A player with the skill of Russell Westbrook demands respect. Respect, of course is earned through a number of ways, notably play on the court. With Russ, it has never been an issue. Westbrook is a top 5 player in the NBA today. His speed, strength and ability to defend and score in bunches puts him up there with LeBron and Kevin Durant.
His reputation has been the most…’controversial’ if you could call it that.
At first glance, Russell is a true enigma. His flamboyant clothing and lifestyle coupled with his sheer pissed-off ferocity on the court doesn’t seem to correlate. A guy who’s recently played list is dominated by Taylor Swift’s 1989 album does not also steal an opposing player’s soul with a destructive dunk and then proceed to give the unfortunate player the patented “Russ Glare.” Many players from afar seem to think the player on the court is angry based on the glare and passionate play.
Even his own new teammates like Steve Novak and Cameron Payne commented earlier at Thunder Media Day how Russell completely proved their prior opinions of him wrong.
“He was one of the players that watching from a distance and now seeing him in the locker room I was wrong about” Novak said “Angry Russell – he’s angry at the media, he’s angry on the court but its just what fuels him.”
That’s coming from a veteran who understands different player personalities, but what about a green rookie who only knows NBA players by ESPN and NBA 2k16?
“You think he’s a series guy, but he cracks jokes and has a good time. He knows when to get serious.” Cameron Payne told reporters. Obviously, Russ knows how to compartmentalize game mode and life mode.
Thunder fans have been claiming this for years now. Russell is not what the media and opposing fan bases portray him as. When all you see is the 100 mph, wild whirling dervish point guard during the game, it is easy to paint that picture that outsiders have produced.
Russell’s reputation across the country compared to Oklahoma is vastly different, yes. That is why people laugh at his Thunder program picture where he has the biggest ‘I’m a nice guy’ smile. Apparently people expect him to give the stiff upper lip, snarl that he has grown so famous for. But that is off the court Russ. Off the court Russ is the one who wears overalls with a *insert French stylist here* shirt, or the one who sits at home and plays “Shake it Off” on his guitar. On the court Russ – or as Novak calls him, “Angry Russell” – is the one the world gets to see constantly.
I, for one, welcome our Angry Russell overlord. Without that chip on his shoulder, Russell could not function on the court. He would probably be the first person to tell you that. He is fueled by the aggression and passion that makes him one of the most exciting players in the world. He is the perfect Yin to Kevin Durant’s Yang. In interviews, popular questions that national media pundits like to ask Russell is something along the lines of “What kind of person are you off the court?” Russell always says the same thing, that he is a nice guy, always with a smile.
Is it best that other fan bases and the national media continue to trumpet the Angry Russell narrative? YES.
Sam Presti recently was quoted as saying that Russell is getting to a point where he is so good at everything that it is almost impossible for him to improve. Quite the compliment from the boss. But if he can’t improve on a particular skill, what is the renewable resource that can’t be extinguished? A good old fashioned chip on Russell’s shoulder. Every night, Russ storms onto the court knowing the world is against him and expecting him to fail, with that, he becomes a super hero.
Novak and Payne have admitted their first impressions of Russell to be false. A great player, leader and teammate. He is the guy you want in a foxhole with you.
The season is upon us, people. Watch out NBA, Angry Russell is coming for you.