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Russell Westbrook Plays Like a Blogger

May 22, 2011

He misses. He misses. He keeps on shooting. He's praised for a Game 7 triple double. He's benched for a fourth quarter in the WCF. He responds with 30 points. He's Russell Westrbook.


He's a point guard. He's a shooting guard. He's some kind of a guard. He plays like a struggling author. He dribbles on and on like an internet blogger. He's Russell Westbrook, and no one knows what to make of him.

John Hollinger, over at ESPN, describes Westbrook as both "resilient" and "hard-headed." I'm not sure if you can be the former, which is the compliment, without the latter, which is the insult. When Westbrook's point totals are high, he's "resilient", even if he shot 40% from the field. But those point totals wouldn't be high if he didn't possess the "hard-headedness" to keep on shooting despite all critics yelling for him to pass, pass, pass.

Russell Westbrook is like fool's gold. Standing in the river, we find him in a tin pan. We hold him up to our teeth and bite. We want some sign that he's for real. His quickness is mesmerizing. It makes us rush to judge. It makes us wonder if we're being tricked by some youthful Greek god with wings on his feet. And most of all, we keep poking and prodding the young point guard, shooting guard, guy with the ball in his hands with suggestions on what he should and shouldn't do partly because he just doesn't seem to care what we think, which makes us all the more apt to offer up prayers and incantations on how he could improve his game, which is, at this point, a lightning quick reflex away from being just ordinary.

Russell Westbrook walks a fine line--it may even be dotted--between good and great, remembered by one generation and unheard of to all others, discovery and anonymity, Kevin Durant and Thabo Sefolosha.

How will we remember him?

The tiring and chaotic cycle of Russell Westbrook is that of a bucket on a rope, hanging in an old stone well. When he is full, his purpose is to become empty. When he is empty, his purpose is to become full. He is in flux. And he is not much different from any writer, whose job is to become full by reading and living, only to become empty again by writing, and the absurdity of pushing one's self through such a self-defeating process can be described as nothing else other than ego.

It takes incredible ego to keep on writing, even when no one is reading, just as it takes incredible ego for Russell Westbrook to keep on shooting and dribbling. These are not humble acts, to think one can shape worlds with a pen, or to think that one can alter a series with the flick of his wrist. These are not acts of charity; they are acts of self-fulfilling prophecy.

What muse or God whispers in Westbrook's ear? He may be deaf to critics, but he hears the basketball gods, his own instinct, or some cruel Loki whispering in his ear: shoot, Russell, this is your story.

I worry about Russell Westbrook, because this postseason can play out in one of two ways. I worry about him because I can commiserate with him. Today, the novel I've been working on crossed over the 150 page mark of what I know to be usable text. I have another eighty pages that may or may not be usable. No one's read more than ten pages or so of it, yet I keep writing, hoping someone else will find it interesting and good, worried (more and more with each page) that I'm the only one fascinated by my own words. The book will either be published, opening up a whole other slew of worries, or it will not be, prompting me to ask myself: was it still worth all the time and heartache if no one else wants to read it? The same can be said of Russell Westbrook's 2011 postseason, which will end either in victory or defeat.

Enough things have gone well for him, on the basketball court, that he surely must believe that his fate is to carry a team. He has to believe that, even if no one else sees it. His whole life people have probably told him what they see as his primary role on the basketball court, and, for better or worse, he's bought in. If he hadn't believed he was one of the best at what he does, he wouldn't be here, which is one reason it's so hard now to change who he is, even if changing would benefit the team. So while we all question the vanity of his volume scoring, how can he turn his back on the mentality that birthed him? The answer is: he can't. To do so would fill him with as much guilt as a writer who turns his/her back on a blank page. The gnawing would become excruciating to the point that Westbrook's contribution on the court would be reduced to the quiet of a faithless whisper.

2 comments:

Steveospeak said...

haha i love the comparison, for next year I think the Thunder need to find a way to change him. It's one thing if it was situational i.e. Durant cold/injured/or in foul trouble but too many times he forces up a shot with a much better option on the table.

May 26, 2011 at 11:31 AM
Teach said...

Something with the Thunder does have to change, but I think they're young enough for it to happen. If Westbrook and Durant were a President and VP, they'd spend an upcoming wkend at Camp David watching buddy flicks.

May 29, 2011 at 11:22 PM

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