In the 2011-12 NBA season, Russell Westbrook was part of the Oklahoma City Thunder's big three alongside Kevin Durant and James Harden. The season ended with the Thunder putting up their best performance under coach Scott Brooks.
They finished at the top of their division and went on to sweep the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs. Their Western Conference semi-finals matchup was against the Kobe Bryant-led LA Lakers and the Thunder triumphed again, defeating the Lakers 4-1.
The NBA Western Conference Finals came with its challenges as OKC took on the San Antonio Spurs, who registered their best record that season. After losing the first two games of the series, Russell Westbrook and the Thunder came back to win the next four games and became Western Conference champions. The franchise was about to win just their second title since winning their first championship as the Seattle Supersonics in 1979, but LeBron James and the Miami Heat stopped them in the Finals, winning the series 4-1.
Skip Bayless, however, remembers the 2012 NBA Finals quite differently. Taking his show on the road to the Finals for the first time, Skip was excited to see what his followers and fans alike were looking forward to having him discuss. As he delved deep into his Twitter mentions and replies, he was taken aback by some of the responses, which prompted him to take precautions.
He discovered death threats made to him as he planned a return to his hometown for his NBA Finals coverage.
"Death threats, from Thunder fans in my hometown of Oklahoma City. Real life, hardcore death threats. I thought, legitimate death threats, but I passed them along to ESPN security, who came back to me, yeah, LEGIT! As we were about to venture into Oklahoma City, they had to hire me a bodyguard. A bodyguard who wound up being an LA cop whose primary duty was to serve and protect the Chief of Police when he went out in public."
Skip Bayless shares his tense encounter with Russell Westbrook in the 2012 NBA Finals Game 1
With Game 1 of the 2012 NBA Finals between Russell Westbrook's Thunder and the Miami Heat being held in Skip Bayless' hometown of Oklahoma, the ESPN network decided to take his show on the road to do a live coverage. The storyline was meant to be about a hometown son who had conquered the world and was making a triumphant return to his home city. But to his utter shock, there was a plot twist he didn't see coming.
The city that once offered safety and protection has now become a dangerous place for him. Death threats were made, and he was forced to take precautions by procuring the services of a bodyguard. Skip Bayless made the revelation, taking deep breaths as he fought back his emotions.
He also shared a weird encounter with Russell Westbrook in Game 1. He recounted how the point guard gave him a stare-down with a smirk on his face. The Thunder went on to win the game, 105-94, with Russell Westbrook posting 27 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists.
According to Skip Bayless:
"Before the first home game that the Thunder won in dominant fashion. I did a stand-up with my partner Stephen A. Smith for one of the sport centers. As I'm debating with Stephen A. I glance sideways and guess who's about 10 feet away smirking at me and sizing me up, it's Russ!"