Russell Westbrook is one of the leading candidates in the NBA MVP race this year. He is averaging a triple-double, and if he finishes the season with those numbers, he will be the first player to do so since Oscar Robertson did so more than 50 years ago. However, Robertson did this while averaging 10 more minutes a game than Russell is currently averaging. In short, Russell Westbrook is having a historic season.
Russell is also one of the most criticized NBA players in the league. Critics complain that he shoots too much, hogs the ball, and is inefficient with his shot. These comments existed since he first began his career with Kevin Durant. Durant was always the star, and if they lost it was because he shot too much, didn’t pass enough, or lost control with his quick pace. Now, Russell is the leader of the Oklahoma City Thunder, since Durant left to create the super team in Golden State, but the critics remain. Though he is on a historic pace, many contribute it only to him being a ball hog.
On top of the criticism Russell Westbrook receives for his play, he also receives criticism for his demeanor. He is often short with interviews and comes across as an angry and egotistical teammate. He can come across as a bit uninterested or entitled. He will wear flashy clothes and seems to want the attention.
However, Russell shouldn’t be judged so quickly. Russell is a simple guy that keeps to himself. He is happily married and doesn’t drink. A Sports Illustrated article says it best.
“In the off-season he works out at 8 a.m. at Jesse Owens Park in L.A., where his father trained him, and he still does his dad’s drills. He is often alone. ‘I know what to do,’ Westbrook says. ‘I don’t need a bunch of people around to give me — whatever those people give you.’ He pays his own bills, a rarity in the NBA, hauling stacks of them into the Thunder lunch room. ‘This isn’t $32,’ a staffer heard him grouse at a miscalculated invoice. When the team eats dinner on the road, they toss their phones in the middle of the table, so nobody is distracted. The first person to reach for his cell has to pick up the check. Westbrook typically goes home with a free meal. ‘My life is pretty simple.'”
A quality about Russell Westbrook that is respected, especially among NBA peers, is his extremely competitive spirit. In fact, when Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant were asked who they were most like in the NBA today, they both said Russell Westbrook. Their liking to him was surely due to his fiery competitive spirit.
Russell was quoted by Sports Illustrated after being asked about his play.
“Who it is, what day, what time, pickup, not pickup, I only know how to play one way. There’s nothing extra. I don’t need it. I already have it. My duty is to give all I have. Other people have to think about competing. I don’t. Watch those games and tell me I don’t play the same way.”
Another great quality about Russell is that he has been loyal to his one team since he joined the league. He was content with being the second man when Durant was on the team. Now that he is the leading man, he will do what it takes to win. He wanted Durant to stay. He recruited him to come back to Oklahoma City. Russell Westbrook just wants to win. Now that Durant is not in the picture, Russell is doing what he thinks is best in order to win. He can certainly handle the overblown criticism for most hated MVP candidate, all while staying true to himself.
[Featured Image by Christian Petersen/Getty Images]