Russell Westbrook Gets this Year’s MMP—Most Memorable Player
Because he’s the hero we deserve, just not the one we need right now.
I could write a few sentences right now about the whole Batman-and-Robin-thing between Kevin Durant and Dew Ambassador Russell Westbrook (with Westbrook as Batman), spinning metaphors about high-flying acrobatics and advanced weaponry and approximately 1,214 words later I’d probably have you nodding away… But the fact is Westbrook is not Batman—that doesn’t make sense.
Just not the one we need right now. Who is we? It certainly isn’t the basketball fanbase. It can’t be the Oklahoma City Thunder. And it definitely isn’t Basketball Twitter. The fact is we ALWAYS need the Brodie.
Hating on Dew Ambassador Russ West was so last year. The point guard played in only 46 games during the 2013-14 season, putting up his worst numbers since 2011. He generated more memes from postgame interviews than coverage for what he did on the court. After that, he spent his summer congregating with European fashion moguls, leaving ample ammunition for the haters to hate some more.
But this season? Do I really need to repeat everyone else? Westbrook is the “annihilating angel of modern basketball.” He “isn’t a nuclear explosion as much as an unceasing series of them,” according to this piece by Triangle Offense. He is rage. Anger. He is fury. He is everything that intimidates people. And he’s the most loveable thing in sports right now.
At times this year, Westbrook was so exhilarating that Kevin Durant could only tweet in awe. Allen Iverson demanded that any bigger Russ West fans show themselves. Even Kobe Bryant got on his soapbox and took heat from the entire basketball community to defend No. 0’s honor.
Kobe knows a thing or two about what Westbrook went through this season. During the 2002-03 season, Bryant’s Lakers were reeling from three straight long championship seasons, as well as losing too many talented role players without getting much in return. Shaquille O’Neal missed time with an injury and the Lakers fell below .500, leaving Lakers coach Phil Jackson with only one option: Unleash Bryant.
Kobe responded with one of the most impressive scoring runs in league history, then missed out on the MVP because his team didn’t win enough games. Sound familiar?
But even I admitted this stretch from Westbrook might’ve been better than anything Bryant’s ever done because while Kobe was a basketball-playing drone, Westbrook is a revelation. It’s not just about the numbers; it’s about everything that goes with it.
Whereas most basketball stars are defined by their on-court play, Westbrook is at the forefront of a new age. It’s his style off the court that defines how he plays. The clothes. The swagger. The attitude and the one-liners and not-giving-a-darn-level—which is very high, according to Nick Collison—makes him utterly uncompromising. LeBron James is probably still the world’s best player and Westbrook might not even be the best player on his own team. But Russell can take solace in being the league’s very first Kanye West.
Last summer, Westbrook launched his own sunglasses line. Then he launched a clothing line. Then the Jordan Brand rewarded him with an upcoming signature shoe. Then he showed up at Fashion Week in New York City. Then he was named Marketing Creative Director of True Religion and starred in a commercial that was probably the coolest/most awkward thing a star NBA player has ever done. (Speaking of Kobe…) Then he became God, almost literally, on the basketball court.
The NBA Playoffs will be fun. The postseason always is. It’s where you can make or break YouTube by hitting season-ending three-pointers or blowing in someone’s ear. Legends are made in the playoffs. But when we think back to 2015 a dozen years from now, we might not remember Stephen Curry’s record-breaking season (especially if Golden State doesn’t win it all_. We might not remember James Harden single-handedly carrying Houston to 56 wins in one of the most loaded conferences we’ve ever seen. We’ll remember Westbrook.