The NBA has cultivated an interesting relationship between fans of teams and fans of players. No other sport lends itself to individual stardom the way basketball does, and that has led to some fascinating standoffs when the interests of the individual and the interests of the team align against each other.
Russell Westbrook has one of the most passionate fan bases of all NBA superstars and, as one would expect, their relationship with Lakers fans this season was not exactly, um, healthy.
All season, as the Lakers fell hilariously short of expectations, if blame was assigned to anyone, that person’s supporters would shift blame to someone else. As Westbrook was assigned more blame than anyone, his fans probably played more defense over the course of the season than he has in years.
This week on “The Anthony Irwin Show,” I welcomed my good friend Phillip Barnett on to talk about what it was like to check both of those boxes. He’s easily the biggest Westbrook fan I know, but is also a lifelong Lakers fan. I was fascinated by this interpersonal juxtaposition, so I asked him what that was like.
What followed was a really interesting look into what we value in professional sports in 2022 compared to how we looked at the game earlier in life. At some point in the last decade or so, analysis of what leads to wins took precedent over what produces the most entertainment value, and no other NBA star has felt that transition more harshly than Westbrook.
Is he blameless for how he’s viewed at this stage of his career? Obviously not. But looked at through the prism of how high school me would respond to current me using phrases like asset allocation in reference to the Lakers and it’s hard not to feel like I’d want to stuff myself into a locker.
We discussed that, what comes next for Westbrook, and plenty more.
You can listen to all that and more on our latest episode in the player embedded below, and to make sure you don’t miss a single one moving forward, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts.
And for a short-form recap pod, check out Lakers Lowdown, in which Anthony Irwin recaps the previous day’s news and gets you ready for the day ahead in LakerLand, every weekday morning on the Silver Screen & Roll Podcast feed.