They say he’s too headstrong, doesn’t get his teammates involved, has a bad habit of playing “hero ball,” has questionable decision-making, is uncoachable, and the list continues.
He is a 6-foot-4 guard who snags rebounds and gets put-back dunks over centers. He is by far the most tenacious and explosive player in the National Basketball Association. He dons a basketball jersey, but has the mentality of a football player. He attacks the rim with supreme rage. His performance on the court seems to improve every season, and has skyrocketed since Kevin Durant left for the already-stacked Golden State Warriors. Most importantly, he has proven to be a premier playmaker in the league, leading his squad to a playoff berth with essentially no superstars (excluding himself).
NBA analysts, commentators, columnists and experts have been debating and undebatable topic for the past several months: whether Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook should take home the NBA MVP award.
Though Westbrook’s team was recently eliminated from the first round of the playoffs by James Harden’s Houston Rockets in five games – most of which were close – he still managed put up mind-blowing numbers, handily setting himself apart as the best player in the series.
Despite the numerous criticisms and contra-arguments, No. 0 for the OKC Thunder is easily the 2017 NBA MVP. Not co-MVP, not runner-up, but is the Most Valuable Player of the roughly 450 players in the National Basketball Association.
Paul Flannery, an NBA columnist and journalism professor at Boston University, made a compelling argument on why he has Westbrook as the indubitable 2017 NBA MVP in spite of the flaws he and his team had.
“I’m voting for Westbrook because I believe that he offered the most value to his team from start to finish through all the minutes of all 82 games. He started strong, remained consistent through the dog days, and finished in hyper-drive,” wrote Flannery in his recent SB Nation column.
Westbrook was the first player to average a triple-double since Oscar “The Big O” Robertson in the 1961-62 season. Furthermore, the fact that Westbrook broke Robertson’s 55-year-old record for triple-doubles in a season (42) is exceedingly, abundantly, beyond extraordinary to say the least.
Just to note some of Westbrook’s most distinguishable and commendable stats: In the regular season, he averaged a career-high 31.6 points, 10.4 assists and 10.7 rebounds. In the postseason, he recorded 37.4 points, 10.8 assists and 11.6 rebounds – all of which are career-highs; in addition, the Los Angeles native averaged career highs in 3-point and free-throw shooting percentages for the 2016-17 season.
Sports aficionados and even NBA athletes like Harden and Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies have asserted that numbers may be misleading and that the MVP award should be based primarily off of wins. While these arguments may have some credence, they still undermine Westbrook’s momentous and historic accomplishments, at least in the context of the 2016-17 NBA regular season.
The way a Most Valuable Player is measured and assessed in today’s professional sports industry is somewhat flawed in my estimation.
The award shouldn’t be given to the winningest candidate, or the best scorer, or the best defender, or even the best two-way player, but should go to the player with the most value. That being said, the argument could certainly be made that Westbrook was without question the single-most valuable player to his team of everyone else in the NBA.
In addition, Westbrook didn’t have as strong of a supporting cast as the other MVP candidates, and was the most clutch player throughout the regular season.
Harden, Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James had sensational seasons and may even end up in the Hall of Fame one day, but Russell Westbrook is the NBA 2016-2017 Most Valuable Player without question.
Allen Iverson, 2001 NBA MVP and ball-handling extraordinaire, agrees that Westbrook is the runaway MVP.
“But this year, it’s just one of those years for Westbrook, and we should cherish it and love it for what it is, because we never thought this would happen again, just like we never thought nobody will score 100 points like Wilt [Chamberlain] again,” Iverson said in an interview with the Bleacher Report.
“It’s one of them years like you’re supposed to give that to him hands down with the great season those guys are having. I mean, Isaiah [Thomas] has been playing the way he’s been playing. [Kevin] Durant’s been playing the way he’s been playing. A lot of guys are having MVP seasons, but this guy’s just having a special season.”
Westbrook also got endorsement from the original “Mr. Triple Double,” Oscar Robertson as this season’s Most Valuable Player. That alone should quell any disputes over who the 2017 NBA MVP should be.
Demetrius Dillard is a recent graduate of Winston-Salem State University and a North Carolina-based freelance writer.