Russell Westbrook, the likely NBA MVP, saw his season end Tuesday night. But that doesn’t erase what he accomplished.
I don’t care how you try and slice it — Russell Westbrook’s 2016-17 campaign was one of the greatest seasons ever constructed.
Let me say it again for those in the back: RUSSELL WESTBROOK’S 2016-17 CAMPAIGN WAS ONE OF THE GREATEST EVER.
As the great William Congreve once said, “Hell hath no fury like a Westbrook scorn’d,” and Russ took out whatever anger he harbored about Kevin Durant leaving on all 30 of the NBA’s teams.
His individual statistics were phenomenal, and he managed to carry the Thunder to a 47-win season which was right on with where Vegas expected them to land. With 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4, Westbrook was a one-man band who kept Oklahoma City in as many games as he shot them out of. Through the good and the bad, Westbrook was polarizing to watch. And the absurdity of his box scores allows us to look past his meager shooting percentages (42.5 from the field, 34.3 from three) and egregious turnover numbers (5.4 a game).
Oscar Robertson is no longer the only person to have averaged a triple-double for an entire season, and Westbrook sits by himself with 42 games of at least 10 points, 10 boards and 10 dimes. He went out every night and played his heart out; with a never relenting aggression and toughness meant to wear down opponents, and that’s how he was able to drag the Thunder to a multitude of come-from-behind victories.
With this season, Westbrook became one of a handful of NBA stars with the power to fill arenas by themselves. And he his peers publically showered him with love for what he accomplished. It didn’t matter if he had 11 turnovers or shot 17-of-44 from the field, the opportunity to go and watch history be made is alluring to so many people.
It wasn’t the most dominant season ever. It’s up there, though. Wilt Chamberlain, who averaged 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds in 1962, is at the top. Michael Jordan is also on that list, and you’re free to pick from 1987, ’88 or ’89. (His cumulative stats are actually nauseating: 34.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 3.0 steals, 1.3 blocks and a 51.6 percent clip from the field.) More recently, we have Kobe Bryant‘s 2006 campaign where he averaged 35.6 points, 5.3 boards and 4.6 assists, but he wasn’t the all-around threat.
Regardless of the numbers, Westbrook became a poster boy for killing. He’s not the typical assassin like Jordan or Bryant; more Maximus Meridius than John Wick.
He did this with a less-than-desirable supporting cast. They weren’t terrible, but they weren’t great. To a point, it’s arguable that Westbrook didn’t utilize them properly. That’s something to save for another day because he never gave up in his teammates and he always spoke highly of them — no matter what. It’s all too easy to look at the guys around you and question them when you’re literally doing everything. But he didn’t. He had their back. He’s the guy you want in your foxhole. Westbrook might not have made them better, but they all could’ve thought they were the best players in the world with the way he praised them.
It’s unfortunate that Oklahoma City didn’t get further into the playoffs, but it almost doesn’t matter. This season was a grace period. The Thunder lost the second-best player on the player on the planet, and Westbrook, allegedly, didn’t care. If you’ve ever had a long-term relationship end, you can relate to this. Russ went out and showed everybody that he doesn’t need Durant to succeed as an individual. He had his fun. He partied and took a whole bunch of Instagram pictures with pretty girls just to prove a point.
That gets tiresome quickly. Now that it’s over, Russ and the Thunder can shift focus. For 2017-18, it’s no longer Westbrook against the world. The narrative shifts and now it’s redemption. We witnessed history that we can tell our kids and grandkids, and we should thank Westbrook for supplying that, but it’s on to bigger and better things.
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