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Russell Westbrook now thinks it's a good idea to confront fans who harass him

March 08, 2022

Andrew D. Bernstein

Russell Westbrook has recently been tarred with the nickname "Westbrick"—due in large part to his 28.2% mark from three—and taken a large share of the blame for the woeful state of the Lakers. ESPN is running segments like "Was Westbrook the worst trade in Lakers history?", and the situation that already seemed like a failure back in October just continues to get worse.

That said, it's easy to feel sympathy for him when you read this ESPN piece about the 'Westbrick' taunts. This part in particular, about his kid, has a good chance to make you shake your head at the casual cruelty of sports fans:

"I've kind of let it go in the past because it never really bothered me. But it really kind of hit me the other day. Me and my wife were at teacher-parent conferences for my son. And the teacher told me, 'Noah, he's so proud of his last name. He writes it everywhere. He writes it on everything. He tells everybody and walks around and says, 'I'm Westbrook.' ... And I kind of sat there in shock, and it hit me, like, 'Damn. I can no longer allow people [to besmirch my name].'"

His wife Nina has also taken to social media to complain about the treatment:

Problem is, this is part of the job—when you're a famous, high-level professional athlete, you're going to get taunted when you play badly. And Westbrook has been playing some below average basketball (although, as we have pointed out, he's still got a better field goal shooting percentage than Steph Curry, which is weird and funny). The reality is that no matter how bad we feel for Westbrook, letting other fans know that it bothers him is a tried and true method for making the whole thing worse.

Then there's this quote from Russ, which ... man, it's not good:

Westbrook vowed to involve himself in similar fashion if taunts like that occur in the future.

"A lot of times, I let it slide. But now it's time to put a stop to that and put it on notice," he said. "There's a difference. We need to make sure it's understood. And every time I do hear it now, I will make sure that I address it and make sure I nip that in the bud."

"I'm at a point where I'm going to continue to address it. It's just unfortunate."

Uhhhh, Russell? Don't do that. Really, really don't do that.

This should go without saying, but the kind of people who heckle at basketball games thrive on attention, and thrive doubly when they know their target is getting riled up. He has already yelled at one Spurs fan during a free throw, and this makes it seem like he's going to continue to respond to all taunts that focus on his name.

The effect of that, of course, is to vastly increase the number of fans who call him "Westbrick." And if he keeps his promise to confront them all, then we'd really hate to see how this situation escalates.

Our unsolicited advice: Ignore it, even when it bugs you. We don't want to see you do a Malice at the Palace, Russell. You're a delightful, frustrating wild card, but getting so pissed at the fans that you take a swing at them or something would be the wrong kind of volatility. And right now, promising to confront fans and letting them know it bothers you is throwing gasoline on the fire. There's a reason professional athletes always pretend taunting doesn't faze them, and that reason is that there's literally no better solution even when you're seething mad. Grin and bear it, and take solace in the fact that you're super rich, your kids are going to have a sweet life even if somebody does a lame insult on their dad, and nobody will care about this in five years.