Passion Play: Russell Westbrook on Showtime, An Insider Look At – And By – The NBA’s Most Polarizing Point Guard

In the event you’ve watched any basketball within the final 15 years, Russell Westbrook, the person on the heart of Ardour Play: Russell Westbrook, a brand new feature-length documentary debuting on Showtime. The film provides an insider’s perspective on the polarizing level guard, a person who has reshaped the document e-book whereas holding his internal life largely hidden from the general public’s view. Westbrook stars, however brings in lots of figures from his previous to assist inform the story of his journey from undersized child to perennial All-Star.

The Gist: Russell Westbrook is among the most prolific gamers in in the present day’s NBA—a nine-team All-NBA group choice, a former MVP, and one in every of solely two gamers in historical past to common a triple-double over the course of a full season. He’s additionally one of the vital polarizing; he’s derided as an inefficient stats-chaser, a participant who messes up sport plans and may’t win a championship. Regardless of traditionally eye-popping statistics season after season, Westbrook’s bounced round these days; after an 11-season run with the Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder, his upcoming season with the Los Angeles Lakers will mark his third new group in three seasons. He drives opposing followers and speaking heads nuts, however he performs with a outstanding power and fervour in every sport. Nonetheless, few know the person behind the sport, and on this new, autobiographical documentary, Westbrook seeks to inform his facet of the story.

Photograph: Courtesy of SHOWTIME

What Films Will It Remind You Of?: It’s exhausting to speak about any basketball documentary these days with out speaking about The Last Dance, however the comparability is particularly apt right here: whereas the 10-part ESPN miniseries was purportedly in regards to the Chicago Bulls, it was largely Michael Jordan telling the story of Michael Jordan. On a smaller scale, that very same dynamic is at play right here: that is Russell Westbrook on Russell Westbrook.

Efficiency Price Watching: Whereas the spine of the documentary is Westbrook himself, some actually enlightening perspective is obtainable in interviews with the star’s father, who’s clearly liable for instilling a fierce work ethic, fiery competitiveness and utter fearlessness in his son, going as far as to maintain his personal stats throughout youth basketball video games.

Memorable Dialogue: “I believe folks don’t actually perceive who I’m,” Westbrook intones, after a gap montage of sports-media speaking heads debating him, “and a variety of that’s due to what I let folks see, and what I don’t allow them to see. I believe within the sports activities world, I’m the unhealthy man—I’m the straightforward goal due to the best way I play the sport.”

Intercourse and Pores and skin: None.

Our Take: You can construct a fairly compelling superteam merely from former teammates of Russell Westbrook. He performed with All-Star and NBA champion Kevin Love at UCLA, then future MVPs Kevin Durant and James Harden in Oklahoma Metropolis (and the latter once more in Houston). He teamed up with three-time All-Star Bradley Beal in Washington this previous season, and he’ll be part of forces with one of many league’s all-time greats in LeBron James (to not point out Anthony Davis) this season with the Lakers. Regardless of this assassin’s row of teammates, Westbrook is sort of by no means overshadowed, and when he’s the lead canine, he’s unstoppable: in 2016-17, he averaged a triple-double for the whole season, one thing achieved just one different time in league historical past, by Oscar Robertson in 1962. How do you observe up a historic achievement like that? Nicely, he did it once more, three extra instances within the subsequent 4 years.

Paradoxically, this huge manufacturing is usually held towards him; he’s derided as an inefficient participant, a nasty shooter, a participant who doesn’t match right into a cohesive system. Some overtly query if it’s doable to win a championship with him working level. Past that, Westbrook might be prickly; he’s tight-lipped with the media, typically clashes with opposing followers, and appears to confound coaches and GMs who don’t appear to know what to do together with his clearly immense however totally distinctive set of abilities.

Ardour Play: Russell Westbrook is crafted as a solution to all of this.

The documentary, although clearly one-sided—Westbrook stars in it and is an government producer—works to contextualize and humanize the person behind the sport, and it largely succeeds.

It follows him from his early days rising up in Southern California, taking part in in youth leagues and pick-up video games. His father labored exhausting to instill competitiveness in him, a competitiveness he would wish to make up for his comparatively small measurement; although Westbrook stands 6’-3” as a professional, he entered highschool with a slight 5’-8” body, a hindrance if he was going to appreciate his goals of taking part in big-time ball. This was a dream he shared together with his greatest buddy Khelcey Barrs—the 2 talked typically of their want to play collectively in faculty at UCLA, a dream solely one in every of them would have an opportunity to appreciate. Barrs died out of the blue of an undiagnosed coronary heart situation whereas taking part in a pick-up basketball sport in 2004, and the lack of his buddy clearly nonetheless weighs on Westbrook to at the present time. After this tragedy, he was extra centered than ever, and a senior-year development spurt gave him the dimensions he’d must compete at larger ranges. He performed two seasons in faculty at UCLA, the Bruins making the ultimate 4 each years, earlier than leaving early for the NBA draft; he was the primary draft choose made by the newly-rechristened Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder, and joined a gifted squad with future all-NBAers Kevin Durant and James Harden; steadily improved and made the Finals in his fourth season.

The one factor lacking is a championship ring, one thing he’s received an actual likelihood at on his newest super-team.

Talking as a basketball fan myself, I’ve by no means identified fairly what to make of Westbrook; I get pleasure from him the place many others don’t; his simple power on the courtroom is a pleasure to observe. However I’ve discovered myself questioning his success, too, as he’s morphed from a key half in a Huge Three to a numbers monster on unhealthy groups. He’s getting into one of the vital attention-grabbing conditions he’s ever been on this coming yr, becoming a member of LeBron and Anthony Davis in an try to get the Lakers again to the Finals after a disappointing first-round exit in final yr’s playoffs.

With that intense highlight forward, Ardour Play is an effective appetizer, humanizing Westbrook in a method he hardly ever has been earlier than.

Our Name: STREAM IT. In the event you’re a basketball fan, Ardour Play: Russell Westbrook provides a uncommon likelihood to know a participant we’ve come to know very properly for his exploits on the courtroom and barely off it.

Scott Hines is an architect, blogger and web person who lives in Louisville, Kentucky together with his spouse, two younger youngsters, and a small, loud canine.

Watch Passion Play: Russell Westbrook on Showtime | Stream It or Skip It?


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