When it comes to fans a basketball player can have, it’s hard to do better than Larry Bird. In a new interview, the Hall of Famer and Pacers president gushed about the way Russell Westbrook has been playing lately, saying he reminds him of his own competitive spirit.
From ESPN.com’s Mike Mazzeo:
ESPN.com: Russell Westbrook has been averaging nearly 30 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds per game for over a month now. You’ve put together similar stretches during your career. What do you think of what he’s been able to accomplish?
Larry Bird: Here’s a young man that has had serious injuries — bad knee injuries throughout his career — yet every time he walks on the court, you know you’re going to get 100 percent from him. He attacks, he’s fearless and he plays the way it should be played, so I’m all for him. I hope he wins 10 MVPs in a row. I just love players that compete on a nightly basis and really take the challenge to their opponents.
ESPN.com: You and Russell obviously play two different positions, but does he remind you of yourself in terms of his competitiveness and will to win?
Bird: I don’t know. I just think that my opinion about basketball, the way I was taught, was when you step on the court, you play to win. Now, if you’re not supposed to play to win, then they shouldn’t keep score. If they didn’t keep score in these games, I wouldn’t have played as hard as I did. But I do think this is our job. We know that we’re going to be hurting years down the road. He knows that he’s going to be hurting years down the road, but he can’t help it. He has to play that way to be effective, and he knows that.
High praise from the highest possible source, obviously. Westbrook’s season speaks for itself, and anybody who draws that kind of praise from one of the greatest players of all time has to be doing something right.