motivational spotlight of the week: Russ Westbrook
CONTRIBUTOR: KENT SHEN, XCLEVATION
Welcome to our motivational spotlight of the week feature, where each week, we will look at one professional athlete that has overcome a big injury and continued to perform at the highest level. We hope that these stories will help inspire you in your own recoveries to come back stronger than ever!
Our next feature will shine the spotlight on Russell Westbrook, a ferocious competitor and one of the most explosive athletes we’ve ever seen.
BEFORE THE INJURY
Russ has always been one of the most controversial athletes in sports, and I believe he gets unfairly criticized for a lot of things that people just misunderstand. What’s impossible to argue is the he is truly an athletic marvel with a generational heart and motor – someone who will go 110% whether it’s the 4th quarter of game 7 of a playoff series or the first game of the season. He entered the league as a projected defense first point guards with serious questions about his ability to play offense at an NBA level and shattered those expectations thoroughly making 3 all-star teams before turning 24 years old in a ferociously competitive Western Conference.
The Oklahoma City Thunder were the #1 seed and the favorite to win the championship entering the 2013 playoffs. On April 25, 2013 during game 2 of their first round series against the Houston Rockets, Rockets guard Patrick Beverley dove for a loose ball and collided with Westbrook’s right knee, tearing his right meniscus. The Thunder promptly bowed out of the playoffs in the second round without their electric point guard, and Westbrook had 3 surgeries before the end of the 2013 calendar year on the injured knee.
A lot of ink has been spilled on what sunk the potential Thunder dynasty in the early 2010s when they had 3 future MVPs on their roster and no championships to show for it. A lot of that can be traced to injuries and the bad timing, especially this one to Westbrook, the heart and soul of the team. Westbrook’s off court work and diligent rehabilitation allowed him to get back on the court the next year and still manage to play 46 games during the 2013-2014 season, and he was back to peak form just one year later posting a monster season in the wake of a season-long injury to fellow superstar Kevin Durant.
Westbrook has not missed an all-star game since. With a team that was finally healthy in 2015-2016, the Thunder made it all the way to the conference finals and had a 3-1 lead on a Warriors team that had set the NBA record for regular season wins before losing that series and seeing Durant defect to the very team that beat them the summer after.
That didn’t stop Westbrook, who went out the next season and posted a season for the ages, posting the second seasonal triple double ever and winning the MVP award. Westbrook followed that up signing a long-term contract with OKC and then posting another triple double the year after. OKC may have had some very unfortunate luck over the last decade to wipe out what could have been something very special, but one thing has remained constant throughout. The heart of their team has kept beating, and doesn’t look to stop any time soon.