To say Jerry West is impressed by the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook would be an understatement.
The Hall of Famer compared Westbrook’s athleticism to that of Michael Jordan, who as you might remember was pretty decent back in the day.
Here’s what West said about Westbrook on ESPN’s “The Jump” on Friday:
Jerry West on Russ: "We're looking at a reincarnation of Michael Jordan who might be a little better in terms of athletic ability" pic.twitter.com/UfRzDoOmF5
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) April 21, 2017
Do you agree with West?
Here was some immediate Twitter reactions to West’s comments:
Jerry West???? pic.twitter.com/pYxLj6y5Es
— #HotTakes🥞 (@Markspcehive) April 21, 2017
I too am reminded of (young) Jordan when I see Westbrook play. I guess me and Jerry West are crazy together.
— The Big O (@O_Shaw) April 22, 2017
Jerry West, you watched Jordan in his prime and you are comparing Russell Westbrook to him. Lol…I think it is time for a new logo.
— Noah (@noah4239) April 21, 2017
CBS Sports’ Kyle Boone doesn’t think West is nuts:
Westbrook is not Jordan. I think we can all agree on that. But this isn’t that crazy of a comparison. We’re talking about two amazing athletes who are stone-cold competitors and scorers, who do much of their damage in the midrange and at the rim, who can get hot from 3 from time to time but don’t live out there. Jordan was a passionate, wear-your-heart-on-the-sleeves player just like Westbrook is. And that’s something Jordan himself can agree on. “Thirty years ago, that’s me,” Jordan said of Westbrook to SLAM Online last August. “The attitude, trying to prove myself, showing so much passion for the game of basketball. You see it in his play. You can tell he loves the game, he plays with energy and flair.”
Washington Post’s Des Bieler also thinks West has a somewhat valid argument:
In fairness to Jordan, widely viewed as the greatest basketball player ever, West, who starred for the Lakers and then helped build their dynasties in the 1980s and early 2000s, appeared to be framing his comparison in terms of athleticism and not necessarily overall skill. Westbrook, of course, showed plenty of everything this regular season, when he led the league in scoring while becoming the first NBA player since Oscar Robertson in 1961-62 to average a triple-double (31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, 10.4 assists). Westbrook is considerably shorter than Jordan (6-foot-3 to 6-foot-6), so there is some merit to the argument that the Thunder star is the greater athlete, considering how frequently he explodes to the rim. However, Westbrook has more to do to be considered the best player in the league, as Jordan annually was in his heyday.
FanRag’s Jesse Borek says stats aren’t everything:
The comparison points specifically to athletic ability, which can be difficult to quantify in ways that stats are not. Jordan averaged 30.1 points per game for his career, while Westbrook currently sits at 22.7 PPG. Jordan had just one season in which he averaged at least 8 rebounds and 8 assists, not coming anywhere close to averaging a triple-double for the entire year.
FanSided’s Kareem Gantt is firmly on Team Jordan:
Westbrook is one dazzling player and he may be the most athletic player we have in today’s game, but looking back, Jordan was doing the exact same thing at the beginning of his career that Westbrook is doing now. To add to Jordan’s case, Micheal had something in the early days of his career that Westbrook is still working on — a credible outside game. Jordan made his living embarrassing the opposing team by making plays that we are still this day trying to figure out how he did them, but many overlook the fact that Jordan’s outside shot was something that couldn’t be ignored, which opened up the lane for MJ to display his awesome athletic skills. So while West is right in a sense that Westbrook is the best athlete we have in the NBA today, he’s off the mark in the fact that he’s the next incarnate of Jordan. As great as Westbrook is, he, nor will any other player, be the next Michael Jordan.
Compare for yourself. Here are some Westbrook highlights from this season:
And are the top 50 plays from Jordan’s career:
What do you think? Is Westbrook “a reincarnation of Michael Jordan” – at least athletically?