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​NBA star Russell Westbrook also scores style points

Style points aren't the only points one fashion industry notable is scoring these days. Vladimir Duthiers has been watching him in action:

You could say that being Russell Westbrook has its advantages. From photo shoots to fashion shows to cocktail parties, the invitations never stop.

When he's not jet-setting to Paris for a menswear show, or taking tips from Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, Westbrook is busy building his own fashion empire.

And did we mention, he has a pretty good day job: As point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Westbrook was the NBA's leader scorer this season, racking up numbers not seen since the days of Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan.

But it's Westbrook's off-the-court style that has him in a league of his own.

"My whole thing is not trying to dress like anybody else," he said. "Try to find a niche and find something that I like. But also, you know, not looking too crazy. Have a happy medium between both."

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Last summer, he partnered with New York retailer Barney's to create a menswear line -- the first time an athlete had ever collaborated on a project with the high-fashion mecca. And this year, he became creative director of the designer denim brand True Religion.

"Fashion for me is just like another way, obviously outside of basketball, to express myself," he said. "Be creative, have some ideas, have fun, and put on some clothes!"

But wearing thousand-dollar shirts and hobnobbing with fashion insiders is a far cry from his childhood in inner city Los Angeles.

Conde Nast artistic director Anna Wintour and NBA basketball player Russell Westbrook attend the Rag & Bone Women's Collection Spring 2014 fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, September 6, 2013 in New York City. Ben Gabbe/Getty Images

Duthiers asked, "Did you have a style icon? Did you see somebody on TV and just say, 'Man, he looks cool. I want to dress like that'?"

"My mom," Westbrook replied. "That was it. My mom always dressed nice. I followed her lead. She was always fresh. She even dressed my dad up, make sure he was looking nice."

Growing up, Westbrook says he focused on two things: sports and school. But the honor roll student struggled on the court. At 5'8, he couldn't even dunk a basketball.

But in what appeared to be an overnight transformation, Westbrook shot up five inches in his senior year of high school -- and that's when UCLA came calling.

After two years with the Bruins, and two NCAA Final Four appearances, a now six-foot-three Westbrook took a chance, and entered the NBA draft in 2008.

An unlikely star was about to be born, but the 19-year-old still had a lot to learn.

He said his rookie season in the NBA was a learning process: "I wa sin Oklahoma City, I didn't even know where Oklahoma was!" he laughed. "I used to call my mom almost every two hours on, 'Hey mom, how do I get this? What's this?'"

Eventually, Westbrook figured it all out, and in 2012 the player that no one expected to come this far led Oklahoma City all the way to the NBA finals.

The Thunder lost to the Miami Heat, but Westbrook emerged a winner, at least in style points. The eccentric outfits he wore during postgame press conferences sent the Internet into a frenzy -- and transformed him into an instant style icon.

The NBA is considered the most fashion-forward of any professional sports league, and competition among players has spilled from the court to the closet. To prepare for his five minutes on the arena catwalk, Westbrook spends nearly an hour picking out his clothes.

"So I grab a shirt, I grab a jacket, I grab jeans, see where I'm going to start from" he said. "And then kind of look at the colors in the shirt and then go look at the shoes. It usually takes one or two times to kind of figure out a combination of what I like."

The budding designer has expanded his brand to include eyewear and boxers, and at just 26, he's worth an estimated $20 million -- money he's using to champion causes that are most important to him.

Through his Why Not? Foundation, Westbrook has opened reading rooms at three elementary schools in Oklahoma City. "I wanted to find a way to make reading fun," he said. "And with the reading challenge and opening reading rooms, it was a way for me to give the kids access to books, encourage them to read, and also reward them."

From hoops to high fashion to his recent engagement, Westbrook is reaping the rewards of his success, but says he'll never forget where he started.

"Man, I look back and just kind of see my roots and always kind of remember where I'm from and what it took for me to get to the position I am now," he said, "and that constantly keeps pushing me and pushing me every year to become the better player and a better person."

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