Things have gotten heated between Stephen A. Smith and the Westbrook family.
It all started Tuesday morning when the ever-boisterous Smith, reacting to Westbrook’s incredible performance Monday night for the Washington Wizards, criticized the start point guard for routinely coming up short in the playoffs.
“Where is the chip to show for it?” Smith said.
Well, that did not sit well with Westbrook’s wife, Nina, who called out Smith in an Instagram story Tuesday afternoon.
Here’s what she wrote:
“Russell is the happiest he’s ever been. Not having a championship does not ‘hurt him a lot.’ You know nothing about him. If you did, you’d know he’s way way more than a championship. He is a champion of life, a champion of his people. He doesn’t care about YOUR championship, and certainly not your opinion. He cares about his people, his community, and trying to make the world a better place.”
That brings us to Tuesday night, when Westbrook offered a long, thoughtful response during a postgame press conference. You can read a portion of Westbrook’s comments below, and watch the embedded video to hear his full remarks. They’re worth your time.
“I sit back, I don’t say much. I don’t like to go back and forth about people. But one thing I won’t allow to happen anymore is let people create narratives and constantly talking s— for no reason about me because I lay it on the line every night. And I use my platform to be able to help people all across the world. Nobody can take that away from me. I’ve been blessed to be able to have a platform to do it. A championship won’t change my life. I’m happy. I was a champion once I made it to the NBA. I grew up in the streets. I’m a champion. I don’t have to be an NBA champion.”
Enter: Wednesday’s “First Take” episode, during which Smith praised Nina and Russell while also standing by his comments about the Wizards guard. He talked for roughly nine minutes.
“This is a sensational athlete. The most athletic point guard in this history of basketball, destined for the Hall of Fame. I said all of those things. But (Westbrook has) come up short. You were with Kevin Durant when you had a 3-1 lead and you lost it to Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors. … Kevin Durant departs, we get on Kevin Durant for leaving you high and dry. The next three years you get bounced out in five by James Harden and Houston, you get bounced out in six, if I remember, by Donovan Mitchell, you get bounced out in six by Damian Lillard. … Then you go to Houston last year, and what happens? You fall in the playoffs, albeit to the Lakers.”
Still with us?
This is a weird debate, and not one we feel has many natural “sides.” Smith’s criticisms of Westbrook are accurate, but Westbrook’s bigger-picture viewpoint is impossible to argue with.
Here’s what’s indisputable: Westbrook is an awesome basketball and, by all accounts, a good person. That really is all that matters.