russell westbrook: kickstart your english with dope vocabulary

nba superstar russell westbrook of the houston rockets has an unmistakeable style as a basketball player, and he has also been part of several iconic campaigns off the court.

this commercial from 2015  is for the energy drink mountain dew kickstart,

kickstart is how a motorcycle is started and also means a quick boost of energy.

kick starting his bike

motley crue‘s rock anthem kickstart my heart was inspired by an out of body experience that bassist nikki sixx had. he was revived (kick started) after being declared dead.

fun esl practice :) richyrocks english on youtube

the kickstart commercial opens with russ calling his friends fellas. fella is a reduction of fellow, which is a typical way to address a man or boy (NOT females).  at :13, the expression that’s what i’m talking about indicates approval; in this case for the shirt that appears on westbrook after he takes a sip (little drink) of kickstart. after one of his friends takes a sip, westbrook is equally impressed with what happens and at :22 compliments him by saying, “now that’s a dope shirt.” dope means cool.

but when his other two friends try the same thing and end up together inside an oversized shirt, westbrook calls it messed up (weird, problematic).

the same season, russ was featured mentoring a young basketball player in this spot (commercial) for foot locker, a shoe store.

this spot starts with westbrook commenting that the young player has fresh (cool, dope) jordans from foot locker.  the title of the series the fresh prince of bel-air is a similar application of fresh.

in the foot locker commercial, russ calls the  breakfast that he serves his young friend at :10 gross (disgusting). it looks like it might be a nopal smoothie. is that really a gross breakfast?

are u ready to be told you’re not ready? is passive voice (auxiliary be + past participle [told]) . the person who will tell the young player he is not ready is not mentioned initially. this sets up (prepares) a nice surprise: a cameo (short unexpected appearance by a celebrity) from movie director spike lee at :25. spike’s advice for the youngster (kid) is be like mike…and retire.  spike is referencing this famous michael jordan commercial for gatorade from 1991.

speaking of michael jordan, at the end of last year, russ appeared in one of a series of air jordan films/commercials called unite.

at :20  in the video u can hear

they said he was odd. different. just not like the others. they said he’d never achieve mastery. excellence. greatness. anything. they said he wouldn’t, shouldn’t, couldn’t. u know what he said?

odd means strange, weird. achieve means reach, attain. mastery is a high level of ability.  wouldn’t (future in the past), shouldn’t (advice) and couldn’t (ability) are all negative examples of modal auxiliary verbs.

at :45 late rapper nipsey hustle‘s track victory lap  takes over the narrative. listen for these lyrics at 2:55 in the victory lap video…

i’m finna take it there
this time around ima make it clear
spoke some things into the universe and they appeared
i say it’s worth it, i won’t say it’s fair
find your purpose or u wasting air
fuck it though, y’all be scared

finna is like gonna; it’s informal. ima, also informal, is a reduction of i’m gonna. worth it means the result justified the time dedicated. fair means just, honestwaste means use stupidly. in other words if u don’t find your purpose in life the air u breathe is frivolous. fuck it is used to show indifference it’s part of the lyrics but actually edited out of commercial. though is for contrasting ideas. y’all is a contraction of u all; u plural. it’s informal too.


finally, westbrook’s honor the gift clothing line is participating in the social messaging happening as the nba concludes its season in the bubble. the ftw blog on reports

to let players express themselves, and help keep the focus on larger sociopolitical issues, the nba and nbpa agreed to allow game jerseys to be worn with social justice messaging on the backs, in lieu of a players’ last name. while that sounds like a nice enough compromise, the list of 29 approved messages offer a softer political tone than some nba players would like…several nba players, including lebron james and anthony davis, declined to wear the social justice messaging because they felt it didn’t address the more political points they wanted to make. to bridge that gap, the nbpa and russell westbrook’s clothing line honor the gift decided to make a series of t-shirts that get more to the point.

the nbpa (nba player’s association) is the union (labor organization) that represents the players in the nba. worn is the irregular past tense of wear. wear is the correct verb to use when talking about the  clothes u have on, NOT use. use is a common spanglish based on usar in spanish. be worn is passive voice. it is implied but not directly mentioned  that nba players will wear the game jerseys.

in lieu of means instead of. a compromise is an agreement or settlement. felt is the irregular past tense of feel. bridge the gap means make the difference smaller. get to the point means be direct.  westbrook tweeted this about the collaboration…

the idiom shed light on means illuminate, give attention to.

the english practice extra for this post is called russ ain’t like us and was inspired by the be like mike commercial above as well as russell westbrook’s unique skills (abilities).

the lyrics of the song include several vocabulary examples previously analyzed on ain’t, ain’t got, put up, grateful, 2nd conditional, at all and might.

though appears in the lyrics and above in this post as well, and there are two new vocabulary expressions in russ ain’t like us: bitch ass is an insult that means weak, and cowboy boots are the preferred footwear of cowboys.


cowboy boots (ron wood,

do u have other questions about the vocabulary in any of these videos? post them under leave a reply


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