Everything from the way he plays the game of basketball to what socks he puts on in the morning is polarizing. To go along with how polarizing Westbrook the human and athlete is, the opinions and commentary surrounding the man are just as polarizing.
You could put 10 NBA journalist/media personalities and 10 basketball fans in a room and give them the subject of Russell Westbrook and you will have 20 different opinions ranging from he’s the best point guard in the NBA all the way to saying he is all hog cancer that you can’t play alongside and will never win a championship.
Westbrook has always had a contentious relationship with the outside world, simply put if you’re not wearing an Oklahoma City Thunder logo on your shirt you’re the enemy and it would be in your best interest to tiptoe around the beast that is Russell Westbrook. Westbrook doesn’t discriminate when it comes to who feels his venom, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Thunder beat writer or an owner of an NBA team, you cross
him, his family or his team you will be destroyed. There is a cost to having a
mentality and attitude like Westbrook and that is you put a massive target on your back for people to attack, from a distance of course.
Example A, Example B, Example C, Example D, Example E and Example F,
I could keep going down the alphabet all the way to the letter Z of examples of attempts to assassinate the character and achievements of Westbrook but you get the point.
Last season Westbrook found himself in a very strange and unusual place of being the media good guy after he, who shall not be named left OKC, Westbrook was seen by the national media as a sympathetic figure who had just been abandon and figuratively left for dead in Oklahoma City.
Throughout the season Westbrook would go on to give historic performances night-after-night and ultimately average a triple-double for an entire season and eventually win the most valuable player.
Along the journey, Westbrook was being praised by former contractors like Skip Bayless for his historic play but the people who had utter disdain for Westbrook still tried to tear the man down from dissecting his rebounding stats or even going as far as to attack the triple-double statistic that’s right they have such disdain and hatred for Westbrook they tried to tear down a statistic that has been around for decades. Put in a quote from Simmons and Cowherd about the triple-double here.
This season, the hatred and attack on Westbrook have gone to another level. With winning the league’s MVP award, the arrival of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, it has given the critics more ammo against Westbrook. The Thunder have had a roller-coaster season and the blame for that has been laid at the feet of Westbrook by the national media. If the Thunder lose, Westbrook is always the problem. So if the Thunder win, it would be because of Westbrook, right? No, if the Thunder win it’s in spite of Westbrook. The biggest gun they have been firing in Westbrook’s direction has been the narrative of former teammates being successful once away from Westbrook. For example, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis and Enes Kanter just to name a few. Oladipo is the main player the media has pointed to as an example of the ‘away from Westbrook’ narratives. Oladipo is averaging 23.8 points, 4.3 assists and 5.4 rebounds which has been an improvement from his one season with the Thunder and Westbrook where he averaged 15.9 points, 2.6 assists, and 4.3 rebounds. The stat the media leaves out in this conversation is the usage percentage from last season to now and that is with the Thunder Oladipo had a percentage of 21.4 and this season with the Indiana Pacers his usage percentage has jumped to 30.7.
There is a section of the media that will forever want Westbrook’s head on their wall, no matter what the man does and that is sad. It is also what sports media has become, who can come up with the hottest take and bring in the biggest ratings for their network has become the game the debate generation of sports tv made popular by Skip Bayless and his attacks on LeBron James.
Westbrook will keep on being Westbrook and that’s the beauty in all of this. The people that would go to war with Westbrook understands who he is and that his perfection lies in his imperfections. We know that on a 7-of- 30 shooting night, the seventh made shot could be a game-winning three or on a 10 turnover night Westbrook could come up with a Deion Sanders-like interception in the clutch to create a fast break opportunity for the Thunder.
The point is we love who Westbrook is because we understand who he his. One night he will shoot you out of a game but in the next game, he’s leading a 20 point comeback ending with a buzzer beater for the win. The one thing that will never change is his effort. You will never hear someone question Russell Westbrook’s love for the game that’s universally respected. It doesn’t take the target off his back and it never will, unfortunately.