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Russell Westbrook is defined by his emotion and expression on the court almost as much as he is defined by his talent and athleticism. When it comes to holding back, Westbrook simply doesn’t have that setting. He goes all out at all times, and for better or worse, he doesn’t hide anything.
And this is why we love him.
When thinking about all of the different ways Westbrook expresses his passion on the court, one does not simply summarize it with words in a single post. Moving pictures are required. Without further ado, here are some of the best ones we’ve seen this year, each complete with a full breakdown and corresponding GIF.
When we saw it: Thunder at Hawks on December 10
What it means: Not good things. Russ is probably 1 for his last 12.
If this Russell face could talk: “No more made layups for me, bro…”
How this face makes the opposing team feel: Cautiously optimistic.
Rating with respect to the Thunder game plan: 2 out of 10
One of the more common Russell Westbrook faces (in fact, the scowl is pretty much his face most of the time), it is also the worst for Thunder fans. Russ dropped this particular version after his second missed dunk against the Hawks, which made him 1 for his last 10. After getting fouled on the next possession, he let it all out. He was smiling by the second free throw, and dropped the high five swag later in the same game, so he can recover from it.
Seeing this face always means that bad things have happened, but it doesn’t give any clear indication of what is to come. It can always signify a release of energy on a terrible night, but it can also be a turning point, even if it doesn’t feel that way at the time. Westbrook is capable of exploding at any moment, so the scowl shouldn’t be considered a sign of a future struggle. Embrace the scowl.
THE GRUMPY CAT
When we saw it: Lakers at Thunder on December 13
What it means: “Ooohhh, I JUUUUST missed pinning that block”. Or maybe he doesn’t think KD’s shoes match his jersey well enough…?
If this Russell face could talk: “No more close misses for me, bro.”
How this face makes the opposing team feel: “D’awwwwww!” Also legitimately confused as to its purpose.
Rating with respect to the Thunder game plan: 6 out of 10
A rarity, the Russell Westbrook Grumpy Cat look isn’t a go to for our eccentric superstar. It is essentially neutral on any normal emotional scale, but we’ll consider that a positive for Russ. It came just after Westbrook and Serge Ibaka blocked a shot that ended up going out of bounds, but it seems like Russ wanted to pin it against the backboard and start running the other way. The Thunder were up 19 near the end of the third at the time, so there was no reason for him to react in any other way.
Even Mike Breen noticed the face and made it a point to mention it, which he then smoothly transitioned into a rant about Westbrook’s athleticism. It was perfect, really. After Breen said all of that, Jeff Van Gundy went a rant about how the Lakers had absolutely no chance at winning the game. In the end, lets not forget the Grumpy Cat, for in the end it may rear its grumpy face at the most unexpected of times.
When we saw it: Thunder at Grizzlies on December 11
What it means: Yay!
If this Russell face could talk: “No more frowns for me, bro.”
How this face makes the opposing team feel: Nervous.
Rating with respect to the Thunder game plan: 8 out of 10
Pure joy. Usually Russ leaves at least a hint of anger in his faces, but he let it all out this time. After Andre Roberson stole a pass midway through the first quarter, he went the length of the court for the layup, but it rolled out. KD was there to put it in a pick up an and-1, and Westbrook was so happy for the rook he just couldn’t hold back. He ran straight over to Roberson afterwards and let him know how proud he was.
It isn’t easy being a rookie in the NBA, especially one that needs a break just to get some run, so it must feel great bringing out some truly positive emotion from a superstar teammate. I doubt I’ve seen Westbrook any happier than this at any point this season. Usually he is really pumped up, so the smiles turn into screams. And when THAT happens…well, you’ll see.
THE HIGH FIVE SWAG
When we saw it: Thunder at Hawks on December 10
What it means: Things are going well. Very well.
If this Russell face could talk: “No more wins for you, bro.”
How this face makes the opposing team feel: Defeated.
Rating with respect to the Thunder game plan: 10 out of 10
Russ dropped this move after he and Kevin Durant ran a pretty fast break together midway through the 4th quarter, one that ended in a KD dunk. The dunk put the Thunder up 13 with less than 7 minutes to go, meaning Russell could finally feel good about his play, despite his abhorrent shooting night.
When one drops this much chill in a single moment, it signifies a lot more than a good play. It represents a job well done, an acknowledgement of the hard work and effort that went into getting to this point in time. It also says a lot about the amount of teamwork required to succeed, as well as the high level of camaraderie seen between these two super teammates. You can’t have high five swag without a partner to high five swag with. Everyone knows that.
THE FLEX SCREAM
When we saw it: Pacers at Thunder on December 8
What it means: “It’s over! It’s over ladies and gentlemen!” -Kenny “The Jet” Smith
If this Russell face could talk: “NO MORE HOPE FOR YOU, BRO!”
How this face makes the opposing team feel: Despondent. Inferior. Terrified. “OH, F#$K!”
Rating with respect to the Thunder game plan: 1,233 out of 10
“One face to rule them all, One face to find them, One face to bring them all and in the darkness bind them” -JRR Tolkien, describing the Russell Westbrook flex scream and definitely not the one ring of power from Lord of the Rings.
An ode to a classic, the flex scream is the quintessential Westbrook face. Often dropped after a big and-1, this particular version came after a layup that put the Thunder up 21 against the team with the league’s best record. If you see this face, just know that you will remember it, for it is not used carelessly.