Larry Bird and Russell Westbrook
© Mark J. Rebilas – USA TODAY Sports
For obvious reasons, Los Angeles Lakers superstar Russell Westbrook is facing scrutiny. Since joining LeBron James and Anthony Davis last season, Russ has got fans appalled by his inconsistency on the court. Though it’s a bit too early to jump to conclusions, it appears that the Westbrook we’re seeing is no longer the relentless scorer who copped the 2017 MVP award. Far from the player NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird once likened to himself.
Considered one of the hardest-working players of all time, Bird said he just loves watching “players that compete on a nightly basis and really take the challenge to their opponents.” Among them was nine-time NBA All-Star Westbrook.
In an exclusive Q&A with ESPN in 2015, “The Hick from French Lick” was asked to assess if he sees some similarities between him and Westbrook. Though many regarded Bird as a once-in-a-generation player, he surprisingly believed he and Russ shared the same mentality for playing at the highest level night after night.
“The way I was taught, was when you step on the court, you play to win. Now, if you’re not supposed to play to win, then they shouldn’t keep score. If they didn’t keep score in these games, I wouldn’t have played as hard as I did. But I do think this is our job,” Bird began.
Bird also pointed out that the way he saw it, he and Westbrook knew that their prime form would eventually vanish. However, giving it all they got on the court was the only way they knew how.
“We know that we’re going to be hurting years down the road. He knows that he’s going to be hurting years down the road, but he can’t help it,” he continued. “He has to play that way to be effective, and he knows that.”
Bird could be right about Westbrook. However, that was in 2015. From the looks of it, Russ hasn’t been displaying that “Larry Legend” mentality since he became a Laker.
In his first three games this season, Westbrook shot 11/38 from the field, 1/12 from deep, and has been inefficiently shooting at 28.9%.
All told, it leaves us thinking Bird may have miscalculated Westbrook’s repertoire and mindset. Until then, Russ still has 79 games left to prove that Bird was right when he said they are somehow cut from the same cloth.
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“We know that we're going to be hurting years down the road” — Larry Bird on his similarities with Russell Westbrook – Basketball Network
Larry Bird and Russell Westbrook