Russell Westbrook, Most Valuable
How could you possibly quantify Russell Westbrook’s value?
The NBA tried on Monday night, by handing him a trophy. The trophy said Westbrook was the Most Valuable Player in the entire league. It was a worthy accolade for a historic season, though for most Thunder fans it didn’t even seem like enough.
The top Oklahoma City brass will try again on July 1st, when they hand the Brodie a contract extension offer in excess of $200 million. That will buy you a lot of ripped silk shirts and holy jeans, but again, it feels inadequate.
Because even before the unbelievable season, you simply can’t put a price tag on the feeling that Westbrook brought to the state of Oklahoma on the afternoon of August 4th, 2016. I’ve always said that Oklahoma has a Napoleon complex. We’re a state that’s always just fighting and jostling for a spot at the big boy table of relevance, which is one of many reasons why the Durant departure left such a gaping wound. Like any shunned lover, we unfairly asked “were we the problem?”
To then have a superstar as talented and a celebrity as undeniable as Russell Westbrook respond with a resounding “NO” meant everything. The fact that our star was so infinitely fashionable, effortlessly cool, and yes, petty as hell, made it even better.
And Westbrook didn’t stop there. He took a season that could’ve been a pathetic aftershock to the earthquake that shook the state in previous seasons and turned it into one of the most fun and electrifying in the team’s history. He showed off his singular ability to turn a random Wednesday night in November into an unforgettable lifetime memory. If I made a list of my favorite Thunder moments of all time, several from this year would overtake even past playoff moments from the “big three” era.
The Oklahoma City Thunder were undeniably at the center of NBA conversation, even more than previous years. Westbrook has single-handedly kept us firmly established at the big boy table.
Russell Westbrook: In The Hall of the Mountain King from Up The Thunder on Vimeo.
At this point, the stats and accomplishments have been shared a million times.
I don’t know if you’ve heard this…but he became the first person to average a triple-double since 1962. Pause for a second and think about how insane that is. A triple-double! Oh, and he lead the league in scoring while also dishing out the third most assists and grabbing the 10th most rebounds per game, the first person to rank top 10 in the NBA in all three categories since Wilt Chamberlain in 1968.
And the 47 wins? Detractors will want to point to the futility of the Thunder’s struggle. But I would ask just how many one-superstar teams have had the same success? The Anthony Davis-led Pelicans have never reached 47 wins, the Boogie Cousins Kings didn’t, nor have the Giannis Antetokoumpo Bucks. In the past two seasons, the Jimmy Butler Bulls didn’t, or the Paul George Pacers, or the Damian Lillard Blazers. The only one-star-led team that has, the Houston Rockets, even went 41-41 a season ago.
Which is why the whole “Westbrook doesn’t make his teammates better!” narrative is so ridiculous. Off the court, every member of the organization would take a bullet for him (well not in the chest!), as evidenced by the attendance of Clay Bennett, Sam Presti, Billy Donovan, and five teammates at tonight’s award ceremony. And on the court, 47 wins and a competitive first round playoff series as a baseline to build from? That’s a pretty solid deal.
With Westbrook, you never have to worry about him taking games off. He’s going to give 110% every single game, and every single practice, and every single shoot around, and every single individual workout. He’s been…if I may be so bold…Mr. Reliable. And as long as Russell Westbrook is leading the Thunder, the team will take on this identity of hard work, discipline, and relentlessness.
I don’t know about you all, but I wouldn’t mind those qualities being associated with the Thunder franchise for the next decade or so.
So give him the trophy, give him the $200 million, give him our undying love and loyalty.
He deserves all of it.