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Russell Westbrook vs. Kyrie Irving: Player of the Decade

Russell Westbrook vs. Kyrie Irving: Player of the Decade

Westbrook vs Irving: Russell Westbrook and Kyrie Irving were each voted into the second round of the All-Decade Overtime Heroics rosters. In a matchup of two toxic personalities, it will be interesting to see who comes out on top. Here are some thoughts on this matchup: 

The Personalities:

Westbrook vs Irving: Each of these two players is polarizing and even hated by some due to their personalities. 

Kyrie Irving:

Whether fair or unfair, Kyrie is given the majority of the blame for the collapse of the 2018-19 Celtics team. Overall, Irving was a horrible leader on that team. Notably, one time during a game against Orlando last season, Irving was seen yelling at Gordon Hayward for passing to Jayson Tatum instead of him for the final shot at the buzzer. The development of Tatum and Jaylen Brown (among others) was not great last season, and they both have improved without him this year. 

Irving also sometimes says dumb things for attention. Most notably, he’s claimed the earth is flat, or that Thanksgiving isn’t a real holiday. My personal favorite Kyrie quote was last season when he went up to Celtics coach Brad Stevens during a film session and asked, “What does government mean to you?” Seemingly in a perfect position, Kyrie got himself out of Cleveland. He wanted to be a leader, but he was horrible at that role. Now in Brooklyn, it will be interesting to see if he’ll become more grounded. It will help to have veterans and close friends on the team in Kevin Durant and Deandre Jordan.  

Russell Westbrook:

Throughout my writing career, there is not a single athlete whom I have scrutinized more than Russell Westbrook. However, I’m going to remain impartial for this piece. Unlike Kyrie, who is loathed by Boston fans, Westbrook remains beloved by OKC fans despite his failure to win a ring. 

Around the league, however, Westbrook is hated for his ‘I’m better than you’ attitude. He has had beefs over the past few seasons with several superstars, including Damian Lillard, Joel Embiid, and even former teammate Kevin Durant. During these arguments, Westbrook often comes off as petty. In head to head matchups, Lillard has always dominated him, yet Westbrook continues to act like he’s better than him, and the majority of non-biased NBA fans have to take Dame’s side on that one. Westbrook is often very cocky and labeled a “stat-padder.” For those reasons, he is one of the most hated players in the NBA among fans.  

Biggest Advantage for Irving: Playoff Success

Unlike Westbrook, who has consistently choked in the playoffs, Kyrie was a vital member of a championship team. During the 2016-17 season, alongside Lebron James, Irving helped erase a 3-1 series deficit to defeat the 73-9 Golden State Warriors. Kyrie hit arguably the most crucial shot of the decade during game seven. On the court, Kyrie was a tremendous second star to put next to LeBron, and he was a massive part of the Cavaliers’ championship season. 

Russell Westbrook, on the other hand, has had a reputation for choking in big games. Most notably, during game seven against the Warriors in the 2016 Western Conference Finals (Durant’s last game with OKC), Westbrook was horrible down the stretch, chucking up brick after brick and turning the ball over. Once Durant left, the Thunder never made it out of the first round. During game seven against Portland last season, Westbrook was atrocious in game seven, going 11/34 from the field and taking the ball out of Paul George’s hands, who had been the Thunder’s go-to guy late in games for most of the season. It will be interesting to see if Westbrook and James Harden can make a deep playoff run in the upcoming decade.   

Biggest Advantage for Westbrook: Statistical Accolades

For starters, Russell Westbrook became the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple-double for an entire season. In fact, he did it three seasons in a row, won an MVP during the 2016-17 season, and has made the all-star game eight times. Westbrook is a two-time scoring champ and has led the league in assists two times. Unlike Kyrie, who has battled injuries in almost every season of his career, Westbrook has never missed more than 15 games in a season, with the exception being the 2013-14 season when he broke his foot.

Contrary to Westbrook, Kyrie Irving’s statistical accolades aren’t as impressive. Unlike Westbrook, an MVP winner, Irving has never received a single MVP vote. His lack of votes is due in large part to the fact that he’s had to miss 20 or more games in four of his nine NBA seasons, including the 2019-20 season, where he’s struggled with a shoulder injury. Irving has only six all-star appearances despite the fact he’s been in the inferior Eastern Conference for his entire career. Defensively, Irving has also been much worse than Westbrook throughout the decade.  

Prediction:

Westbrook vs Irving: Going purely off of statistical success, this vote would have gone to Russell Westbrook. However, my vote goes to Kyrie Irving. Westbrook, throughout his career, has choked in big games, whereas Irving has a history of hitting clutch shots. He was an enormous part of the 2015-16 Cavaliers championship team. Both players are known for having difficult personalities at the point guard position. That makes this one of the more exciting matchups on the list.  

Follow me on Twitter at  @podolskydanny and follow us @oth_basketball for more great content!    Also, be sure to check out the Overtime Heroics Forums page to join in on the discussion!                           Head over to our shop if you are interested in purchasing some Overtime Heroics gear!

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