When it comes to the perception of athletes in this day and age the term “superstar” is thrown around very lightly, both by media and fans alike. With Oklahoma City Thunder Russell Westbrook emerging as one of the most exciting players in the NBA, there has been mention that Westbrook may be a superstar, but it is too soon to bestow that lofty title on a player in just his fifth season with no major accomplishments under his belt to date.
Westbrook’s style of play is a casual hoops fan’s dream. He’s aggressive, relentless, brave and confident in his ability to score on any and everyone matched up against him. But as a NBA point guard, Westbrook’s play can frustrate a basketball purist. Too often in his career Westbrook has looked for his own shot first, regardless of the time on the shot clock, game situation or if teammate Kevin Durant has the hot hand (more on him later). Westbrook is still learning the balance between calling his own number or setting up his teammates, although to his credit he is getting better at it.
But despite his gaudy statistics and exciting style of play, what has Westbrook really accomplished that would elevate him to superstar status? Westbrook has never won an MVP award (the highest he’s ever been in the voting was 12th last season), he’s never led the league in any statistical category or even been voted as an All-Star game starter by the same fans that claim he’s a superstar. Is any of this Westbrook’s fault, per say? No, but these are the types of accomplishments you typically find on the resume of a superstar level player.
Westbrook may be a victim of circumstance. He plays alongside bona fide NBA superstar Kevin Durant, who is on his way to his fourth consecutive scoring title and was second in the MVP voting last season. Westbrook will probably never receive full credit for helping the Thunder remain one of the NBA’s best teams, mainly due to the presence of Durant.
There are only a handful of true superstar players in the NBA; Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Durant and arguably Dirk Nowitzki all should be categorized as superstars. Derrick Rose was border line before the ACL tear that has sidelined him the entire 2012-2013 season derailed his growth as a player and as a brand. Westbrook is indeed a great player, but elevating him to superstar status without any significant accomplishments to back up the claim is a bit premature.