America, Leave Russell Westbrook Alone


Over the past 24 months I have grown to physically and figuratively gag at the hate mongering and brain washing of the American media.

Whilst in sport, the British media are notorious for lies and scandal, at least they don’t exploit their power to create an atmosphere and consensus of hate against an individual or individuals for their own selfish and unjustified reasons.

Obviously the chief victim of this is LeBron James, so naturally I know all about it and am as disgusted by it as anyone. I know this kind of thing when I see it, and I see it in the form of Russell Westbrook.

If you know his story, you know this is a tough kid. If you know his story, you know this is a good kid.

Growing up in LA, Westbrook and his best friend,  Khelcey Barrs III, became brothers through the game of basketball. They both made the Varsity team in 9th grad, along with Dorrell Wright, now of the Golden State Warriors. Barrs had quickly established a name for himself as one of the best high school players in the state.

"“Khelcey and I both wanted to go to UCLA, then go to the NBA”"

That dream would only come half true.

In May 2004, their coach Reggie Morris took them to Los Angeles Southwest College to play a series of pickup games against some of the best players in the state. Barrs was clearly the best player at the combine, even dominating college players whilst still only in 10th grade.

It was here that tragedy would strike.

Morris described it.

"“We went to go sit down on the side and Khelcey was laughing and joking with a couple of the young guys, and then he kinda collapsed. He took one big gasp of air and just fell back.”"

At just 16 years of age, Khelcey Barrs III had died of an enlarged heart.

Westbrook, devastated by the loss of his teammate, his friend and his brother, would walk across the road to do Barrs’ chores before school every morning. He just wanted to help out any way he could.

He went on to play at UCLA, just as they had planned, and to this day wears a wristband and shoes with RIP KB3 inscribed on them.

Dorrell Wright says Westbrook carries his memories in other ways.

"“The anger he plays with out on that court, the aggressiveness Russell plays with, a lot of that is just that Khelcey that’s in him”."

He plays with a fire and passion that some dislike and many question. He is often criticised for acting like this and people suggest that he is holding back Kevin Durant and the team itself.

This is where sports media has lost its way.

Who are we to pick apart, to psychoanalyse, to characterise someone we don’t know? Because he takes a lot of shots, shows emotion and isn’t a traditional point guard, the media determine that as selfish, as immature, as arrogant and self oblivious.

At UCLA he played the 2 guard, with Darren Collison at the 1. People condemn him for not being the prototypical playmaker, but there is no harder transition from being a college shooting guard to an NBA point guard.

It is beyond me that America praises Derrick Rose for the same reasons it shames Russell Westbrook.

The fact of the matter is Russell Westbrook is the most talented guard in this league. His athleticism is at worst on par with that of Derrick Rose and John Wall. He is a much better shooter and defender than both. When in the mindset, he can play-make with the best of them. His energy is infectious, his passion is enjoyable and his heart is unquestionable.

The Oklahoma City Thunder would not be where they are now without him. He sets the tone for that team on both ends of the court. He is the leader of that offense and an integral part of it’s defense. Thus far in The Finals he has completely controlled both games. His ability to create his own shot, to exploit transitions and draw fouls along with his ability in the pick and roll is invaluable. He is as able a passer as anyone in the league when he needs to be.

The criticism that has come his way is dumbfounding, inappropriate and unfair. The dignity-less leader of the hate brigade is Skip Bayless. It’s ironic this moronic gasbag too fronts the hate mongering of LeBron James. But he is not the only one.

ESPN is largely at fault for turning everyone against Westbrook. Because of their infatuation with Kevin Durant, anyone that detracts from his importance meets the full wrath of their corruption. LeBron James was the sacrificial lamb for the celebration of Derrick Rose last year.

Why it has become a staple of sports journalism within America to emphasis subjectivity through hatred I do not know. Maybe it sells more newspapers, maybe it attracts more traffic, maybe it pulls more of an audience. I can’t see why.

I have no reason to like Russell Westbrook. He plays for the team that stands in Miami’s way as they search for a Championship, he is an integral member of that roadblock and he has cheap shotted LeBron James a couple of times in the past. He is outspoken, he doesn’t hold back and he doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him.

But that’s why I love the guy. He’s real. He plays the game as I would. He plays the game the same way as a fan watches it. With energy, with passion, never holding back and never caring for the consequences. But more importantly, unlike 99% of America’s superstar athletes, he’s grounded, he’s genuine and he remembers where he came from.

So before you allow yourself to be brainwashed and ushered into the ESPN paddock with the rest of your sheepish friends, consider something that used to be important not only in journalism, but fandom.