He’s reckless. He shoots too much. He’s not a “true” point guard. Russ has heard it all. Simply, he doesn’t care.
Not until about last season, if Russell Westbrook was brought up in a conversation it was probably somebody criticizing what he should do, how he should play, or even how he should dress. Even now, there are still surprisingly some skeptics towards a player who’s on the verge of averaging a triple double for an entire season.
Think about this. There are only 13 players in the league averaging a double double at the moment. Only 2 of which, Westbrook and James Harden, are doing so with points and assists. The other 11, all big men, are doubling up with points and rebounds; in which Russ (a 6’3” point guard to remind you) is averaging more boards per game than 3 of them (Demarcus Cousins, Kevin Love, and Karl-Anthony Towns). On average, about 20 different players will get triple doubles in a season and about half of them will only record 1. Yet he’s being expected to do this every night for 82 games. By the way, have we even brought up that he could be the first player since Tiny Archibald to lead the league in points and assists?
The numbers will always speak for itself but it’s not just about that. It’s not about chasing Tiny or Oscar. It’s not about sprinting to and through the history books. It’s not about what Russ is doing that makes you either love or hate him. It’s about how he goes about doing it. Russ is 1 of 1. He’s the most explosive point guard the NBA has ever seen and he brings it every night like no other. Being such a rare commodity makes it easier to praise or critique his game because it’s not the norm. One fan’s praise of his endless energy can be another critic’s perception of carelessness. Criticizing his shot selection or volume of shooting and be argued as passion for the game and a killer mentality comparable to Kobe and Jordan. Many are in awe of how easy it’s become to do one of the hardest single game feats in the sport while others will try to make an argument that he tries too hard to get these numbers. The latter seems like such an unavailing argument to make. You’re not going to see Billy Donovan questioning his point guard’s willingness to rebound. It would be hard for him to call someone averaging 11 assists a night a ballhog as well. That said, there’s no arguing that every night he steps on the floor, he’s going to treat it as if it’s his last.
There’s certain players in each sport that as a fan, you have no idea how they’re able to accomplish the things they do on a nightly basis. It’s safe to say that Westbrook is in that category of men and women. His mindset of demolishing anybody in his way has taken him from a guy that couldn’t even dunk until his senior year of high school into the high-rising perennial MVP candidate he is today. His rise to dominance is great for the NBA and more importantly great for Oklahoma City. After a summer of turmoil where a top 3 player leaves the organization, there were many questions circulating in OKC about “what happens now?”, “what’s next?”, “how do we fix this?”, and the most important of all, “what does Russ do now?”. It’s clear that Russ has answered the last question signing an extension to stick with the team that drafted him for the time being. He’s doing his best to answer all of these questions on the fly while also having to answer the media’s questions related to the departure of Kevin Durant. The added pressure of being the sole leader of the team has yet to phase him as he’s kept the Thunder as one of the top teams in the Western Conference.
While Russell Westbrook has been an easy target for criticism throughout his career, none has come from the fans in OKC. An area which only received publicity from disasters before the organization moved from Seattle, Oklahomans needed something to cheer for. They needed a jolt of energy. They needed hope, and Westbrook symbolizes all of that on and off the court. Russ, who married his college sweetheart, who still has the same small circle of friends he grew up with, who’s brother you’ll see courtside at every home game, has shown nothing but love and loyalty to not only the Thunder organization, but the whole state of Oklahoma. Many people outside of the state don’t get to see the community work he’s done, which got him inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame this past November; but they may see him yelling and screaming on the court or pulling up for a contested jumper and make their own opinions from there.
There’s only a handful of players ever to put on an NBA uniform that have brought the same intensity that Russ brings to the court every single night while nobody has shown his explosion and aggression. One of the most unique players in the league is having one of the greatest seasons we’ll ever see and there’s nothing you or anybody playing against him can do about it. Enjoy it now because you never know if you’ll see it again.
Now you do what you want, Russ. Please, please keep doing so.
Written by: Aaron Summers