Learn to Love Russell Westbrook
USA Today Sports
Russell Westbrook has been one of the most criticized players in the NBA for a while now, less for his level of play on the court but more for the way his style is constantly challenging the norm. He plays point guard, but averages 16 shot attempts a game over his career. He is arguably the most athletically gifted player to play the one position of all time, which he does not skimp on utilizing over finesse. Thus, his jumper is as aesthetically pleasing as a Charles Barkley golf swing, his finishes around the rim have the grace of a wrecking ball and his defense oftentimes looks more like a Solange-esque swing fest than a precise Bruce Lee strike. Westbrook isn’t afraid of taking the big shot, even with the best player in basketball wearing the same jersey across the court from him. While all of this may be keeping him from being the league’s best point guard, it’s made him the league’s most unique player, which is something to appreciate.
Here are some other Westbrook-related oddities that make him one-of-a-kind. Russ is third among point guards since 1986 in total 30+ points, 5+ rebounds, 5+ assists games before the age of 26 and fourth among point guards in triple-doubles under the same criteria. Westbrook is the third point guard to average 21.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game in four plus seasons, the other three having played twice as many years as Russ. Westbrook is one of two players to ever average 26 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists a night in double-digit postseason games, the other – Oscar Robertson – did it in 47 minutes a contest. Russ is the third point guard to ever nab 9.5% of available offensive rebounds in 11+ Playoffs games. He is also one of four point guards ever to score 43 points or more in an NBA Finals game, and was the youngest to do so.
This may seem like trivial stat-sheet stuffing but it paints an accurate picture of what Westbrook’s reckless attitude produces. Take his Game 5 against the Clippers, where he scored 38 points on 23 shots, committed four turnovers, and took an incredibly dumb shot that would decide the Thunder’s postseason fate. With eight ticks to play and Oklahoma City down two, Westbrook fired a pull-up contested three in the grill of Chris Paul. As it turns out, he drew the controversial foul and would seal the game with three made free throws. It’s wild and out of the ordinary, but accounts for plenty.
It’s not about taking the good with the bad when it comes to Russell Westbrook, because every player brings their goods and bads, from Kevin Seraphin to LeBron James. It’s enjoying the backwardness of Westbrook instead of scrutinizing it, because at the end of the day he is a good player, even one of the best. The “how” of his being among the NBA’s elite can either be chastised or savored. The NBA’s rarely seen such a specimen of both skill and quirkiness, especially at Westbrook’s position. This is something special that shouldn’t be actively ignored or condemned. I prefer to sit back, smile and revel in Westbrook being Westbrook. Those who don’t should try it sometime.