Both players may be considered all-time greats, but Russell Westbrook is not digging the comparison made between himself and Allen Iverson.
According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, an anonymous executive made the comparison between Westbrook and Iverson because both players want to win on their own terms.
While speaking to McMenamin, Westbrook didn’t take too kindly to the comparison. The Los Angeles Lakers superstar says he’s “not comparable” to Iverson by any means.
“No. 1, I believe that I am a one-of-a-kind player, and I respect Allen and respect everything he’s done for the game, but I’m not comparable to Allen Iverson by any means,” says Westbrook. “No. 2, is that I’ve been probably—I feel, myself—always trying to fit in to do the best for the betterment of the team. And I’ve always done that in my career, and I’ll continue to do that and whatever happens, happens. If we win a championship, cool. If we don’t, I’m OK with that too and life goes on.”
The anonymous Eastern Conference executive stated the following in regards to the Westbrook-Iverson comparison.
“Russ reminds me of Allen Iverson, wanting to win but wanting to win on his terms,” one executive told ESPN. “If he can take a step back and win in L.A., it will validate everything else he’s done in the league.”
Similarities Between Westbrook and Iverson
There are key similarities and difference between both players — which is the reason Westbrook’s offense to the suggestion that they’re the same is understandable.
For one, it is true both players aren’t exactly the models of efficiency when it comes to their scoring. Even in the midst of his 13th season while playing in an era known for its efficient 3-point shooting, has shot .438 from the field for his career and .306 from the 3-point line for an effective field-goal percentage of .468.
By comparison, Iverson shot .425 from the field and .313 from the 3-point line for an effective field-goal percentage of .452 for his career.
Meanwhile, their usage percentages — the calculation of the percentage of team plays a player was involved in while he was on the floor that ends in a field-goal attempt, free-throw attempt or turnover — are astronomical.
Iverson led the league in that statistic on five different occasions and has a career usage percentage (31.8), ranking fourth in NBA history.
By the same metric, Westbrook has led the league twice and has a career usage percentage (32.4) that ranks second in NBA history.
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Differences Between Westbrook and Iverson
However, there are some differences. Westbrook has shown at least a willingness to take a backseat to superior players as his teammates– LeBron James, James Harden and Kevin Durant are examples — for the greater good of the squad.
In fact, Durant was the leading scorer on six of the seven seasons that he and Westbrook played together with the Oklahoma City Thunder. In their lone season playing together in Houston, Westbrook accepted a secondary role to Harden, averaging less points and less assists than his more efficient teammate.
Lastly, he’s clearly trying to fit in as a third wheel behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis, averaging less field-goal attempts and points than both players.
That’s also not mentioning how Westbrook has become a triple-double machine during the prime stages of his career, averaging a triple-double in three separate seasons — never before done in NBA history.
In Iverson’s case, he was a pure scorer. He led the league in scoring on four different occasions and while he did distribute the ball, he led the Sixers in scoring during his 10 full seasons with the franchise.
The comparison may be unfair as there are many layers to it. But it’s evident that due to both players’ ball-dominant natures resulting in less-than-favorable results, observers are starting to look at Westbrook and Iverson in the same manner. It also doesn’t help that both players bounced from team to team, with Westbrook now on his fourth team and Iverson having played for four during his career too.
The only way to eliminate this comparison is to win a ring. If Westbrook can do so — especially as a clear secondary option in Los Angeles — he’ll remove the stigma of being compared to Iverson.
As weird as that may sound, considering Iverson is a former MVP and Hall-of-Fame player.