By Peter Lockwood
Special to Niagara Frontier Publications
In 2016, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and the rest of the Oklahoma City Thunder had a 3-1 lead in a best of 7 series in the Western Conference Finals on the team that had just posted the best regular season NBA record in history. Fast forward a year later, Durant is an NBA champion on what was arguably the most overpowered team in NBA history, the Golden State Warriors. And Russ? Well, Westbrook had just accomplished something that hadn't been done in over 50 years: He set the record for most triple-doubles in a season, and was named the 2017 NBA Most Valuable Player.
A broken friendship and the betrayal of a teammate had caused one of the most historic seasons in NBA history.
Westbrook led his team to the 4 seed in a stacked Western Conference. While his superstar teammates lacked consistency, he was reliable night in and night out. They currently are in a series tied with Utah 1-1. Westbrook led his team in points per game, rebounds per game and assists per game this regular season. He was seventh in the NBA in points per game, averaging 25.4; first in assists per game, averaging 10.3; and 10th
in rebounds per game, averaging 10.1. He was the only player to be in the top 10 in all those three categories according to nba.com
Last year, Westbrook achieved a feat many thought would never be done again - and hadn't been done in over 50 years. Then he did it again this year. Last season, Westbrook became the first player since Oscar Robertson (1962) to average a triple-double for the season.
To tally a triple-double, one must get at least 10 in three different statistical categories. Most commonly, this means getting at least 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Westbrook is the only player ever to accomplish this two years in a row, and he is climbing the all-time triple-double leader board at a ferocious pace. He currently sits fourth all time in most career triple-doubles according to basketball-reference.com
and is subsequently one of only four players to have over 100 career triple-doubles. Westbrook is currently 77 shy of Robertson's record 181 career triple-doubles.
Westbrook is one of the most unique players in NBA history, but it doesn't stop at just his game. He is also known for his eye-catching taste in fashion - which never goes unnoticed when he shows up to a game. Westbrook has his own clothing line and makes plenty of appearances on the GQ website. He has been known to make interesting choices on the court, and it certainly carries over to some of his off-the-court fashion decisions, too. But, never-the-less, it keeps us entertained, which is Westbrook's job.
He takes his fashion very seriously. This can be attested to as one could find him at New York's Fashion Week this past year and giving a front-row report according to an article published on wmagizine.com
for shows by Louis Vuitton and Dior. The article also quoted Westbrook saying his mother is his style icon, although he'd never wear women's clothes. Westbrook even has his own book, "Style Drivers," and has his own Air Jordan collection, "Why Not?", which has become a phrase that he has made his own and so much more.
While his style speaks for its self, it only speaks for its self once. Once for him, that is. In an interview on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" back in September of 2017, Westbrook talked about how he never wore an outfit more than once. Once he has worn it, he donates it to Goodwill or to friends.
This is not the only acts of kindness Westbrook is known for. His foundation - also titled "Why Not?" - is an organization he started back in 2012, according to the foundation's website, whynotfoundation.org
. The foundation has a goal of inspiring kids. It encourages them to ask themselves "Why not have a better life?" - a question the organization want kids facing hardships and adversity to answer positively.
Westbrook knows what it's like to go through adversity as he himself had a rough childhood growing up in Long Beach, California.
He still has a lot to gain, but definitely has just as much to lose. A championship would bolster his reputation from a great player who had a knack for racking up triple-doubles and the 2017 NBA MVP as well as a regular on the all-star team, to an elite point guard who defined what it meant to never give up and to give it your all in order to win. He is, according to ESPN's Stephen A. Smith, "the most ruthless competitor in the entire sport."
Westbrook is climbing the record books in all categories and, while he is still in his prime, he is well positioned to someday become the all-time leader in triple doubles.
But would that mean anything to him if he never gets as ring?
He's had opportunities; he had a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals only to watch it slip away (and then with it his star teammate, Durant, who also slipped away). Even before that, he had been to the NBA Finals where he was crushed by Lebron James and the Miami Heat.
Westbrook has come up short every time no matter how much effort he has put in, but in the end, one man cannot win his team a championship. Even now, a team that was remade into what was supposed to be a force in the West, a juggernaut to challenge the Golden State Warriors, has faltered and it has been Westbrook dragging his team across the finish line into the playoffs.
He is simply an incredible man, a man who has lost so much, but has worked so hard and is determined to do the right thing and to be a winner. Westbrook has changed the game of basketball by playing the game with anger, energy and a ferocity that has never been witnessed before, especially not out of a point guard. There is still much to come from this man.
If you don't think he is capable of being known as one of the greatest players of all time, while inspiring so many young basketball players, then ask yourself "why not?"