Russell Westbrook has nearly every individual accolade a professional basketball player can have: an Olympic medal, a league MVP award and two All-Star Game MVP awards, including the inaugural Kobe Bryant All-Star Game MVP. The one thing Westbrook hasn’t accomplished in his Hall of Fame-worthy career, however, is an NBA championship.
Westbrook came close with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012, but he and his teammates fell to LeBron James and star-studded the Miami Heat. Now, Westbrook has joined forces with James with the hope of bringing an NBA-record 18th championship to his childhood team, the Los Angeles Lakers.
But while Westbrook would obviously like to win, he obviously resents the idea of a championship defining his legacy, as he told Dave McMenamin of ESPN in a recent interview:
“Russ reminds me of Allen Iverson, wanting to win but wanting to win on his terms,” one Eastern Conference executive told ESPN. “If he can take a step back and win in L.A., it will validate everything else he’s done in the league.”
Westbrook, when informed of the Iverson parallel, pushed back.
“I disagree for multiple reasons,” Westbrook told ESPN. “No. 1, I believe that I am a one-of-a-kind player, and I respect Allen and respect everything he’s done for the game, but I’m not comparable to Allen Iverson by any means. No. 2, is that I’ve been probably — I feel, myself — always trying to fit in to do the best for the betterment of the team. And I’ve always done that in my career, and I’ll continue to do that and whatever happens, happens. If we win a championship, cool. If we don’t, I’m OK with that too and life goes on.”
I guess we know why Westbrook doesn’t like anonymous sourcing in sports media.
Westbrook’s comments likely won’t go over well with Lakers fans that want every player to be as openly and publicly obsessed with winning a championship as Bryant was, but the truth is that he’s right not to let anyone take away from what he’s accomplished in his career.
At the end of the day, basketball is a team sport, and those teams are very rarely handpicked by the players themselves. Plus, teams have to be extremely lucky to win a championship more often than not. In other words, if Westbrook doesn’t win a championship before he retires, it won’t be his fault, at least not entirely.
Thats not to say people shouldn’t have expect Westbrook to contribute to a championship team — they absolutely should — but no one should hold it against Westbrook’s ultimate resume if he can’t get it done, in Los Angeles or elsewhere.