SAN ANTONIO -- After his wife took to social media to detail the criticism and even "death wishes" her family has received, Russell Westbrook elaborated on the harassment they've been subject to in his first season with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Westbrook, a 14-year veteran, nine-time All-Star and former league MVP, said the derision is nothing new for him but that he and his wife, Nina, are speaking out for two reasons: To defend the honor of the family name and to protect their children.
"I 100 percent stand behind my wife and how she's feeling," Westbrook said after Los Angeles' 117-110 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Monday. "When it comes to basketball, I don't mind the criticism of missing and making shots. But the moment it becomes where my name is getting shamed, it becomes an issue.
"I've kind of let it go in the past because it never really bothered me. But it really kind of hit me the other day. Me and my wife were at teacher-parent conferences for my son. And the teacher told me, 'Noah, he's so proud of his last name. He writes it everywhere. He writes it on everything. He tells everybody and walks around and says, 'I'm Westbrook.' ... And I kind of sat there in shock, and it hit me, like, 'Damn. I can no longer allow people [to besmirch my name].'"
The Westbrooks have three children: 4-year-old Noah and twin 3-year-old daughters, Jordyn and Skye.
Westbrook, whom the Lakers overhauled their roster to acquire in the offseason, has become the poster boy for the team's struggles this season, deserved or not. L.A. came into the 2021-22 campaign as one of the odds-on favorites to win it all, and Monday's loss -- when he shot 5-for-14 overall, including 1-for-6 in the fourth quarter, with five turnovers -- dropped the Lakers eight games under .500 with 18 games left to play.
"'Westbrick,' for example, to me, is now shaming," he said, referring to a condescending nickname that makes the rounds online seemingly whenever he has a poor performance. "It's shaming my name, my legacy for my kids. It's a name that means, not just to me, but to my wife, to my mom, my dad, the ones that kind of paved the way for me."
As the highest-paid player on the Lakers this season, making $44 million, Westbrook's production has been a target for many fans frustrated with how inconsistent the Lakers have been. He is averaging 18.1 points on 43.4% shooting from the field, 28.4% from 3 and 67% from the foul line, to go with 7.6 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 4.0 turnovers per game.
Late in the third quarter on Monday, with both teams lining up at the free throw line for a Spurs foul shot, Westbrook was captured on a courtside attendee's phone shouting at a fan, "Yo, don't disrespect my name."
Westbrook vowed to involve himself in similar fashion if taunts like that occur in the future.
"A lot of times, I let it slide. But now it's time to put a stop to that and put it on notice," he said. "There's a difference. We need to make sure it's understood. And every time I do hear it now, I will make sure that I address it and make sure I nip that in the bud."
Westbrook said the treatment from fans has caused his family to avoid attending his games in person.
"It affects them even going to games," he said. "Like, I don't even want to bring my kids to the game because I don't want them to hear people calling their dad nicknames and other names for no reason because he's playing the game that he loves. And it's gotten so bad where my family don't even want to go to home games, to any game ... and it's just super unfortunate, man. And it's super upsetting to me.
"I'm at a point where I'm going to continue to address it. It's just unfortunate."