Russell Westbrook. The most stylish player playing professional basketball, the only Ninja Turtle to not piss me off, and the hardest worker in the NBA.
“Thirty years ago, that’s me.” Take a guess uttered those words prior to OKC’S first game. Oh, only the greatest player to ever do it (I can say that for sure now because you can’t recover from 3-5, and if you think LeBron’s the GOAT, find yourself a train schedule). That’s right, your airness himself, Michael Jeffery Jordan.
The thing is, Russ did something MJ couldn’t. He posted 31.6 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 10.4 assists. A fucking triple double, are you kidding me? I thought I knew enough about basketball to say that could never happen again without a doubt. I have a hunch nobody else saw it coming either.
Does the date April 20, 1986 ring a bell? I’d argue it was the date the greatest basketball performance ever was recorded. MJ dropped 63 on Bird’s Celtics on the road in the toughest venue in the NBA at the time, the Boston Garden. To this day that number stands as the greatest single game scoring performance in the history of the NBA playoffs. What adds to the history is that he missed 64 regular season games. Not having close to a full season under his belt and making five future Hall of Famers look silly trying to guard him is damn impressive.
This story looks to me to be repeating itself, as history does so well. The stat freak, the human highlight reel, the guy who can’t seem to put it together on his own is here again. Except this time, he doesn’t have to beat the showtime Lakers or the Boston Celtics (one of the greatest defenses of all time). He has to dethrone Lebitch and the Warriors.
A tall task, sure. Is he going to rattle off six rings? I can’t say that will happen with confidence, but did anyone think MJ could at the time? This triple double season was Russell’s breakthrough moment. His 63 point “I am here” statement.
Additionally, his stats don’t tell the whole story. Watch the games and you can see his greatness. I’ve never seen somebody take over a game like Russ. Does he get a little rowdy and out of control? Yes. For all those stat people, does his efficiency hurt how some look at him? Of course. But watching him play is special because he simply wants it more than any other player. I’m not exactly sure how he will show everyone what he means to basketball, but in the mean time I’ll sit back and watch him add an MVP to his trophy case. One of many more to come. Throw him someone who can play, maybe a Blake Griffin, and watch what happens. Somebody has next.