OKLAHOMA CITY — Russell Westbrook doesn’t necessarily put blinders on to remain unaware of the criticism that follows him around. He just doesn’t care about it — or so he says, adamantly.
“I’ve been blessed with the talent to not give a f—,” the Oklahoma City Thunder star said Wednesday. “And I don’t, regardless of what happens.”
Westbrook has been one of the NBA’s most polarizing players since he entered the league in 2008, drawing criticism for his aggressive playing style, shot selection and cantankerous demeanor, among other things.
He also has established himself as one of the great players of all time — and certainly one of the most unique, a 6-foot-3 guard who is averaging a triple-double for the third consecutive season.
“It doesn’t change the way I live, doesn’t change the way I think,” Westbrook said of criticism. “I have an unbelievable family, great friends, unbelievable life, unbelievable job, make a lot of money in my job. I’m extremely blessed, thankful, humble, haven’t been in trouble, don’t cause no problems. I’m perfectly fine. I’m living the best life, I can’t complain one bit.
“He say, she say, what somebody say about me, what they say about shooting, passing, dribbling, I don’t really care. Every year it’s something. They gotta make up something about me. Which is fine. It’s good. One thing I always know is, if they’re not talking about you, then you’re not doing something right.”
This season, Westbrook has adjusted his approach to dominate the ball less and elevate teammates, which has helped push teammate Paul George into the top of the MVP conversation. Yet there has been a fixation on Westbrook’s slumping shooting numbers, which includes a career low 24.4 percent from 3-point range on 4.5 attempts per game.
“I’ve been disengaging that conversation since, umm, I started playing basketball when I was eight, about then,” he said of paying attention to what people are saying.
Westbrook is on a historical run of triple-doubles, recording 10 straight to break Wilt Chamberlain’s record set in 1968.
In 2016-17, Westbrook became the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1962 to average a triple-double. Westbrook broke Robertson’s mark for triple-doubles in a single season with 42 during that MVP year, and sits only 12 away from passing Magic Johnson for second place on the all-time triple-double list.
“It’s the reason I have the motto of ‘Why not?'” he said. “It’s what I really believe in, it’s truly what I stand by because there are many people in the world that will let someone tell them they can or cannot do something. ‘Oh, that can’t happen again’ or ‘you can’t do that again’ or ‘you may not ever see that again.’ Those words I don’t use in my vocabulary — can’t, never. That doesn’t work. Well, why not me? Why not be able to change and do something to change the culture, change basketball, change the way it’s played. I just think differently, man.”
Known for playing with a chip on his shoulder, Westbrook pushed back on the idea the criticism or noise serves as extra motivation.
“No. If you do — for what?” he said. “I stay even keel. The more even keel, the better. I don’t need somebody to motivate me to be able to wake up and come do my job. I motivate myself to be able to be the best I can be in the world, regardless of what other people say, good or bad. People can pat me on my back every day, I’m gonna give you the same response. As you guys know, I don’t change for nobody, for nothing. I do the same thing every night and I’m gonna continue to do that.”