Russell Westbrook is an amazing talent that brings everything he has to the court every night. He could possibly set the record for most triple doubles in a single season this year and if given enough time in the league, have the most triple doubles in NBA history. With all this talent seething from his soul, he still didn’t make the NBA All-Star starting five. But the West already has a starting point guard in Steph Curry, and even though statistically Russ’ season has been better, perhaps this points to the All-Star game being nothing more than a popularity contest.
Don’t act surprised.
The question remains, why isn’t Russ more popular? The top talents of the NBA have almost always been the most popular. But Russ seems to fall into a category all his own. Oklahoma City certainly loves Russ, but he is not as universally loved as Steph – by fans and players alike. He’s a not-so-typical kind of an NBA player, and the famous players he is most similar to were polarizing as hell. He’s closer in attitude to Kobe than to Michael, reminds me of Zeke before Magic, and is more Reggie Miller than Reggie Miller could have ever been.
Here are 5 ½ reasons why Russ might not be that popular around the league:
He’s f—ng weird. He’s wired different than most people in the celebrity limelight. He is guarded and is said not to hang out with many people on his team. He spends a lot of time with his family off the court, and that is not to his detriment personally, but seen as atypical behavior from a twenty-something millionaire athlete. He calls his family before every single game, always has, always will, to “talk about random things”. And he’s super into fashion.
2. He’s Super into Fashion
So much so that he sat next to Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour at the New York Fashion Week in 2013. He wears each of his outfits only once and never again, kind of like a runway model. He just roasted Chuck Barkley’s fashion sense, saying about the TNT analyst “Chuck is terrible!”
His walk to and from the bus are always treats, kind of like a runway model, and you never know what he’ll be wearing at his press conference. It gives the viewer an image of a fashion specific and tonsorial entourage congregating around him, getting him ready before he goes into the public, kind of like a runway model, instead of the usual group of confidants and buds. He’s more Lady Gaga than Sam Perkins, more Britney Spears than Tim Duncan. Most people might not be able to relate to that.
3. His Shoes Aren’t that Cool
Not a huge fan favorite and not a huge seller. More Stephs, KDs, LeBrons and Jordans sell than Westbrooks. He didn’t ink the deal until 2015 and maybe by then it was too late.
Plus, they’re called “Jordan Westbrooks.” That’s not an ideal name. They look good on Russ though.
4. He’s Not Relatable
Not by any stretch of the imagination. He’s a super human. He’s really intense. He’s polarizing. He’s equally as amazing as he his catastrophic. One play he’s streaking to the basket like The Flash, dashing past several players and spinning into infinity to create something out of nothing, hitting the impossible circus shot through a hard foul and then sinks the free throw on the road to tie the game up in the face of thousands of screaming haters. The very next play he inbounds the ball and walks up the floor without taking a dribble.
That’s just not relatable, even though it absolutely should be. But fans expect their superstars to be infallible and their fallibilities can easily be excused away by bad calls, teammates, coaching, or otherwise. Sometimes Russ just dribbles the ball of his toe or chucks the ball out of bounds without warning. It’s hard for fans to excuse that even through being a triple double machine.
5. His Constant Gas Face
He has never ending gas face. Every call, every missed shot, every missed pass, every made shot, every perceived foul, every dunk, every day, every hour; gas face. Russ should be the star of the video to the 3rd Bass track, just images of Russ walking around the court full smug gas face posted on his grill; gas facing at players, gas facing at the camera, gas facing to Billy D., gas facing the ball, gas facing to himself, gas facing his Jordan Westbrooks.
Russ’ odd behavior and affinity for fashion seem like they fit in Los Angeles, New York, or Miami the best and in no relation to basketball. There are millions of people like Russ out there in the world and a good bet is that most of them live in one of those three cities. This is in no way a shot at the wonderful Oklahoma City. But eccentric millionaires are a lot more common in those three cities than anywhere else in the United States. Russ might be more likable if he was in one of these cities because he may pick up more casual fans that don’t necessarily watch hoops, but just like him as a celebrity, fashion icon, or general gas facer.
Being on the wrong team is only half a reason because it can easily be argued away. There could be plenty of wacky millionaires in Oklahoma City and they go mostly unnoticed from the mainstream media. Or maybe Memphis is crawling with them and no one has gone public with it. New Orleans could make a case for that claim too.
Russell Westbrook is an intimidating relentless talent that is a highlight reel in the making every single game. He may be fallible, he may have weird shoes, strange habits, and gas face, but his superstardom doesn’t rely on those things because he isn’t doing them purposefully. He is just being himself with no excuses or fakeness in order to impress anyone or gain any more attention or fans than he already has. Maybe he’s not the most liked player in the game, but he most certainly has to be respected.