Jul. 20, 2018
Russell Westbrook the Superstar... or not?
Hindsight is 20/20 - a lesson Mark Cuban’s mother failed to teach him. In April of 2016, Cuban came on record and spewed one of his many hot takes, claiming that Russell Westbrook was not a superstar. Keep in mind, when the Mav’s owner shared his blunt opinion, Kevin Durant was not yet a traitor. Cuban supplied logic to his statement by saying that Russ had yet to carry a team to 50 wins, like Dirk, the Golden Boy of Dallas, had done several times throughout his career. Now, this is interesting logic, considering the Thunder had won 50 or more games in five of Russell’s eight seasons. Perhaps Cuban was suggesting that Westbrook could never be a superstar so long as he was overshadowed by the Slim Reaper. However, when Durant missed the final 55 games of the 2014-2015 season, Russ carried the team to 45 wins (five short of Cuban’s superstar criteria). The Thunder’s one–two punch went on to demolish Cuban’s Mavs 4 games to 1 in the 2016 playoffs.
Flash forward to December of 2016. At this point, Kevin Durant is beginning to settle in to his new niche in the Bay Area, while Muscle Flexbrook is taking the league by storm. On pace to be the first player to average a triple-double in 55 years, Westbrook had put the under manned Thunder team on his back and firmly in the playoff picture. Rather than admit his mistake, Mark Cuban was STILL unconvinced. Cuban admitted to Russ’s excellence, but refused to call him a superstar.
Cuban’s steadfast opinion of his idea of a superstar poses an interesting question – What ARE the qualifications to being a superstar? In order to dive into this mystery, we need to look at other so called superstars, past and present, and compare them to the legacy of Russell Westbrook.
Russell Westbrook - 22.3 PPG, 7.8 APG, 6.0 RPG, .433 FG %, and 1.7 SPG
Allen Iverson – 26.7 PPG, 6.2 APG, 3.7 RPG, .425 FG%, 2.2 SPG, ranks 37th all-time on Bill Simmons Hall of Fame Pyramid (BSHFP)
Jason Kidd - 12.6 PPG, 8.7 APG, 6.3 RPG, .400 FG%, 1.6 SPG, 10x all defense, 43rd BSHFP
Isiah Thomas - 19.2 PPG, 9.3 APG, 3.6 RPG, .452 FG%, 1.9 SPG, 23rd BSHFP
The numbers prove Russ belongs in elite company. His career stats compare relatively evenly with three of the greatest point guards of all time in Isiah Thomas, Allen Iverson and Jason Kidd. Perhaps the most impressive detail behind the stats is that Westbrook has done all this while playing a long side a 4x scoring champ and MVP. Those other guards never had to share the rock like Russ has and yet he still has probably the most impressive resume. The stats support Westbrook’s superstar claim, but what about Cuban’s 50 win criteria? While Isiah and Kidd’s careers were filled with 50 win seasons, Iverson only did it once. And A.I. is universally regarded as one of the most beloved superstars of this century. Similarly, two of the biggest superstars of today’s NBA have yet to come even remotely close to the coveted single season winning percentage of 61%. Their names: Demarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis. The destructive, yet mesmerizing Boogie Cousins has never won more than a measly 32 games in a season. Granted, Sacramento is a train wreck of an organization, but nonetheless, Boogie is widely considered a superstar despite his inability to win. On the other hand is Anthony Davis. The Brow has won more than 34 games just one time, when the Pelicans won 45 in 2015; however, Davis played in only 68 games that season - a career best. Despite their atrocious winning percentages, Boogie and Brow are considered two of the best big men in the league.
Russell Westbrook has comparable numbers to three of the best point guards in history, a better winning percentage than two of today’s biggest stars, and on pace to have a season unlike any other. I’m sorry Mark Cuban, but Russ is a superstar.
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