“With the fourth pick in the 2008 NBA draft, the Seattle SuperSonics select Russell Westbrook...”
Westbrook was not one of the most anticipated picks in the draft; that honor belonged to guys like Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, O.J. Mayo and Westbrook's former UCLA teammate, Kevin Love.
Nevertheless, Westbrook’s dream of making it to the NBA had finally come true. If people did not know his name and companies did not offer him big-time endorsement deals, Russell knew in his heart they soon would. This was a chance to break out and show them who exactly he was.
After all, he had conquered this task throughout his early basketball career. Going into his senior year at Leuzinger High School in Lawndale, California, he only had one scholarship offer.
Indirectly standing in the way of Westbrook’s dream of the NBA spotlight was a 6'9" lanky but extremely talented teammate—Kevin Durant.
If Westbrook was going to be a member of the Seattle SuperSonics (now the Oklahoma City Thunder) and help them win games, he had to accept that barring a horrific injury, Durant would always be the star.
Durant would get the game-winning and big-shot opportunities, the endorsements, constant interview requests, best-selling jersey, nonstop media attention—and the list goes on.
It also had to eat at Westbrook that Durant experienced this treatment his entire career.
This silent envy has remained to the present day, which has hurt the team in important games.
In a perfect world, Westbrook would play his role as the high-energy and defensive guy who provides scoring when needed. His other teammates would perform well in their respective roles. Durant would be the guy who brings everything together. Or when things are not going as planned in the game, he would find a way to keep his team in it.
In reality, the Oklahoma City Thunder are a team that will consistently play great in the regular season. They seem to have all the right pieces to win a NBA Championship. However, during the playoffs their stay depends heavily on Westbrook's attitude and how well their young team maintains control under pressure.
The closer the Thunder get to NBA Championship glory, the more they depend on Durant to get them there. Westbrook knows this. So he begs for a sense of equality.
"This is just as much Durant’s team as it is mine. Hey! Coach Scott Brooks, will you please listen and give me some opportunities to put games in my hands?"
Coach Brooks, of course, will put his trust in Durant. Who would you rather have take the big shots, Durant—a proven, offensively skilled player—or Westbrook, a guy who has never been known for being an offensive threat?
As a result, Westbrook reverts to a selfish tactic of asking for the ball and taking quick shots that miss more often than they go in..
This, however, does not mean Westbrook is a bad player or teammate. His problem is playing with a chip on his shoulder.
Westbrook has played this way so long it has made him an attention seeker. He has seen players like Durant gain all this attention and accolades for their talent; until Westbrook got to the NBA, he rarely received that.
His desire seems to be gaining recognition as one of those underdogs that nobody believed in and yet he comes out on top.
Chauncey Billups underwent a lot of criticism when was drafted into the NBA. Billups admitted in an ESPN interview that he initially was not taught how to be a team player and a NBA-type point guard. That changed when he signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Billups observed how much respect veterans like Terrell Brandon and Sam Mitchell had in the Minnesota locker room. So he made a decision to ask them for help. From that, Billups experienced tremendous growth as a person and player.
That too could be Russell Westbrook. The key word here is could. Most say Westbrook is such a headache it would be better to just trade him and upgrade the Thunder’s point guard position.
The issue with a trade is the new point guard will have to adapt himself to the Thunder’s fast-paced style of play. Despite his drama, Westbrook happens to be a perfect fit for it. Other point guards may have to change up their style of play to adapt, which likely won’t happen right away.
As for Westbrook fitting in on another team, who is to say he won’t be trouble for his new team? He would still be in need of coaches and teammates who should sit him down for an intervention. He would still need to learn how to leave the past behind and contribute in the way his coaches and teammates need him to.
Simply put, with the right supporting cast surrounding him and more work on maturity, Russell Westbrook may one day possess an NBA Championship ring. Durant will likely win one before he retires. However, it will not happen with Westbrook and Durant being on the same team.