Everyone knows one person whose loyalty can be both a blessing and a curse. This can come in the form of a person who stays in relationships for too long or who stays too long in a job that isn’t good for them. In the NBA this person exists as well, coming in the form of Russell Westbrook. One of the most exciting players in the league, Westbrook’s loyalty has burned him multiple times, as his time with the Oklahoma City Thunder was marred by other players failing to match his loyalty.
The story of Westbrook’s misguided loyalty started when he thought that Kevin Durant were going to stay with the Oklahoma City Thunder and challenge for championships together. He was reassured by Durant that they would remain an intact unit with the team, even after their heartbreaking loss in the Western Conference Finals to the Golden State Warriors after relinquishing a 3-1 series lead. However, after the Thunder blew that lead, Durant set the wheels in motion to move to the Warriors and bolster their dynasty.
Westbrook’s loyalty came back to hurt him again this offseason, when he expected Paul George to remain with the Thunder so that they could attempt to improve on their first-round playoff exit from last postseason. Instead, George left via trade to go to the Los Angeles Clippers and join Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. The move sent shockwaves through the league, yes, but it also shocked Westbrook who is without a worthy co-star for the first time in his career.
The move to the Clippers made perfect sense for George, as he went from a team that couldn’t win a first-round series to a team that may be the favorite to win the Finals this coming season. It seems certain that NBA picks will favor the Clippers over the Thunder going forward. Westbrook will give maximum effort in those games, but it might not be enough for him and the rest of the Thunder roster to overcome the talent disadvantage that they will be facing in those matchups. Again, Westbrook’s loyalty will be harmful to him professionally in these games.
Of course, Westbrook’s loyalty isn’t always a bad thing. His closeness and loyalty to late rapper Nipsey Hussle allowed him to get close with one of the more inspiring people in all of entertainment. It speaks to his loyalty as a person both on and off the court but, again, personal loyalty can’t hurt Westbrook the way that sticking with the Thunder through thick and thin did.
Unfortunately for players like Westbrook, the NBA is a business and both the players and management are all too aware of that. The key for players like Westbrook is to make moves that will benefit him before it is too late and before he is stuck on a roster that has no chance to win a championship. In the future, expect Westbrook to be less loyal and to look out for his own professional needs.