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NBA 75 Series: #37 Russell Westbrook

Updated: Apr 14, 2022

Coming in at #37 on my NBA 75 Greatest Players of All TIme is the polarizing, ferocious, electric, and most explosive point guard in NBA History, Russell Westbrook. Westbrook was born on November 12th, 1988, in Long Beach, California. Westbrook learned how to play basketball from his father, Russell Westbrook Sr. His father would make Westbrook and his younger brother, Raynard take part in drills to help make them better basketball players. Their mother, Shannon Horton made sure her boys stayed focused and did well on their schoolwork, with Westbrook becoming an honor student.

Westbrook would take all the drills in the backyard he did with his father to Leuzinger High School, standing just 5-foot-8 his freshman year, and weighing just 140 pounds. He wouldn’t receive any national recognition until the summer before his senior year, considering he didn’t start on varsity until his junior year. Tragedy hit Westbrook his sophomore year, as his best friend, Khelcey Barrs died after a pickup game due to an enlarged heart.

Due to a growth spurt that sprouted Westbrook from 5’8 to his current height, 6-foot-3, and the motivation from losing his best friend Barrs, who he had dreams of playing college basketball with at UCLA, he would go on to have a dominant senior year at Leuzinger, averaging 25.1 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.1 steals, and 2.3 assists to help lead them to a 25-4 record, including his first dunk, which we would become accustomed to as his career progressed.

Former UCLA coach, Ben Howland saw the potential a ferocious Westbrook had, and offered him a scholarship to play for the Bruins. Westbrook would decline other college offers to play in his hometown. He would wear the number 0 at UCLA, a number he still wears to this day. As a freshman in 2006-07, playing backup to Darren Collison, he would be used primarily as an energetic defender, and someone who provided a jolt of energy off the bench, averaging just 3.8 points, and less than a rebound and assist per game.

However, Westbrook would quadruple his averages after being named a starter his sophomore season, averaging 12.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. He would be named a All-Pac-10 third team selection, while also winning the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year. The Bruins would reach the Final Four in each of Westbrook's seasons there, losing to the eventual nation champions Florida Gators 76-66 in 2007, and the Derrick Rose-led Memphis Tigers 78-63 in 2008.

After two years at UCLA, Westbrook would enter the 2008 NBA Draft where he would go on to be selected fourth overall by the Seattle Supersonics (now Oklahoma City Thunder). He would go on to have a solid rookie campaign, putting up 15.3 points, 5.3 assists, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.3 steals on the season. He would even put up his first career triple-double that season on March 2, 2009, when he recorded 17 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists against the Dallas Mavericks.

Speaking of triple-doubles, Westbrook would become known as “Mr.Triple-Double” or “Brodie.” Once again, he's the most athletic point guard in NBA history and one of the most polarizing figures to ever step on the court. He’s among the most scrutinized players in history, due to his unapologetic attitude and always going 110%, sometimes forcing the issue offensively which has led to inefficiency and a high volume in turnovers. He didn’t have a great showing in his one and only Finals appearance thus far in 2012 with the Thunder, along with Kevin Durant and Harden. Even Magic Johnson said “That was the worst point guard in the championship finals I’ve seen.”

Despite all the criticism, he and KD formed one of most feared duos in the league until KD’s departure in 2016. They sadly never reached the NBA Finals again together as a duo, the closest being in 2016 in the Conference Finals against the Warriors where the Thunder blew a 3-1 lead. Durant would join the Warriors and it would be the Westbrook solo show in 2016-17 where he would go on to win MVP and average a triple-double for a season (31.6 PPG, 10.7RPG, & 10.4APG), the first since Oscar Robertson!

He has the most triple-doubles of all time (193), with LeBron being the next closest active player with 105. Westbrook holds records for most triple-doubles in a season (42), most consecutive triple-doubles (11), only player to average a triple-double for three consecutive seasons, which makes it four times in his career he has done so!

He also is the only player to ever win the scoring title, MVP award, average a triple-double in the same season, and first player in NBA history with multiple 20-rebound, 20-assist career games. Don't forget to include that he is a nine-time All-Star, two-time All-Star MVP (2015, 2016), nine-time All-NBA selection, led the league in scoring twice (2015,2017), and assists three times (2018, 2019, 2021).

The list of records Westbrook owns is a laundry list, but the one thing he has yet to capture is a NBA title. He has been on three teams since he was traded from the Thunder (Houston, Washington, Lakers) and now is in his hometown Los Angeles with AD, LeBron, and Carmelo, where the Lakers had one of the most disappointing, drama-filled seasons of all time. Altogether, if lucky, capturing a title would do wonders for Westbrook’s legacy and hush many of the naysayers, such as Skip Bayless. However you want to put it, love him or hate him, Westbrook never cheats us fans with his energy toward the game and is a true trendsetter from his style off the court, to his unique game on it.

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