Is Russell Westbrook D.C’s Most Notable Athlete? Nah.

Posted December 3, 2020

(Caps Outsider)

In a blockbuster trade, Russell Westbrook’s move to the Wizards has inspired debate over who runs The District, with some putting him ahead of  other Washington greats such as Alexander Ovechkin. In the following article, Capitals outsider assesses this take. 

This past Wednesday, the Washington Wizards traded John Wall and a first round pick to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Russell Westbrook, a deal that has torn D.C basketball fans on whether the impact of the shake up was a positive one.

Drafted first overall by the Wizards in 2010, Wall spent the last decade in D.C and quickly earned the appreciation of fans with his notable skill and highlight plays. In that time span, Wall earned five all-star selections yet failed to make it as far as the third round in the playoffs.

Meanwhile, Westbrook comes off a one-year stint with the Rockets after being traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder in the year prior. Westbrook now becomes the first NBA MVP to be traded in consecutive offseasons and joins star player Bradley Beal in Washington. 

While the lack of success between Westbrook and fellow all-star James Harden in Houston raised questions about a change, it was certainly a surprise for many fans that his next destination was D.C, replacing fan-favorite Wall. 

Many fans expressed their frustrations of the trade on social media, yet there are some who believe Westbrook will have a strong impact in D.C. In fact, a claim was made on Twitter earlier this week stating that Westbrook “instantly enters the discussion as D.C’s most prominent athlete nationally.” 

It is no doubt that Westbrook will bring a new energy to D.C. As a former MVP and nine-time NBA all-star, Westbrook is known for his playmaking ability and ferocious slams. But in order to properly compare Westbrook to the current leading athletes in D.C, like Ovechkin, there are a couple factors to consider. 

The first is championship caliber play and who gives their team the best chance to win alone. While Wizards fans certainly hope that this new addition puts them in the discussion, it is still unknown how the team will work and if Westbrook’s presence will improve those around him, most notably Beal. The Wizards have made headlines in the deal, but they are certainly not in the conversation for winning the Eastern Conference, much less a championship.

When you take Alex Ovechkin into consideration, his presence automatically inspires those around him and puts the Caps into the discussion, regardless of all the noise. It is his elite play as arguably the best goal-scorer in league history, that instills a confidence among fans and garners the respect of opponents. His playmaking ability is not only flashy, but he takes that extra step in his ability to put the team on his back when needed. Ovechkin is also a phenomenal leader, a trait that Westbrook has not shown signs of in the past. 

The second factor is what they have accomplished in their career, but also for the city of D.C. While Westbrook has incredible stats, he lost in his only Finals appearance back in 2012 in which he had stars Kevin Durant and Harden. Since the breakup of OKC’s “big three,” Westbrook has not returned to the Western Conference Finals despite teaming up with other stars like Paul George and Harden once again in Houston. Westbrook is a great player, but he has yet to prove his ability to put a team on his back and lead them on a significant run. In terms of being the Most Valuable player, Westbrook’s singular MVP award is less in comparison to Ovechkin’s three. 

You can argue that Ovechkin has had his fair share of playoff exits as well, and you would be right. However, he has also led the Caps to the Stanley Cup – and won it. It was also in that year that he won the Conn Smythe as the MVP of the Stanley Cup Final. Westbrook has yet to win a championship or even enter an NBA Finals MVP discussion 

It is difficult to compare different sports, but when thinking about the totem pole of D.C players, Westbrook has much to prove, while Ovechkin has already won a title and brought a championship to the city. Ovechkin is also considered one of the top players in his sport, while Westbrook is undoubtedly overshadowed by a list of names. 

D.C fans have reason to be excited about Westbrook, but make no mistake, Ovechkin still runs the district and is perhaps the most dominant player D.C has ever seen.