Russell Westbrook’s Surprising Favorite Player Growing Up Was an Underrated 7-Footer: ‘I Feel Like He Played the Game the Right Way’

Russell Westbrook‘s journey to the NBA featured drawing inspiration for many of the game’s greatest talents. He garnered motivation to reach the professional ranks after heading to UCLA, where he became one of the country’s most intriguing young talents.

Westbrook’s roots in Los Angeles led him to garner a strong admiration toward Kobe Bryant, but it was one of the former Los Angeles Lakers great’s teammates who drew more recognition from him.

Russell Westbrook’s NBA career

Through his first 13 seasons, Westbrook has established himself as one of the game’s best talents.

He’s an all-around player who can heavily impact the game through scoring, passing, and defense. Westbrook has become a triple-double machine, reaching that feat in four out of the last seasons. He earned nine All-Star game selections and nine All-NBA Team selections and received a regular-season MVP award.

The star point guard recently revealed a surprising choice for his favorite NBA player growing up.

Growing up watching the NBA in the Los Angeles area, Westbrook held a strong affinity for Kobe Bryant.

Bryant remained one of the guiding lights in his path toward reaching the NBA, but he had a stronger connection to another future Hall of Famer that played with the former Lakers great.

“I’ll tell you guys an interesting fact that nobody actually knows about me,” Westbrook said. “Very few people know this. Pau [Gasol] was actually my favorite player growing up before like Kobe. Because I just liked how he played the game. I feel like he played the game the right way. He played the right way. He could pass it, he could shoot it, he could score.

“To me, I just liked the way he played the game at his size. And it was kind of somebody I always kind of liked, I wouldn’t say model my game after, but I liked the way he played the game and always played the right way. So got some little fun facts.”

Gasol established himself as one of the league’s top big men behind his all-around skill set throughout much of his career. He produced at a high level behind his scoring ability in the low post and mid-range while showing tremendous passing skill and basketball IQ.

During his time with the Lakers, he didn’t receive the proper recognition that his play and impact on the team deserved. His arrival helped Los Angeles reach three straight NBA Finals while winning the championship in the last two consecutive appearances. Bryant also repeatedly credited Gasol as the reason he was able to win his last two titles.

Gasol’s recent decision to step into retirement unsurprisingly led the Lakers to announce they will retire his No. 16 jersey. Beyond that, Westbrook’s comments are giving the former star big man the recognition he deserves.

Holds opportunity to create his own Lakers legacy

In his 14th season, Westbrook is venturing into his first campaign with the Lakers.

The 32-year-old is joining a team eyeing to vie for its second NBA title in the last three years. Los Angeles is counting on him to be a significant piece of the puzzle. Westbrook holds an adjustment period ahead as he builds on-court chemistry playing alongside another ball-dominant player in LeBron James.

Beyond that, Westbrook holds the chance to create a long-term home with the Lakers as he has a $47 million player option in next season that will play a factor in his long-term commitment. He holds it all ahead, and the 2021-22 season will shape the next chapter of his career.

Like Sportscasting on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter @sportscasting19.

RELATED: Russell Westbrook Cherishes His Special Bond With Kobe Bryant: ‘That’ll Be With Me Every Time I Put That Lakers Jersey On’