The Icon That Is Russell Westbrook

Despite the hate now, Westbrook will be remembered as a legend

You would think most people would love a player who plays as hard as he can every single game. In the case of Russell Westbrook however, most people show hate. Why? Maybe people are tired of him performing well against their favorite team. Maybe people don’t appreciate the ferocity with which he plays. Or maybe it’s because they say Westbrook is “stat-padding” whenever he plays.

Ah yes, the uninformed public proclaiming that Westbrook only cares about his own numbers and not the good of the team. There is just one slight problem when saying that Westbrook only cares about stats; his stats correlate to wins, and in a big way.

As of February 2019, Russell Westbrook had accumulated 127 triple-doubles throughout his career. His team’s record in those games was 103–24, which was good for an .811 win percentage. So to say Westbrook is just putting up big numbers in order to boost his legacy instead of winning games is just false.

Another thing people use to hate on Westbrook is his team’s lack of playoff success. Some of which Westbrook can be blamed for, but not as much as people think. In 2013, an injury to Westbrook derailed the then number one seeded Thunder’s chance at a trip to another NBA Finals appearance. In 2016, when OKC blew a 3–1 lead against the Golden State Warriors, it was Westbrook’s teammate Kevin Durant which helped spoil an opportunity at a finals appearance. In possible closeout games five and six, Durant shot a lousy 12 of 31 in game five, and 10 of 31 in game six. In a must-win game six during OKC’s 2018 playoff series against the Utah Jazz, Westbrook’s teammate Paul George scored just five points on 2 of 16 shooting. These are aspects which Westbrook simply cannot be blamed for.

Despite what is stated above, people will continue to hate. But that won’t stop Russell Westbrook from being remembered as a legend. Just look at everything he has accomplished.

Accomplishments which many proclaim as “stat-padding”, are actually accomplishments we’ve never seen before. Westbrook currently has the second most triple-doubles in NBA history (146), and could very well finish his career with the most. He is the only player in NBA history to average a triple-double for three consecutive seasons. He holds the record for most triple-doubles in a single season with 42, which came during his historic MVP season. A season which saw Westbrook average 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists per game. He holds the record for consecutive games with a triple-double (11), and has the record for most 50 point triple-doubles in a season (3). He also has the second most points scored in a triple-double with 57.

While these are all statistics related to the triple-double, that is what Westbrook will mainly be remembered for. However, that is hardly where the accolades stop.

As previously mentioned, Westbrook is an MVP award winner. He has been on eight All-NBA teams. He has led the NBA in scoring twice, and in assists twice. He is also the only player in NBA history to win the All-Star game MVP award in consecutive seasons.

Then there’s the iconic moments. Two which stand out above all of the rest.

First, the game-winner against the Denver Nuggets in 2017. A game which saw Westbrook pass Oscar Robertson for the most triple-doubles in a season (Westbrook’s final stat line was 50/16/10). Westbrook made a 35-foot three at the buzzer which eliminated the Nuggets from playoff contention. He scored 18 of OKC’s final 21 points, and put an exclamation point on an MVP season.

A few years later came the 20–20–20 game.

On April 2nd, 2019, Russell Westbrook gave us one of the greatest showings in NBA history. 20 points, 20 rebounds, and 21 assists in a single game. Westbrook became just the second player in NBA history to accomplish that feat. Westbrook dedicated the game to late rapper Nipsey Hussle, who was fatally shot just two days before. After the game, Westbrook said “That’s for my bro, that’s for Nipsey”.

Russell Westbrook has countless more ridiculous stats which I could talk about for hours. I could mention how the Houston Rockets small-ball way of playing has led to Westbrook shooting a career best percentage from the floor. I could mention his fashion sense, or everything he does for the communities which he has lived in. Instead I just want to end on one thing. Legend.

The word legend is defined as an extremely famous or notorious person, especially in a particular field.

All of the records, all of the awards, all of the memorable moments, all of it is Russell Westbrook. All of it is legendary.

University at Buffalo ’20 | BA in Communication | Writer for The Sports Scientist

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