Originally posted on Larry Brown Sports  |  Last updated 6/21/12

Russell Westbrook has been the media and fans’ whipping boy whenever anything goes wrong with the Thunder.

The criticism of Westbrook goes back to last season when the Thunder lost to the Mavericks in the playoffs. Many observers were watching the All-Star point guard play for the first time, and they were aghast that he didn’t play like a typical point guard. They couldn’t (and some still can’t) comprehend that Westbrook is an elite athlete whose specialty is getting to the hole and scoring, not passing.

Whenever things went wrong for OKC in the playoffs last year, the media and fans blamed Westbrook for not passing to Kevin Durant enough. The criticism has followed the same pattern this postseason.

After Oklahoma City’s Game 2 and 3 losses in the Finals, there were frequent calls for Westbrook to change the way he was playing. People lost their minds and forgot that Westbrook’s style helped the Thunder achieve the third-best record in the NBA and reach the NBA Finals. Once the team began losing, the media needed to point the finger, and Westbrook became the punching bag like usual. Good thing for Oklahoma City that Russell is above all that.

The Thunder star went off for 43 points and single-handedly kept his team in Game 4 of the finals against the Heat. He committed a boneheaded foul at the end of the game, but without his stellar performance, OKC wouldn’t have had a chance to win.

After the game, Westbrook was asked if he considered listening to the media’s pleas for him to change his style (which prior to the game, he wisely said he wouldn’t). That’s when he shoved it up the butt of every writer and talking head in sports.

“Get this straight,” Westbrook said. “What you guys say doesn’t make me happy, make me sad, doesn’t do anything. It’s all about my team and us winning a game. I don’t have a personal challenge against you [media] guys, and it’s not me against the world. It’s not the world against me. It’s me and my teammates trying to win.”

And just like that, Westbrook showed the type of mental strength he has that so many others lack.

Ironically, he was answering a question from Gregg Doyel at CBS Sports, who notoriously confronted LeBron James in last year’s finals about “shrinking” in the fourth quarter. Doyel and others managed to get inside LeBron’s head last year and caused the weak-minded player to struggle against the Mavs. Luckily James says he’s tuning out the media this postseason. If that’s true, it could be why he’s playing much better.

Credit Westbrook for realizing something LeBron didn’t: Don’t listen to the media’s criticism, because it can poison your mind.

Photo Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

This article first appeared on Larry Brown Sports and was syndicated with permission.

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