“Miss me with that bulls***”
Such a short statement in a long complex song. This quote, of course, is from the song “King’s Dead” by possibly the best rapper in the game currently, Kendrick Lamar.
There is something about the way that he begins the phrase.
It’s like he’s saying, “Take all the shots you want, but don’t come at me weak because you have no clue what you’re actually talking about.”
At least, that’s how I take it.
Now I’m not one to curse. Personally, I don’t see the point. But that’s neither here, nor there. So while I agree with what Mr. Lamar is saying, you won’t ever hear me say that statement. Instead, I have actually taken the concept and simplified it so that you know exactly what I’m talking about.
“Miss me with your Westbrook Slander.”
Allow me to introduce myself: my name is Dylan. You may have seen my stuff on @ThunderChats on Twitter, or listened to my podcasts, ThunderChats and StatChasers. As you can imagine, I am a huge Oklahoma City Thunder fan.
Every day I fight the good fight of a typical Thunder fan on Twitter: defending our guy, Russell Westbrook. I asked the good people of Twitter to narrow down the reasons people hate Westbrook. I feel like, together, we have come up with a good top five.
There were loads upon loads of responses, so I couldn’t get to them all. But the honorable mentions are as follows: “No IQ”, “Ballhog”, “Westbrick”, “Not Top Ten”, “Inefficient”, “Selfish”, “Emotionally Unstable”, and “He Looks Like A Ninja Turtle” (which makes me laugh every time).
After sorting through all of them, here is my list of the top five reasons people hate Westbrook, and why they don’t know what they’re talking about.
- “He is a stat padder.”
Ah yes, the quintessential argument that everyone likes to throw out there. Made even more famous by declaring his triple doubles are nothing but “arbitrary numbers”.
This also falls in line with “He cares more about his stats than winning”, which is just as absurd.
Yes, Russell Westbrook has the uncanny ability to get a triple double in any given game. But, that doesn’t mean he values them over winning. While we’re at it, let’s look at the record of the Thunder when Westbrook gets a triple double.
103 wins to 20 losses.
That’s an 83.7% win rate for those keeping track at home. To say the Thunder benefit from Russ’ triple doubles would be an understatement. Now, for the argument about his rebounds, particularly on the defensive end.
People like to take quotes and use them out of context. Which is what everyone did with Carmelo Anthony’s comments last season about Russ stealing rebounds.
“‘He steals rebounds, sometimes…’ admitted Carmelo Anthony. And that’s all many people heard. Context is very important when deciding whether a narrative is correct or not. What gets framed as an end all, be all statement, usually isn’t what it actually seems. What many people didn’t hear is what Melo said prior to the rebounding comment.
“For me, it’s good to have a guard like that, being able to crack back and get rebounds.”
The quote after the rebounding comment further crystallized what Melo was really trying to say: “…but anytime you have a guard like that to come back and rebound the way he does, because we wanna push the break, and when he gets it off the rebound he’s able to jump start the break, and a lot of good things happen from there.”
But all people heard was “stealing” and stat padding, which made for an overblown narrative. As far as the “good things” Carmelo spoke of: The Thunder’s overall offensive rating last year was 112.6. Their offensive rating when Westbrook got the defensive rebound: 121.8. That’s a 9.2 point difference, folks. You do the math.
- “He lost in the playoffs to a rookie.”
Recency bias comes into play here. Yes, the Oklahoma City Thunder lost in six games to the Utah Jazz. But Russell Westbrook didn’t lose to a rookie, or specifically, Donovan Mitchell.
Alex Kennedy of Hoops Hype pointed this out perfectly. During the playoffs, OKC performed like a 51.9-win team in Jerami Grant’s 103 minutes on the floor. In the 186 minutes that Carmelo Anthony replaced Grant on the court, they performed like an 18.7-win team.
If anyone deserves the lion’s share of blame in that series, it’s Mr. Stay Me7o himself.
After Russell Westbrook’s Herculean effort in Game 5, in which he almost single-handedly set fire to a 25-point 2nd half deficit and led the Thunder to a victory; he found himself seemingly going at it alone in Game 6. There was little in the help department from many of the other Thunder players.
- Paul George: 3-16 shooting, 5 points
- Carmelo Anthony: 3-7 shooting, 7 points
- Alex Abrines: 0-3 shooting, 0 points
- Raymond Felton: 1-5 shooting, 3 points
The only people remotely helpful on offense were:
- Jerami Grant: 3-6 shooting, 9 points
- Steven Adams: 9-11 shooting, 19 points
Bottom line, Westbrook had a lot working against him after he gave his team a chance to push the series past five games. But neither his teammates nor the refs did anything to help matters moving forward.
Westbrook didn’t lose that series. He was the only reason it lasted as long as it did.
- “He has a sorry attitude.”
One of the most ridiculous bullets in a Westbrook Slandering revolver is his attitude. Russ made it very clear he isn’t in this game to make friends when he said, “When I get on the court I got one friend… and that’s Spalding.”
Spalding, of course, isn’t in reference to a preppy frat boy or an English butler, but instead, to the basketball itself.
Here’s the thing about this point, though. It applies to most NBA players.
Steph Curry throwing his mouthpiece. LeBron James telling reporters to do better. Draymond Green…. existing. All NBA players have a little bit of attitude. It’s one of the things that got them to where they are today.
But that’s because this “attitude” is often mistaken for something else entirely: competitiveness.
Top to bottom in the entire association, if a player is complaining, it’s because something has happened that could affect their chances to win.
Bottom line. Period.
These guys are the greatest athletes in the world, they get paid millions of dollars to compete night in and night out. Westbrook is no different than your favorite player.
Except he probably cares a little bit more.
- “He has poor shot selection.”
We’ve seen this many times before: Westbrook dribbles the ball up, stops at the 3-point line, shoots a three with 20 seconds left on the shot clock.
Sometimes it goes in, sometimes it doesn’t.
We’ve seen this many times before: Westbrook gets the ball, dribbles the shot clock down, and pulls up on a contested midrange jumper.
Sometimes it goes in, sometimes it doesn’t.
Jrue Holiday, Dennis Smith Jr., Markelle Fultz, Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan.
Don’t mind me. I’m just naming some notable players who shot more contested 2’s than Russ’s 12.2%.
The party really gets going when you look at the percentage for contested 3 pointers. The Splash Bros. and Kevin “the Snake” Durant. The Trailblazer’s guard duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. The Wizards of the Beltway, Bradley Beal and John Wall. Donovan Mitchell, Devin Booker, Victor Oladipo, etc. All these players shot a higher percentage of contested threes as compared to Westbrook’s 0.2%.
The point is all players take bad shots. They just don’t look as bad if they go in. And the NBA is chock full of players that can make a bad shot from time to time.
Here is the best example I can think of. I love playing basketball. I am not Steph Curry.
Steph Curry can dribble the ball between his legs, behind his back for a full 10 seconds, chuck up a contested 3 and it go in. And everybody is talking about how good Steph is. I can do the same thing and if I miss, which is a likely occurrence, my teammates are going to give me the “rolled eyes” treatment and I’m going to get clowned off the court. But if I make it, while awesome, doesn’t mean I’m better at basketball than Steph Curry. It was still a bad shot, no matter who took it, it just happened to go in.
Sure, there are players whom you would feel more comfortable taking the bad shots. But Westbrook as proven the mettle to make those bad shots on more than one occasion. And he’s willing to shoot those shots. Time and time again. Big stage. Big moment. Shot goes up, results be damned. Why? Because he wants that moment.
And the shot always looks better when the ball goes in.
- “He is a bad teammate.”
In Russell Westbrook’s 10 seasons at the Oklahoma City Thunder, he has played with 80 teammates. Only two teammates have ever even hinted at any sort of disdain towards Westbrook. One wanted his spot, and the other has contradicted himself more times than Kyrie Irving dribbles a ball in a possession.
Reggie Jackson, who infamously wrote “SPG” or “Starting Point Guard” on his shoes while still on the Thunder roster, had issue with Westbrook because he was the guy who was keeping him from his goal. It wasn’t an issue with Westbrook, it was an issue with minutes.
But as a teammate?
“Because people don’t — I don’t think they really look at the fun times I had. That was what was really eating at me. I had a great time in Oklahoma. Best teammates. Some of the best memories I’ll ever have playing basketball.” said Reggie Jackson on The Vertical Podcast in 2015.
He goes on to talk about the kind of player that played in front of him.
“I just wasn’t going to be able to find minutes. And it’s kind of hard, of course, to ask to cut the minutes of a top five point guard in the league so that you can get more.”
Here’s a snippet from Howard Beck’s story on Durant leaving because of his frustration with Westbrook:
Their partnership produced four conference finals appearances, and one trip to the Finals, in the last six years. It also produced a simmering frustration that, in essence, paved the way for his exit.Durant wanted an offense that kept the ball moving and provided him easier scoring chances. The Thunder fired coach Scott Brooks, brought in Billy Donovan, and still the offense stalled out at key moments, often with Westbrook dribbling into oblivion. The Thunder led the NBA in blown fourth-quarter leads last season, despite their firepower.Ultimately he got frustrated and felt that they had plateaued,” said a person with insight into Durant’s thought process.
So this is where the whole “Westbrook is the reason KD left” narrative was born.
But then Durant famously tweeted on his personal (burner) account, “he didn’t like the organization or playing for Billy Donovan. His roster wasn’t that good, it was just him and Russ.” “Imagine taking Russ off that team, see how bad they were. KD can’t win a championship with those cats.”
So a reporter says that KD left because of Russ, and KD says Russ was all they had? Who should we believe? I’m not gonna tell you to believe Durant, because that’s what OKC did for years. And as Durant said to Stephen A Smith, “the guy you see now is the real me; the guy in Oklahoma City was the phony”
But that’s 2 out of 80 that have any source of disdain for Russ. What about some of the other 78?
Victor Oladipo played for the Thunder for one season, but the impact Russ has on his game was apparent last season.
“One thing I learned from him (Russ) is he’s on 110 every day. The thing about me is that he’s on 110, I’m trying to get to 115. That’s something he kinda instilled in me without doing anything. Just being himself and that’s how I am here.” Said Victor Oladipo to Adrian Wojnarowski.
He weighs in on the example that Russell set, “He’s (Westbrook) a future hall of famer no question, and in order to get that, I’m going to have to put in the work and put in another level that I’ve never worked before. That’s what I did this summer and it’s paying off for me.”
Enes Kanter credits Russ with turning his career around, “He (Russ) is the type of guy who makes himself better and everyone around him better. He made me so much better on the court, off the court. He was like a big brother for me.”
I could continue listing the players who had something positive to say about Westbrook. Why the media plays the “no one want to play with Westbrook” narrative, it beyond me. Jerami Grant says it best in a recent interview with Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype:
“That’s just ignorant. I think people just listen to the media [who say that] and believe it, but Russ is a great teammate and a great person. Players obviously want to play with him. [Paul George] just re-signed to come back. I just re-signed to come back. I know of a lot of players who want to be in OKC. I think that’s a huge misconception in the media and I don’t know why it’s said.”
In conclusion; does Westbrook have his flaws? Absolutely. Kobe, LeBron, Michael, Curry, Bird, Magic, etc., they all had flaws. Is that a reason to hate and slander that guy any chance you get? Absolutely not.
Westbrook may be viewed as a stat-padding bad teammate, with a terrible attitude on the court. But off the court he is just a human like me and you.
He has a wife (who was his high school sweetheart), a son (who has his mean mug down to a “T”) and another “bun in the oven” on the way. He has a small circle. His relationships are very important. He likes to record himself singing along to his favorite songs. His Why Not? foundation is constantly finding ways to better the lives of children in the community.
Enes puts it best, “Well, to the media he (Russ) is very different, but on the court, off the court he is one of the best guy’s I’ve ever been around. He makes jokes, he laughs, he eats gummy bears and drinks Snapple on the plane. He’s a good dude, he plays 2 Chains, he’s a really chill dude.”
It’s actually unreal to me that a player of Westbrook’s caliber has been put under this big of a microscope, to the point where people are constantly searching for a reason to not like the guy He is undoubtedly one of the more exciting players in the league, he is breaking records left and right, and he arguably has the best assembly of talent he has had in his career. But people choose to nitpick, find his flaws, and create false narratives around him.
I pity them really; because one day they are going to look back and realize they were witnessing greatness, and they didn’t take the time to appreciate the moment.
Don’t be those people. Sit back and grab some popcorn because Russell Westbrook is in his prime and we get to witness it on a night to night basis.
Oh, and just in case you forgot.
Miss me with your Westbrook Slander.