There’s never really been a good comparison for Russell Westbrook. Coming out of UCLA, some went the Rajon Rondo route. Some saw him as a Steve Francis, Stephon Marbury type. Of course there’s Derrick Rose, who’s his current peer. Maybe Dwyane Wade?
Truly, Westbrook is kind of a one of a kind. Size, power, strength, speed, speed, skill, speed and speed.
But for ESPN Insider today and on TrueHoop TV, David Thorpe ponders an interesting question: Is Westbrook the next Kobe Bryant?
There really hasn’t been a star like Kobe Bryant, who has had both a huge following of supporters and a long line of haters.
Winning two titles without Shaquille O’Neal has helped put his legacy in a positive light, but questions about his willingness to be a consistent “team guy” still exist. He makes it more challenging for his doubters when he decides to be a passer and then does so extraordinarily well. His zeal to win and fully compete shape him into a single-minded scorer all too often, making him a hard guy to feel warm and fuzzy about.
In Oklahoma City, there is now another all-NBA-caliber player who boils the blood of his detractors with his rambunctious actions, facial expressions and decision-making, while inspiring his teammates and fans with his lust for winning: Russell Westbrook.
Is Westbrook the next Kobe Bryant, a lethal scoring machine who can help carry a team to titles while still infuriating the masses? The similarities between the two are striking.
(Aside: Love a line Thorpe uses to describe Westbrook in the video: “There are guys that are athletic, but do they play athletically. This is a guy that gets it.” Perfect. Westbrook has crazy athleticism, and he constantly uses it. That’s something someone like a Perry Jones III needs to embrace more.)
Thorpe lists a couple areas the two are similar: physical power guards and crazy intense competitors. It makes enough sense. One of Westbrook’s absolute best characteristics — and honestly, maybe a flaw as well — is his competitive spirit and heart. He’s just plain relentless. I’ve always said it: I don’t think Westbrook, or Kobe for that matter, is selfish. I just think he believes in himself more than anyone else. And he relishes the opportunity to make the big play, to silence the critics, to slam the door shut. Those are the kinds of players that win. Westbrook doesn’t fear any situation or circumstance. He embraces them all, almost relishing them.
For example, the game in Denver the other night. With the arena booing him to death, Westbrook played a brilliant game dropping 38. I’ll never forget the way he competed in Game 4 against the Heat. Huge game, huge moment and Westbrook absolutely brought it. It’s honestly what separates him from a lot of other players. His toughness is special. It’s something that defines him. Sometimes it gets in the way and clouds his judgement, but you have to take that bad to get the good. And when it’s good, it’s very good.
Which is to say, a lot of that describes Kobe perfectly as well. But if that all is true, I suppose that would make Kevin Durant Shaquille O’Neal, which means Westbrook and Durant might have a grand breakup one day with KD rapping about Russ tasting his hindparts. But you know what? Win three titles together and that’s cool with me.