Zion Williamson was inspired by Houston Rockets guard Russell Westbrook
Houston Rockets guard Russell Westbrook is considered a controversial figure among NBA fans, but for Zion Williamson, it was simple. Westbrook was an inspiration, and a piece of his mindset and game was something Williamson wanted to replicate going into college.
Of course, we all know how Williamson’s college career went. He had a phenomenal freshman season (22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists per game, AP Player of the Year, ACC Player of the Year, Naismith College Player of the Year) at Duke University, so good that he declared for the draft and was almost unanimously projected as the top overall pick.
Prior to this season, Westbrook averaged a triple-double with the Oklahoma City Thunder in each of the last three seasons. Many analysts and fans point to this as stat-padding and don’t believe it was exactly an “authentic” triple-double average.
Williamson saw it as effort at the most basic level and was inspired.
Zion Williamson said Russell Westbrook was one of his main inspirations
In 2016, Zion Williamson was years away from college or the NBA, still finding his way in an athletic frame that he seemed to gain overnight.
At Elite 24 in 2016, when asked about players he looks up to for inspiration and to model his game after, Williamson called out three specific names.
“LeBron James all-around player, Kevin Durant because he can shoot the three, and I love Russell Westbrook because I love his motor.”
For Williamson, the triple-double, stat-padding or not, takes an incredible amount of effort. You need to be on for the whole game, reeling and willing yourself and your team on each and every possession. What many others saw as reaching for assists and rebounds, Williamson perceived as effort.
And we’ve seen that frequently from him in his own game, despite appearing in just 19 contests so far in his career.
Williamson had a chance to show Westbrook his motor when the Pels and Rockets faced off earlier this year. Westbrook got by him with his quickness, but Williamson recovers and reaches for a clean block.
It’s not a pretty sight for Rockets fans, but it’s a beautiful display of the student putting on what he’s learned for the teacher, if you will.
Westbrook and Williamson would have remarkably similar box scores that night as well. In an eight-point victory for the Rockets, Westbrook logged 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists. Williamson that night had 21 points, 10 rebounds, and 1 assist.
Williamson is not the only young star to express high praise for Westbrook either.
While Westbrook’s game looks different this year than any year in recent history, his motor and work ethic are still undeniable.