The NBA in 2014 might have more stars at one time than the league has ever seen.
From Lebron James (hero turned villain turned champion) to Kobe Bryant (the old, unfiltered uncle of the league) to Blake Griffin (expert dunker and professional flopper) to even Kevin Durant (reigning MVP and silent assassin who can score at all times)the league is filled with superstars.
And you’d be dead wrong if you thought any of the above players were the most interesting in the league today.
That’s because there is only one player who gives us the full spectrum of greatness and frustration, at 100 miles per hour, all through the course of one game.
That man is Russell Westbrook. Underappreciated superstar and the most interesting man in the NBA.
Once on the basketball court, Westbrook is a non-stop fury of pure energy.
There is the good:
and the WTF?!
But no matter which of the above it is, you’re always getting something noteworthy with Russ, and that’s what makes him so great.
Tune in to any Thunder game and you might get all four of these types of moments in a span of five minutes. You never really know what to expect from Westbrook. He will amaze you, anger you, stress you out and excite you. You just never know what’s coming. The only certainty is that he will give you 100% for every second he is on the floor.
The most interesting thing about Westbrook may be the way the media deals with him. Search ‘Russel Westbrook’ on Twitter following a Thunder loss and you’d think that every OKC loss is directly tied to Russ. Do the same search after a Thunder win and you’ll find about half the results.
All of that comes with being the second (and loudest) star on a title-contending team. Especially when the Alpha on your team is Kevin Durant, reigning MVP and do-no-wrong superstar. The thing about Durant is he’s so likeable that people seem to prefer just blaming Westbrook any time OKC has problems. Russ is loud, cocky and brash, so it’s easy to point at him as all that is wrong with the team.
But the fact of the matter is that there are not many guards in the league today that can affect a game like Russell Westbrook can. Quick question, how many players in NBA history have multiple triple-doubles in Game 7’s?
Russell Westbrook joined Rajon Rondo as the only players in NBA history with 2 Game 7 triple-doubles. (@EliasSports)
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 4, 2014
That’s an incredible stat. For all his faults, and yes there are many of them, Westbrook is exactly the kind of player you want on your team in a big game. He is not afraid of the moment, and more often than not he will deliver.
Just take a look at Game 5 against the Clippers. With Durant struggling through a tough shooting night in the biggest game of the season, Westbrook absolutely took over. Forget the game-high 38 points, just take a look at the play by play of the final 49 seconds, when the Thunder went on an 8-0 run to steal the game and series lead.
All Westbrook did was assist on a Durant 3, rebound the ensuing Clipper miss, assist on another Durant basket, force a Chris Paul turnover, draw a foul and hit three clutch free throws to win the game. Oh and he passed out some popcorn and sodas to the fans.
The best part of that sequence wasn’t the steal, or the flying rebound, it was the pull-up three with 7 seconds left and Durant on the floor. It was the most Westbrook shot of the game, and he drew the biggest foul of the game on it. All you could do was watch it and think “WHAT ARE YOU DO— YES FOUL!!!”
And such is the life with Russell Westbrook who was absolutely the cause of that Thunder win. Unfortunately for him, the focus has been on a botched review rather than what might have been his finest playoff game.
But that is the life when you are the most underappreciated star in the league. Sadly, it looks more and more like Westbrook will need his own team for people to fully appreciate what the guard brings to the game.
If the Thunder lose their next game or are eliminated from the playoffs before a Finals berth, blame will fall at Westbrook’s feet. Whether that is fair or not is up to you, but one thing that is guaranteed is it won’t change the way Russ plays the rest of this postseason.
A hundred miles per hour, a perfect blend of controlled and wreckless. He is, the most interesting (and underappreciated) man in the NBA.