‘He’s The Cam Newton of the NBA’: ESPN Analyst

Getty Russell Westbrook

On Monday, during an episode of Keyshawn, Jay, and Zubin, Jay Williams made an interesting comparison. The trio discussed Washington Wizards star Russell Westbrook, and Williams compared the polarizing star to the New England Patriots’ Cam Newton.

Williams called Westbrook the “Cam Newton of the NBA” because he says the Triple-Double king will “never get the credit he deserves.”

Williams also drew the comparison in an interesting quote. He said Westbrook is “the polarizing figure that people like to find something wrong with.” Take a look and listen to his reasoning:

This isn’t the first time the two athletes have been compared to one another. There are many reasons to agree with Williams’ assessment while allowing for the apparent disconnections due to the different sports.


Unconventional Styles

Westbrook is far from a traditional point guard. In his prime, he has shot the ball more than most, and his rebounding acumen is something we’ve never seen at his position.

That said, Westbrook has never been the most accurate shooter, and that is often what his critics point to when attempting to discredit his skill and impact.

Still, Westbrook has won an MVP and been to one NBA Finals, though he fell short against LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and the Miami Heat back in 2012.
Newton has been a similar anomaly at quarterback during his NFL career.
While Newton has demonstrated the ability to will teams to victory with his size, running ability, and the usage of big passing targets like Greg Olsen, Devin Funchess, and Kelvin Benjamin in the past, his pass accuracy is the equivocal trait to Westbrook’s shooting.

There is even a parallel to draw between the two athlete’s teams and individual success.
Newton won the NFL MVP in 2015, and that season his Carolina Panthers lost in Super Bowl 50 against Von Miller and Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos.


Unquestionable Leadership Skills

Both Newton and Westbrook have received praise for their leadership, even though that quality may not be apparent to their haters.

Jeremiah Cioffi of Medium.com wrote this in observance of Westbrook’s on-court style and his leadership, which is boosted by a quote from Paul George, one of the latter’s former teammates.

Russell Westbrook is as much extrovert as Kawhi Leonard is introvert. We see it every game. He yells. He wears his emotions on his sleeves. He argues with the refs. He dunks with passion. Taking that alone and at face value turns some people off. Combine it with the fact that he has a usage rate north of 38% and one might conclude that he is a loud ball hog. That would be the wrong conclusion. Westbrook is the type of leader who will call you out. He knows your strengths and knows when you aren’t living up to your potential. According to Paul George, “he keeps everybody playing at a high level. He’s going to be confrontational in a positive way to uplift guys.”

Likewise, Newton doesn’t always get credit for his leadership, but all you have to do is listen to his coaches and teammates in New England, and you’ll quickly hear them singing his praises in this regard.

Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said this about Newton in 2020 per Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald:

I think Cam’s a tremendous example of what a leader is supposed to be. Leadership isn’t easy. Being up front, playing quarterback in the National Football League is certainly a challenge. There’s a lot of highs and lows that you’re going to experience. Cam, he’s never wavered from his work ethic, from his attitude, from the way he approaches practice, the effort he gives on a daily basis.

Still, as Williams points out, it’s not hard to find someone criticizing Newton and calling Westbrook overrated.

Quite honestly, the only way either man will ever shake the criticism–at least the kind that comes from logical and somewhat objective folks–is to win a championship. Patriots fans will be rooting for Newton in 2021, if for no other reason than to see their team return to glory.

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