Russell Westbrook responds to Stephen A. Smith: 'I was a champion once I made it to the NBA'

Liz Roscher
·4-min read

Russell Westbrook had a slow start for the Washington Wizards, but he's been on fire lately. He's averaged 24.6 points, 11.7 assists, and 11.1 rebounds over his last 20 games, and on Monday night he recorded the first triple-double of at least 35 points and 20 assists in NBA history. Oh, and he also became the Wizards' franchise leader in triple-doubles — something he accomplished in just 38 games.

You'd think it would be hard to criticize Westbrook for all of that, but not for ESPN's Stephen A. Smith. On "First Take," he said that Westbrook's triple-double numbers mean absolutely nothing to him, not only because "that's what Westbrook can do," but because Westbrook doesn't have any championship rings. 

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It's pretty extreme to dismiss a player's accomplishments simply because he's capable of them, and then dismiss them again because he hasn't won a championship. But extreme takes are Smith's specialty. They're tailor-made to trigger a response. 

Westbrook delivers thoughtful response to Smith

The best response to a hot take like Smith's is to just throw it in the garbage and ignore it completely. Westbrook took a different path, choosing to deliver a thoughtful, personal response to Smith's senseless blathering. (Warning: NSWF language to follow.)

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"A championship don'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. I know many people that got NBA championships that's miserable, haven't done nothing for their community, haven't done nothing for the people in our world. And for me, man, my legacy, like I mentioned before, is not based on what I do on this court. I'm not gonna play basketball my whole life. My legacy is what I do off the floor, how many people I'm able to impact and inspire along my journey, man. That's how I keep my head down and keep pushing because it's very important that you don't let the negativity seep in, because it's been like that my whole career, honestly. There's no other player that kinda takes the heat that I take constantly."

For some players, a championship is the ultimate goal of their NBA careers. But that's not true for all, and it's not true for Westbrook. Even though Smith might judge Westbrook's success by championships (or his lack thereof), Westbrook's scale is different, and that's the only one that matters to him. He's made it to the NBA, and he doesn't feel like he needs to prove anything else to anyone. 

Nina Westbrook has some words for Smith

Westbrook was passionate in his response to Smith, but his wife, Nina, was a bit more pointed. She criticized Smith on Instagram and tore his comments to shreds. 

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Nina confirmed that her husband isn't hurt or broken up by not having a championship, and pointed out how often Smith criticizes her husband while "diminishing" his accomplishments. She signed off by telling Smith to cut it out and leave them alone. 

"I don't know how many times I have to be minding my own business and randomly be subjected to you slandering my husband (who also happens to be minding his own business, being happy and living his best life).

"Leave us alone already. We don't want to play anymore (although we never asked to play). Exit ride. Hard pass. However you want to receive it. There you go."

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 15: Russell Westbrook #4 of the Washington Wizards looks on prior to the game against the Houston Rockets at Capital One Arena on February 15, 2021 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)
Russell Westbrook of the Washington Wizards is ready for ESPN's Stephen A. Smith to stop talking about him. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)

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