“Nobody knows who I am. That’s my motivation. Keep working hard and someday somebody is going to notice,” said a 19-year-old Russell Westbrook to VIBE back in 2008. Fast forward to 2017 and well Russell, everyone knows who you are for better or worse. As Westbrook’s record-breaking season came to an end in Houston Tuesday night, with the Thunder dropping the deciding game 5 Westbrook finished one assist shy of another triple-double.
Take it back to July, where the 2017 Russell Tour began with Durant taking his talents to the Warriors whom they just lost a grueling 7-game series to just a month prior. The 28-year-old played with a reckless abandon every night giving his all, powering the Thunder to 47 wins while becoming the first player to average a triple-double since Oscar Robertson in ’61.
The heroics pulled off each night from the 28-year-old made the NBA regular-season a must watch again, unlike prior seasons. As this made for the best MVP race that I can remember at least. Those last few weeks seemed to push the narrative to vault Westbrook on the path toward his first MVP award, which included two 50-point triple-doubles down the stretch.
Westbrook capped off a tremendous regular season, notching 42 triple-doubles along the way. He also happened to lead the NBA in efficiency rating (what?) and had the highest usage rate for a player ever, breaking the record once held by ’05 Kobe Bryant. Take it to the post-season where the Thunder went down in five games, which included some brutal fourth quarters from a fatigued #0. Russell averaged 37 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists for the series but shot only 38 percent from the field and 26% from three in 39 minutes a game. When the 28-year-old left the floor, the Thunder were an anemic -58 without him in the 4-1 series defeat.
Russell became as enigmatic and polarizing a player we’ve seen eerily reminiscent to Iverson, who led the ’01 76ers to the Finals. I haven’t seen someone carry a team like that since LeBron putting the dreadful ’07 Cavs on his back to a championship appearance and ’05 Kobe leading a porous Laker team which included Smush Parker and Kwame Brown to 45 wins. What surprised me is the articles that have been published recently slamming Westbrook for his “selfish” play and ball-hogging tendencies, and even hearing the great Mike Francesa call his stats “worthless,” which I was really taken back by.
Just appreciate Westbrook for what he did this season, a player that literally did it all for his team and they needed every single bucket, rebound and assist to get those Ws. Without him on the floor, the product was atrocious and they are a 25-win team, if they’re lucky.
2017 Brodie will live on for years long after he’s decided to stop playing basketball. We may never see a player average a triple-double again. Oklahoma City has a lot of questions to answer on a roster lacking star-power. Will they go out and add a Carmelo or Blake Griffin? Does Westbrook opt-out of his phantom extension after next season and bolt from OKC after realizing this can’t be done alone?
Either way, I applaud the fashion god and appreciate greatness when I see it. Thank you for making the regular season great again. Enjoy the time off with your new-born Brodie, you most certainly deserve it, Russ. See you next season.