Column: Russell Westbrook doesn’t seem to understand calling him ‘Westbrick’ is fair game

Lakers guard Russell Westbrook gathers a pass as he's defended by Spurs guard Tre Jones.
(Eric Gay / Associated Press)

He was shaking his head, looking down, looking lost.

Russell Westbrook was discussing a series of tweets from wife Nina about harassment and obscenities and even death wishes.

He was clearly in crisis over being the hometown hero turned heel, openly struggling with his role as villain in the Lakers’ lost season.

He was pleading, enough is enough.

“Right now, she’s reached a point and my family has reached a point where it’s really weighing on them,” Westbrook told reporters Monday night in San Antonio, later adding, “When it comes to basketball, I don’t mind the criticism of missing and making shots. But the moment it becomes where my name is getting shamed, it becomes an issue.”


Occurring during a postgame press conference after another Lakers loss, it was a startling peek inside the seemingly tortured mind of their tough-guy guard, Westbrook showing a rare vulnerability in discussing the impact of the nightly scorn.

Russell Westbrook spoke at length about the criticism he and his family are getting from fans as the Lakers continue to struggle.

March 7, 2022

In particular, he focused on fans who have responded to his poor shooting by calling him “Westbrick.” He told the story of a parent-teacher conference in which he learned of his young son’s pride in the name Westbrook. He said he decided he no longer could accept that name being turned into an insult.

“‘Westbrick’ for example, to me, is now shaming,” he said. “It’s shaming my name, my legacy for my kids … now it’s time to put a stop to that and put it on notice. … Every time I do hear it now, I will make sure that I address it and make sure I nip that in the bud.”

He concluded his pained venting with the claim that his family no longer can bear to watch him play in person.

“It affects them even going to games, like, I don’t even want to bring my kids to the game because I don’t want them to hear people calling their dad nicknames and other names for no reason because he’s playing the game that he loves,” Westbrook said. “And it’s gotten so bad where my family don’t even want to go to home games, to any game …”

Almost immediately after Monday’s startling five minutes of soul baring ended, the public reaction poured in, with folks falling into one of two distinct camps.


1) Russell Westbrook is legitimately hurting from personal attacks and deserves to be treated with more decency and respect.

2) Russell Westbrook is acting like a baby.

The complicated truth is, both notions are correct.

Takeaways from the Lakers’ 117-110 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Monday.

March 8, 2022

Yes, this season obviously has taken a great mental toll on Westbrook, and yes, there is no place in this world for “death wishes” upon a guy because he can’t consistently make a jump shot.

The Lakers need to acknowledge his emotional distress as they would an injury. The fans need to stay away from personal attacks on Westbrook or any player. The entire Monday postgame scene was just sad.

That said, Westbrook cannot seriously stake his discontent on something as harmless as “Westbrick.”

First, by even bringing up his dislike of the name, he’s now ensured that it will be chanted at him in every arena. Until now, it was rarely heard anywhere. Now it will be heard everywhere. He should have just ignored it.

Second, it’s not personal, it’s basketball, and fans have every right to rip him for anything related to basketball.


Heck, earlier this year, he ripped them when he was asked whether he took their nightly displeasure home with him.

“Why would I take it home?” he said. “If they boo, they can take their ass home. I ain’t worried about that. It doesn’t bother me none.”

That last sentiment, of course, having now been completely disproven.

It is also disingenuous for Westbrook to rip fans for trolling him when he was the originator of the one of the most popular player trolls, his rocking-the-baby motion after dominating a smaller player.

“When I have smaller guys on me you gotta treat them like babies,” he once told Jimmy Fallon when describing the gesture. “The guys guarding me don’t love it so much but everybody else loves it.”

Nobody criticized Westbrook for the gesture because it was all about basketball. So too is “Westbrick,” because, honestly, Westbrook has been all about bricks.


He can’t shoot threes. He can’t make layups. He can’t shoot, period. He’s a turnover machine. His summer acquisition, and what it cost the Lakers, has been the driving force in their downfall.

There was nothing unseemly or unfair in any part of that previous paragraph; it was all about Westbrook as a player, and an evaluation of his play is fair game for anyone.

He will make $44 million this year based on a mostly brilliant 14-year career, so he’s heard plenty of cheers and “M-V-P” chants. Surely he knows those same fans have the same right to their opinion when that opinion is negative.

Interestingly, earlier this season he laughed about getting trolled by the Sacramento Kings game presentation folks, who accompanied him with the playing of “Cold As Ice.”

“That’s funny, I hope they played that the last 14 years,” he said at the time. “It’s funny they’ll play it now. That’s cute.”

He likely doesn’t think that sort of thing is cute anymore. The season clearly has worn him down. His failures have dropped him into a funk. It’s plainly become too hard for him to struggle so badly in front of so many people he wants so dearly to impress.


It’s tough to imagine any scenario in which Russell Westbrook returns to the Lakers next season. He’s no good for them. And now it’s painfully apparent that they’re no good for him.