Russell Westbrook is a very polarizing player. Some fans and media personalities view him as one of the best players to ever play the game while others think he is the worst. Whether it’s his record-breaking triple-doubles or his wild and sometimes erratic play, someone always has something positive and negative to say about him. This raises the question of which is he? One of the best to ever play or one of the worst? The answer is very nuanced and it is in between the two.
It is very easy for opposing fans and media personalities alike to hate on him because of his erratic play. Once the game starts to get out of hand he tends to rush and puts in on himself to get his team back into the game. He tends to shoot very tough contested jumpers that do not hit the rim. This allows the opposing team and their fans to get into his head and get him and his team out of character.
Westbrook is a very smart and athletic player but when it comes to game management he is not always the best. Rushing the game and putting all the pressure on himself is a part of that. A part of the issue with this as well is coaching. Westbrook has never had a top-level coach that has enabled and coached him up to be an elite game manager. These coaches have been Scott Brooks and Mike D’Antoni. Neither of these coaches has ever been considered elite when it comes to game management and point guard coaching.
Brooks and the Oklahoma City Thunder were up 3-1 on the Golden State Warriors in 2016. What doomed The thunder was their lack of execution and their point guard play. The offense in games 5,6, and 7 became stagnant and there was too much isolation and hero ball. This was the case because of coaching and the lack of game management and point guard play. The point guard is supposed to be the extension of the coach and a team’s stabilizing force. This has been an area in which Westbrook has lacked.
When it comes to Westbrook’s statistics, he is clearly an all-time great. In the 2020-21 season, Westbrook averaged 22.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 11.7 assists. These numbers only compare to the likes of NBA great Oscar Robertson. No other player in NBA history has been able to post triple-doubles at a consistent rate other than Westbrook and Robertson. In the 2020-21 season he passed Robertson in total triple-doubles in his career. Robertson had 181 career triple-doubles and Westbrook now has 184.
By the end of his career, he will obliterate this record. Numbers aren’t everything in basketball but this record is very impressive. If getting triple-doubles were easy everyone would be doing it. Media personalities and fans alike try to discredit Westbrook’s stats and act like they are empty. This could be farther from the truth. Westbrook has been a winner throughout his career but his lack of elite coaching and the correct construction of a team around him has hindered his ability to make a deep run in the postseason.
Give him his flowers
To fans and media personalities alike, Russell Westbrook remains a very polarizing player. But, if one actually watches the games it is obvious that Westbrook is a great player that will go down in the history books. He has been hindered by the incompetence of some of the front offices and coaching staffs that he has played for but as an individual Westbrook has always given every team he plays for everything that he has. It comes down to the teams he has played for not putting him in the position to succeed. Russel Westbrook is an all-time great and he should be treated that way.