better than to dish out money for than a couple of guys who just played together in Westbrook and George?”
So, it is safe to say that Westbrook’s decision will split opinions between fans. One thing is certain though: his signature sneakers will be talked about for years to come. That is a safe bet considering Westbrook never ceases to amaze as the MVP of fashion. Dennis Chambers agrees, “Russ is a fashion guru, and the world knows he’s one of the smoothest dudes in the league. Whatever JB is cooking up in the lab for a Russ signature shoe will undoubtedly be fire.”
Featured Image: Eric Drost