Stephen A. Smith stands by original Russell Westbrook criticism

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Ethan Cadeaux
·5 min read
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Stephen A. stands by his criticism of Russell Westbrook originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Stephen A. Smith has responded to Russell Westbrook. He isn't changing his original stance, either.

"I stand by everything that I said yesterday," Smith said on First Take on Wednesday.

"Go back and look specifically about what I've said about Russell Westbrook, not just yesterday, but his track record," Smith continued. "This is a sensational athlete, the most athletic point guard in the history of basketball, destined for the Hall of Fame. I've said all of those things. But you've come up short."

The back-and-forth between Smith and Westbrook began on Tuesday morning, one day after the Wizards point guard turned in the first 35-point, 20-assist triple-double in NBA history. The ESPN analyst said Westbrook's incredible stat line meant nothing to him citing the 32-year-old's lack of success when it counts in the postseason.

Smith's comments caught the attention of both Westbrook and his wife, Nina. First, Nina went on a rant on Instagram criticizing Stephen A., saying that her husband is "way more than a championship" and that the Wizards star is a "champion of life."

Then, following Washington's Tuesday night loss to the Hornets, Westbrook himself went spoke at length about Stephen A.'s critique of him, too.

"I sit back, I don’t say much. I don’t like to go back and forth about people. But one thing I won’t allow to happen anymore is let people create narratives and constantly talking [expletive] for no reason about me because I lay it on the line every night," Westbrook said. "And I use my platform to be able to help people all across the world. Nobody can take that away from me. I’ve been blessed to be able to have a platform to do it. A championship won’t change my life. I’m happy. I was a champion once I made it to the NBA. I grew up in the streets. I’m a champion. I don’t have to be an NBA champion," he said. 

Smith addressed both Westbrook and his wife's comments but said neither one of their responses changes his original assessment that the guard has come up short for what matters most in the NBA.

The ESPN personality then went through each situation Westbrook has been in with every team he's played for throughout his career, documenting where the guard and his team ultimately didn't live up to expectations.

"You were with Kevin Durant when you had a 3-1 lead and you lost it to Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors. Kevin Durant departs. We got on Kevin Durant for leaving you high and dry. The next three years, you get bounced out in five by James Harden and Houston, you get bounced out in six by Donovan Mitchell, you get bounced out by Damian Lillard in six, who not only dropped 50 but waved goodbye to you after hitting that long three over Paul George," Smith said.

"Then you go to Houston last year, then what happens? You fall in the playoffs to the Lakers. Now you're in Washington, teammates with Bradley Beal, you're 13 games under .500 and everybody wants to talk about your numbers."

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Smith made it clear that his comments were never meant to be an indictment on Westbrook's character, saying his criticism was solely based on his performance on the basketball court. Stephen A. also said he felt his original comments did not warrant Westbrook's response about how he's made an impact in other walks of life besides basketball.

"Russell Westbrook is one of the most real, authentic people you will ever see in your life. I respect the hell out of the man," Smith said. "What does that have to do with your game?"

Throughout his nine-minute response, Smith brought up multiple times that Westbrook has put up incredible numbers in the past.

But, with the guard having accomplished almost every individual accolade possible, Smith thinks winning a championship should be the only thing that matters for Westbrook at this point in his career.

"You've been so phenomenal with the numbers. We don't care any more about the numbers. We know what you can do," Smith said. "You won a league MVP averaging a triple-double. ... What about the championship? Because you've been to four conference finals."

Smith then compared Westbrook, a likely future Hall of Famer, to other greats in the past, saying he is not paid the amount of money he's earned for him not to strive to win a title.

"Russell Westbrook is a man that signed a five-year, $206 million contract. Russell Westbrook is making generational money. Russell Westbrook is averaging over $41 million a year. And championships don't matter? Really? That's not the culture of basketball I come from." Smith said.

"Every single Hall of Famer, watch them give their speeches. What do they say? They apologize to their families, friends and loved ones because of their fixation on capturing a 'chip and the sacrifices they made in pursuit of that level of excellence and greatness. ... You don't [pay Westbrook the money he is earning] for somebody to say 'championships don't matter'.'"