By MICHAEL KINNEY
OKLAHOMA CITY — One of the greatest television programs during the 1970s was a show called Supertars that spun off from Wide World of Sports. It was an all-around sports competition that pitted elite athletes from different sports against one another in various athletic events. They included the 100-yard dash, 800-meter run, an obstacle course, weightlifting, bowling, rowing, tennis, basketball, bicycle racing, shooting and swimming.
To the chagrin of diehard sports fans, the show no longer exists. But if it did, more than likely Russell Westbrook would be a favorite to win it every year.
“I think Russell at his position is similar to LeBron in terms of size, speed, power and athleticism,” Oklahoma City’s Derek Fisher said. “So it’s tough to compare. You don’t see it anywhere else. That’s what makes him special.”
Facing Houston on Sunday, Westbrook showed just how special of an athlete he is. With only 5.6 seconds left on the clock before halftime, the 6-foot-3, 187-pound guard took an inbound pass and raced from end-line to end-line in just four seconds for a layup.
“Just tried to get a basket,” Westbrook said. “When time is short like that, you got to find a way to get the best shot possible for your team. That’s what I tried to do.”
It would be one thing if Westbrook had ran down the court in a straight line. But to do it while dribbling a basketball and maneuvering around defenders made it a special play for even those who see him every day.
“When he’s in that situation, a lot of times he settles for the jump shot,” Brooks said. “But he can get there as fast as anyone in the league. It’s three seconds and he’s at the basket. That was a big play for us. You can’t ever take a possession off when you guard him.”
Westbrook has always been known to possess great athleticism. Coming out of college, that was his biggest strength, which made him an explosive shooting guard.
Yet, at the time, not many were sure he could make the transition to point guard and still be able to keep his explosiveness. But he has found a way. In his fifth year he averaged 23 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists in 82 games.
“He’s a world class athlete,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “There is no question about it. I think everybody coming out of UCLA was wondering, what is Russell going to be. I watched him a lot that year because we ended up with (Kevin) Love in Minnesota. I was up there at the time. His maturation into becoming an All-star and elite guard has really been something. He plays downhill, and he plays fast. And he’s aggressive, and he’s coming at you.”
After seeing Westbrook go coast to coast on his Rockets several times in Game 1 of their first-round series, McHale said his team has to be committed to getting in his way and taking charges during Game 2 tonight at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. Westbrook seems petty confident that’s not happening.
“I’m pretty sure they won’t,” Westbrook said.
While most point guards in today’s game have degrees of quickness their game, Westbrook is one of a handful who are flat-out dominant athletes. When healthy and playing, Derek Rose was in that small group. When Brooks was asked which players from the past to whom Westbrook could be compared, he couldn’t think of any.
“He is an amazing athlete,” Brooks said. “He’s driven. Very driven. He made a layup in front of our bench, that I gave Maurice (Cheeks) a little elbow. I said we didn’t see that in the 80s.”