In Defense Of Russell Westbrook

Shaina Blakesley, Managing Editor

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How can the most under-appreciated NBA superstar be voted the most overrated player by his colleagues? Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook, according to an anonymous poll conducted by The Athletic, earned 17 percent of this superlative based on 47 out of 127 players’ surveyed opinions.

The passion Westbrook manifests on the court has been misconstrued as aggression, but he is energetic in his sport and has been met with adversity on the hardwood. Westbrook has had to battle against dirty players and coaches (Patrick Beverley, Joel Embiid and Nate Tibbetts), inefficient refereeing (Monty McCutchen) and outright disrespect from fans. This has caused his calm fire to ignite and burn a few people. These players are most likely the ones that voiced their thoughts regarding this idiotic vote, of course, all under the cloak of anonymity.

“It used to be conversations that I was a ball hog, but now I lead the league in assists for the past three years or whatever it is. That’s getting squashed out. Now the conversation is about shooting,” Westbrook said in a recent interview about a game. “Next year I’m going to become a better shooter. After that, it’ll be probably, f**k, who knows. My left foot is bigger than my right one. Who knows?”

Sure, he has a few “stans,” but significantly less than other all-stars in the game, some who don’t deserve the credit in the first place. His fandom understands that he is growing as a player, a person and a role model on and off the court, but they are still critical of his mistakes nonetheless. Unlike other fans of superstars, Westbrook’s following isn’t star-stricken or blinded by his talent where they can’t admit a missed opportunity in a matchup. Westbrook earned his fans due to his drive, determination and skill set, which keeps breaking records.

In each of the last three seasons alone, he has averaged a triple-double and was awarded Most Valuable Player in that time frame, yet there are still seemingly credible media personalities who play coy with his talent on the court. They spew comments that triple-doubles mean nothing, even though he is number one for most in a single season, climbing past Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain. He also has a season ranking him number three on the same chart.

He is averaging 23 points, 11.1 rebounds and 10.5 assists, which is better than Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving and Golden State Warrior star Stephen Curry. In the last three seasons, Irving averaged 24.5 PPG, four rebounds and 5.9 assists, while Curry averaged 26.3 points, five rebounds and six assists. Points are not the only thing that contributes to winning games: efficient offense, defense, ball handling and utilizing the other four on the court build a better franchise team and shows a more dynamic star on the court.

Warriors forward Draymond Green also earned the title of most overrated, but the only difference between him and Westbrook is that he truly deserves the label. Green puts up very little on the offense with a career average of 9.1 points per game, and even less defensively. Green on defense consists solely from his unapologetic mouth rather than his talent on the court with a career average 5.8 defensive rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.1 blocks.

His hype emulates from being the starting five on a powerhouse team, but his value adds very little to that power. His career stats are not much of an improvement from the bench player Jonas Jerebko, who plays half the time as Green. The true winner of this award should be Green because he is the most lackluster “all-star” in the NBA currently. His lifeless talent melded with his unwarranted outbursts and the chip on his shoulder beautifully form the gold plaque adorned with “Most Overrated Player in the NBA.”

What really makes Westbrook overrated in the first place? He has the talent worthy of an MVP and his stans call him out on his mistakes with the intention to help him improve his game. Critics just need someone to poke fun of when news is lacking, and Westbrook is the biggest hot take in the NBA right now.