Kobe Bryant recalls early promise of Russell Westbrook

LOS ANGELES -- Kobe Bryant didn’t know the young guard’s name in the pickup game that day. He only knew that he would be heading into his freshman season at UCLA and that he was an absolute terror on the court.

“Who the hell is this kid?” Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers star, said he wondered.

The kid was Russell Westbrook, who several years later obviously is much better known now as a star point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Westbrook scored 36 points, added 12 rebounds and 7 assists in the Thunder’s 117-113 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, leading Bryant to reflect on his first encounter with Westbrook and the impression that he made.

“He was everywhere,” Bryant said. “A relentless competitor. I had never even heard of him. So it was shocking to me sometimes to kind of look at scouts and see what the hell they’re looking at. This guy was this way when he’s 16 years old.”

Bryant also said he’s not surprised to see how skilled Westbrook has become.

“Nope, because he cared and competed and guys that compete and it means a lot to them, they’re going to get better no matter what,” Bryant said. “It’s not a surprise to me one bit.”