Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook is 'a force of nature when it comes to competition'

They all have stories about the most misunderstood young man in basketball, scenes and share experiences that illustrated what the Thunder's three-time All-Star is really all about.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: February 15, 2013
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photo - Miami Heat forward LeBron James, left, keeps the ball from Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) in the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013. Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) watches at rear. Miami won 110-100. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) ORG XMIT: OKSO114
Miami Heat forward LeBron James, left, keeps the ball from Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) in the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013. Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) watches at rear. Miami won 110-100. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) ORG XMIT: OKSO114

It only stands to reason then that Westbrook, coming off a Finals appearance, views himself at or near the top of the list of elite point guards.

“I rate myself by how my team is doing,” Westbrook said. “If my team is doing great then I feel like I'm at the top where I need to be. When my team gets to the Finals I feel like I did my job of helping my team getting to the Finals and I feel like I'm at the top of the game.

“My goal is to become a winner. I think the more you win the better you're off, no matter if you average 30 or if you average 15. If your team is winning then you've got to be considered (the best) in something. That's just kind of how I feel.”

As the basketball world prepares to celebrate Michael Jordan's 50th birthday Sunday, Westbrook was asked which part of Jordan's game he would like to embrace.

“Maybe his competitive nature,” Westbrook said. “He competed every play, offensively and defensively.”

Another question was posed about what one move Westbrook felt like he had to learn to get to this All-Star level and become a much better player.

“Win,” he countered. “I think when you put yourself in a position to win, it gives you an opportunity to be able to enjoy moments like this.”

Spoelstra vividly remembers walking into a nondescript Las Vegas gym on a hot summer morning to workout a player for the Heat. To his surprise, Westbrook was in the gym, taking up residence on the court. It was 9 a.m.

“That's pretty early in the morning in Vegas,” Spoelstra reminded. “We open up the gym doors and there's Russell Westbrook, in full sweat already. It looked like he had been in there for an hour, an hour and a half. He was getting after it. So his success is not by accident.”

Brook Lopez, the Nets center who competed against Westbrook in college, throughout the pre-draft process and to this day in the summers, had to monitor himself from going into too much detail about Westbrook's will to win.

“We've had games stop before because guys really get going,” Lopez said.

New York forward Carmelo Anthony remembers it from last year's Olympics. Cleveland guard Kyrie Irving encounters it twice a season. Parker faced it in a pivotal Western Conference Finals series last year.

“He's a dog,” said Philadelphia guard Jrue Holiday. “He's always going to attack you. He's always coming at you. It's like it just never stops. He's just coming for you.”


by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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