Russell Westbrook will never win an NBA title. He’s a loyal husband, a dedicated father, apparently has good taste in clothes, but he will never be an NBA champion. His latest postseason exit, against the Utah Jazz (!!!), came as a result of a brand of basketball that any team featuring Westbrook can’t avoid playing. After a streak of Playoff appearances, Westbrook has not only run the Thunder into the ground, he’s branded them as a restricted area for any potential free agents.
Plenty has been said of his 43 shots in Game 6, 19 of them three-pointers. In case you’ve forgotten, he’s the worst three-point shooter in the league, and he attempted more of them in Game 6 than the number of shots the Thunder bench attempted combined. Why is it like this? It’s more than clear that teams that rely almost exclusively on one player, even if that player is LeBron James, don’t succeed. Hero ball is synonymous with playground ball, and the NBA requires something more mature and developed. The Jazz won because they played with each other and Donovan Mitchell responsibly carried a relatively heavier shooting load. The Thunder lost because four guys got on-court seats to the Westbrook show.
What does this mean for the Thunder moving forward? They opened the season with the “OK3”, made up of Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony. George is a star, Carmelo used to be a star. In terms of where each member of the big three is at in the career, this big three can be compared to the big three in Miami after “The Decision”. The main difference? The Miami big three had a facilitator. LeBron dominated the game and continues to dominate the game because he doesn’t see himself as a scorer, and shares the ball. Westbrook throws on the blinders, gets his triple double, and throws up more threes in a game than Billy Donovan cares to admit.
Who the hell wants to play with that? Go to Golden State, they have a winning culture and a group of smart players who run a system. Go to Philadelphia, they have a growing group of young stars that might actually win the East this year because they play team basketball. Westbrook can have Oklahoma City, and he’ll likely have it all to himself in a year or two.
In fact, its probably a great thing he signed that extension in little Oklahoma City. Perhaps more publicly discussed than his 43 shots are his encounters with the Jazz fans during that series. He was clearly frazzled and bothered, and couldn’t handle the pressure. As a resident of Salt Lake City and someone who interacts with the delusion of Jazz fans on a daily basis, I’ve learned to take it in stride. It’s kind of like talking to the crazy guy in line at the DMV; let him dominate the conversation, let him feel smart and like he’s teaching you something, and go on about your day, knowing that your interests and desires are superior than the Utah freaking Jazz. Much like people in a small take obsessive and hostile pride over their high school football team or rodeo or movie theater, Utahans have the Utah Jazz and Real Salt Lake, which adds up to 1.5 professional sports teams. If you can’t handle that yellow-toothed, ignorant vulgarity not exclusive to but for some reason highlighted in Salt Lake City, heaven forbid you ever end up as a Knick.
Westbrook is an incredible talent and a top-tier athlete to say the least. He’s got all the tools to succeed, but he has the one drawback to ensure he never fulfills his potential: pride. Keep it up, Russ, and you’ll munch on your fried mayonnaise in OKC forever. Shed the pride and highlight a system with Billy Donovan, maybe you’ll change my mind.