Oftentimes we view endorsements as a proper form of gauging an athlete's financial worth to both their franchise and the NBA as a whole. The underlying truth, however, is that the player on the receiving end of an endorsement deal is not only receiving praise for their marketability, but their status as an elite performer.
Consider this to be the case for Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook.
Per a report via the Nike, Inc. company website, all-time great Michael Jordan and Nike announced that Westbrook has been named the latest addition to the Jordan Brand family. Westbrook will join the likes of Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Ray Allen as athletes under MJ's label.
He will also solidify his status as an NBA superstar and prove that he is on the verge of the league's elite.
As for the reasoning behind this signing, Jordan made all the proper points about who Westbrook is as an on and off-court personality. He also cited what can only be described as an unparalleled passion for the game, which has made him both a fan favorite and the target of media and opposing fan crucifiction.
“We are very excited to welcome Russell to the Jordan family,” said Michael Jordan. “Russell’s style, both on and off the court, combined with his love and dedication to the game make him a perfect fit for the Jordan Brand. We love the drive and passion for basketball that Russell brings."
Jordan couldn't have defined Russell Westbrook any better. For all of the reasons listed, Westbrook is the perfect fit to take on the task of representing the Jordan Brand years to come and making his final leap to elite as an NBA star.
As previously alluded to, Westbrook brings an energy to the floor that very few can duplicate. He smothers opponents on defense, relentlessly attacks the basket and displays an emotion for each and every play that supporters love and detractors love to hate.
He's an agitator, an entertainer and, when you get right down to it, one heck of a ball player.
What sets Westbrook apart from the rest of the well-rounded is his passion for the game. He cares more for a layup than most players do for a victory, which is evidence of how far he has come as the leader of a young and overachieving Thunder team.
When Westbrook is fired up, the loudest arena in sports screams with him. When Westbrook is fired up, the entire Thunder roster wakes up with him.
Russell Westbrook is one of the most explosive athletes in NBA history. He consistently dazzles fans with his ability to do the unthinkable and embodies everything that Michael Jordan once stood for as an NBA great.
Well, aside from consistency as a shooter, a case full of awards and a championship pedigree. But that will come in due time.
Since entering the league in 2008, Westbrook has become one of the most marketable figures in the game. He has an uncanny ability to leap out of the gym, which makes his dunks as awe-inspiring as those of Blake Griffin—a remarkable athlete who stands a full seven inches taller than the former UCLA Bruin.
Respect him yet?
We love and remember Michael Jordan for his unparalleled will to win. We also have everlasting images of MJ soaring through the lane with his arm extended and tongue out, preparing for and then executing a vicious slam dunk.
Russell Westbrook is the next in line for the latter form of recognition.
If you don't think that a player's clothing of choice matters, that's fine. There are millions of people who do, though, and that's exactly Westbrook has become as recognizable a figure as any.
Love it or hate it, Westbrook sure knows how to wear whatever the rest of the world is afraid to. Any publicity is good publicity, right?
On the Brink of Championship Glory
Over the past two seasons, Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder have set a pace that will lead to an NBA title in 2012-13. If you don't believe me, just study the way their seasons have ended in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
The next step of progression is to once again make the NBA Finals and this time win.
In all seriousness, it was imperative that Jordan Brand capture one of the young stars of this franchise. Their success has proven to be consistent and progressive, which leads to the belief that they could rule over the NBA for quite some time.
Keep in mind that Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka are all under contract for the long-term. James Harden expects to re-sign by October 31.
That's three Olympic gold medalists and a silver medalist in Ibaka, for those keeping track. It's also a three-time scoring champion, the reigning blocks leader and the 2012 Sixth Man of the Year being paired with one Russell Westbrook.
If this team doesn't win a title at some point, someone needs to rewrite the rules of basketball.
He's Only 23
Westbrook and Durant have firmly established themselves as two of the top 15 players in the NBA. They've also made it clear that they have a great chance at matching Jordan's six NBA championships due to the fact that they are just 23 and 24 years old, respectively.
With an NBA Finals appearance already under their belts, one can only assume that their hunger has grown and their window of opportunity is large enough for quite the dominant run.
For this reason, it became necessity for Jordan Brand to bring one of the two on as they enter the primes of their careers. You know, in another three years or so.
How scary is that to think about? The Thunder are already dominating the Western Conference and they haven't even discovered the greatest of their abilities.
Assuming the Thunder don't crash and burn, they now have two of the future faces of the league. Both Durant and Westbrook will be on the Mt. Rushmore of present-day basketball and both will compete for MVP awards throughout the entirety of their careers.
A Jordan Brand endorsement simply means that Westbrook is closer to greatness than we may have presumed.