At 6’4″ 200 pounds, Russell Westbrook is one of the most athletic guards the Association has EVER seen. His rage, relentlessness and intensity on the court are just as unique and eccentric of a combination as his fashion sense is off it. But when he gets on the court, some of his best attributes do remind me of a few players I enjoyed.
First, Steve Francis. At 6’3″ the “Franchise” played much bigger than his listed size, and brought an exciting playground style of game that flourished on the hardwood. He could rebound inside with bigs, then explode down the court for a coast-to-coast dunk, or set up a teammate for an easy bucket. He didn’t hesitate to dunk on a 7-footer. The 3-time All-Star point guard averaged 18.1 points, 6.0 assists and 5.6 assists in his 10-year career with the Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic and New York Knicks. Like Westbrook, Francis was also heavily criticized during his prime for not relying more on his teammates.
Baron Davis. Another 6’3” shooting guard in a point guard’s body, Davis’s game resembled more of a power forward than the graceful athlete that Westbrook is. However, in his younger days before the laundry list of injuries took its toll on his body–specifically his knees–Davis was a nightly fixture on the highlight reels for putting guys on posters and breaking their ankles.
Like Westbrook, Davis punished smaller point guards in the post, creating double teams and finding open teammates while leading seven teams to the post season, including a historic victory with the 8th seeded Warriors over the 1st seeded 67-win Dallas Mavericks with league MVP Dirk Nowitzki in the first round of the 2007 NBA Playoffs.
For his career, the 2-time All-Star averaged 16.1 points, 7.2 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game in his 13-seasons in the NBA with the Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks.
Oscar Robertson. I have to admit, I never saw him play, as I am only 35-years old. But from the limited highlights, the stats and the way he is described by those who watched him, I surmise that he was the premier athlete of his time at the point guard position like Westbrook is today.
The “Big O” is the OG walking triple double. He averaged a triple-double for an entire season in 1961-62, and flirted with the feat four other seasons (1960-61, 1962-63, 1963-64, 1964-65). Those who watched Robertson play said he did it by overpowering his opponents with his size and athleticism. “Hussle” Westbrook does the same way, which allowed him to register the most triple doubles in a season (18) tying Magic Johnson.
Kevin Johnson. At 6’1″ 180 pounds, KJ wasn’t physically imposing, but he was super athletic for his size in the era in which he played. He was never afraid to go in to the land of the trees and throw one down on you. Ask Hakeem Olajuwon….
KJ had a nifty right to left crossover that he used to knife through defenses and set up his pull-up midrange jumper. A skill he and Russell share. Most of their points came off their in-between game, as neither is an exceptionally good consistent 3-point shooter. Johnson averaged 17.9 points, 9.1 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game over his 13-seasons in the NBA.
Gary Payton. A ruthless no nonsense competitor, with no back down, and is in your face on defense and offense. Sound familiar? “The Glove” is known mostly for his defensive prowess winning the 1996 Defensive Player of the Year award and being named to the All-Defensive 1st-team 9-times in his career, but he was also a dominate scorer for the great Seattle Supersonics teams that were consistently in the playoffs and competed for the NBA titles. Over his 17-seasons, he averaged 16.3 points, 6.7 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game. In his prime with the Sonics, he averaged 18.2 points, 7.4 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game. Payton finished his Hall of Fame career with 17 triple-doubles.