Russell Westbrook totaled 35 points (14-of-26 shooting), 21 assists and 14 rebounds in the Wizards’ win over the Pacers on Monday. Westbrook’s line was even more impressive when considering that he posted those numbers without All-Star guard Bradley Beal, who missed the game because of a hip injury.
So, how did ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith react to the performance?
“I don’t give a damn about any of it,” Smith said Tuesday in a video segment titled “Stephen A. doesn’t care about Westbrook’s big night.” OK, then!
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Smith rattled off the great teammates who have played alongside Westbrook and asked, “Where is the [championship] to show for it?” Smith praised Westbrook for his competitive fire and leadership, but he criticized the nine-time All-Star for never developing a consistent 3-point shot. He reiterated his stance on ESPN’s “First Take.”
“Westbrook’s numbers last night mean absolutely nothing to me because, even though that’s great numbers, that’s what Westbrook can do,” Smith said. “We all know this. He’s a former league MVP. He’s the most athletic point guard we have ever seen in NBA history. … I’m at a point in time in his career where it’s like — it ain’t about that no more. It’s about whether or not you can get to another level to win the [championship].”
After seeing Smith’s monologue, Westbrook’s wife, Nina, fired back on Instagram, saying that Westbrook is the “happiest he’s ever been.” She added that Westbrook doesn’t feel “hurt” because he has not won a title, as Smith claimed.
“You know nothing about him,” Nina said. “If you did, you’d know that he is way, way, way more than a championship. He is a champion of life. A champion of his people. He doesn’t care about YOUR championship, and certainly not YOUR opinion. He cares about his people, his community and trying to make the world a better place.”
During his Tuesday night media availability, Westbrook offered his own response.
Westbrook’s full comments:
I watch these college games and I watch these kids, and these announcers, man, they get on the TV and just say anything about a kid. They don’t even know him. They don’t know his family. They don’t know where he’s from. They don’t know what he’s been through. They don’t know his struggles. They don’t know his pain. They don’t know anything about the kid. But one thing said on TV can determine how you perceive this kid on TV, which will allow him not to be able to reach his goals, which will allow him not to be able to get drafted, which will allow him not to take care of his family, which will now not curate generational wealth, which now makes our people and the minorities, the underserved communites, which makes that gap [bigger]. It’s way bigger than basketball. That’s my entire life focus. My wife, that’s what she’s mentioning.
I sit back. I don’t say much. I don’t like to go back and forth about people. But one thing I won’t allow to happen anymore is let people create narratives and constantly just talking s— for no reason about me because I lay it on the line every night. And I use my platform to be able to help people all across the world. Nobody can take that away from me. I’ve been blessed to be able to have a platform to do it. Like I said before, a championship don’t change my life. I’m happy. I was a champion once I made it to the NBA. Like, I grew up in the streets. I’m a champion. I don’t have to be an NBA champion. I know many people that got NBA championships that’s miserable, have done nothing for their community, have done nothing for the people in our world.
For me, man, my legacy, like I mentioned before, is not based on what I do on this court. I’m not going to play basketball my whole life. My legacy is what I do off the floor, how many people I’m able to impact and inspire along my journey, man. That’s how I keep my head down and keep it pushing because it’s very important that you don’t let the negativity seep in. Because it’s been like that my whole career, honestly. There’s no other player that kind of takes the heat that I take constantly. But I take it as a positive because obviously I’m doing something right if people are talking about me. And that’s how I feel, and I [put] my best foot forward, stay prayful, keep my family close and keep it like that.
Smith then addressed what Nina and Russell said during Wednesday’s edition of “First Take.”
“Russell Westbrook is as real, as authentic as they get,” Smith said. “He gives to his community. He cares about his people. He addresses social justice issues. He gives voices to the voiceless. He’s charitable. He’s philanthropic. He’s, by all accounts, a great man, a great leader, a great husband, a great father, a great family man.
“Russell Westbrook, regardless of his mean and acerbic demeanor at times, is one of the best people, the most real, straight-up, authentic people you will ever see in your life. I respect the hell out of the man. What does that have to do with your game?”
Mark Kleinman is city editor, breaking major business stories and analysing what they mean for the financial sector.
He has revealed some of the biggest stories in the city in the past decade, with a string of exclusives about major takeover deals.
Before joining Sky, he was City Editor of The Sunday Telegraph.
Mark was awarded the London Press Club Business Journalist of the Year in 2011.