The Year of the Brodie began the same way as every classic tale of vengeance, redemption, and maturity: with a text message. When Kevin Durant notified Russell Westbrook he was leaving Oklahoma City for the rival Golden State Warriors with that text, the most transcendent individual season in recent NBA history was set into motion.
Russell Westbrook’s assault on the basketball record books has been the biggest story in the sport ever since. Westbrook may not be the best player in the NBA, but there’s no denying he’s been the league’s most captivating figure throughout its marathon 82-game regular season and first round of the playoffs.
This was the season Westbrook became the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple-double, but it was so much more than that. Westbrook’s year of inhuman achievement was powered by an emotional core any fan could relate to. He was petty, funny, embarrassing, disappointing, and spectacular, often all at the same time.
Westbrook completed the Year of Russ by winning his first-ever NBA MVP award and brining the entire experience full circle. Westbrook gave us a season that will endure decades from now. This is how it happened.
The Cupcake Instagram post
When Durant announced his decision to leave OKC on July 4, Westbrook’s initial response was seemingly innocuous: he posted a plate of cupcakes from his holiday party on Instagram. We know now there was a hidden message behind the picture.
The story comes from the great Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated, who included this anecdote in his preseason profile of Westbrook:
When Kendrick Perkins played center for the Thunder, he called teammates “cupcake” if he thought they were acting a little soft. Westbrook and Durant adopted the term in jest. Westbrook posted a bittersweet pic on Instagram: three plates of cupcakes topped by red and blue stars and sprinkles.
Is it still a subtweet if it’s on Instagram instead of Twitter? Either way, this subtle dig was incredible. It set the tone for everything that was to come.
Westbrook commits to OKC — and gets a hero’s welcome
Westbrook was slated to become a free agent at the end of the season. He could have jumped ship to a bigger market and better team in the wake of Durant’s decision, but he decided to stick with OKC instead.
Meet Joe Dirt
The MVP race was over before it even began.
A perfect reaction to an angry fan
Game No. 1 in Russell Westbrook’s historic season did not start off with a triple-double, but it still contained one of his most memorable moments. A Philadelphia fan flipped Westbrook the double bird, and he gave us a reaction that can be meme’d forever.
Westbrook handled that better than a lot of other people would have.
The first 50-point triple-double
Westbrook didn’t wait long to start re-imagining what was possible in the modern NBA. In only the second game of the season against the Phoenix Suns, Westbrook finished with 51 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists. It was the first 50-point triple-double since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it in 1975.
This was just the beginning for Westbrook. He would finish with three 50-point triple-doubles on the season.
The world was watching when Westbrook’s Thunder and Durant’s Warriors met for the first time on Nov. 4. The hype was out of control for this game and Westbrook took it to another level when he showed up at Oracle Arena wearing a pinny that said “Official Photographer”.
This was immediately perceived as another subtle shot at Kevin Durant, who enjoys taking photographs in his free time:
Westbrook said got the outfit in Madrid and that it wasn’t a shot at KD. Sure.
Westbrook dunks on Clint Capela rather than running out the clock to beat HOU
The guile, the explosion, self-assuredness, it’s all here. In a season full of brilliant Russ moments, this might be the best one.
I have watched this 500 times and still can’t comprehend it.
THANK YOU, KYRIE?
Kyrie Irving had just stunned the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day with a falling fadeaway at the buzzer. The Thunder were warming up to face the Minnesota Timberwolves in the next game as it happened. It sure sounds like Westbrook yells “THANK YOU, KYRIE” as he ran into the tunnel after hitting his last shot.
Westbrook forgets he’s supposed to dribble
Only Westbrook could turn this into a lovable moment.
Westbrook to Zaza Pachulia: “I’m gonna get his ass back”
There was never a boring second when the Thunder played the Warriors this season.
Case in point: Westbrook getting leveled by Zaza Pachulia and vowing to “get his ass back.”
Westbrook on the Pachulia incident: "I'm gonna get his ass back for that one." pic.twitter.com/yJDYes2nXn— Royce Young (@royceyoung) January 19, 2017
Westbrook goes on a 15-0 by himself to beat the Grizzlies
Westbrook went into hero mode against Memphis in early February. With the Thunder trailing the Grizzlies late, Russ closed the game with 15 straight points in the final 2:14 to carry the Thunder to victory.
Westbrook and Durant get into a shouting match mid-court
The tension in the Russ-KD cold war finally boiled over on Feb. 11 when Durant made his highly anticipated return to OKC. With the Warriors starting to pull away in the third quarter, Westbrook and Durant began jawing at mid-court.
You can see Westbrook yell “I’m coming!” repeatedly as the teams head to the bench. This was a weird night in general and the entire NBA community was probably glad when it was over.
Westbrook and Durant connect for a heartwarming All-Star alley-oop
If only for a moment, an All-Star game alley-oop squashed the beef in the Westbrook-Durant feud. A simple give-and-go play ended with a Westbrook dunk and momentarily made everything right in the world.
The best part was how their Western Conference teammates reacted:
Even Kawhi cracked a smile.
Westbrook announces he will become a father
In a season full of firsts for Russ, this is the best one.
Westbrook on Steph Curry: “Who is he?”
Earlier this week Steph Curry said James Harden should win the MVP over Russell Westbrook. Today RW responds: "who's he?" pic.twitter.com/kqeiWJiMrC— Faizal Khamisa (@SNFaizalKhamisa) March 16, 2017
Steph Curry, reigning NBA MVP, was asked about this year’s race. He said “James (Harden) will probably edge Russell out.”
Westbrook was asked about this and issued a classic response. The eye roll at the end really brings it home.
Westbrook throws the pass the season — maybe the decade
This pass is impossible for like 100 different reasons. Tom Ziller broke it all down at the time.
If this was intentional, Westbrook is a wizard. If it was luck, then it’s just another example that this really was the year of Russ.
Westbrook named MVP by Migos, gets a shout-out from Kendrick Lamar
Westbrook joined Migos on stage during a show in Oklahoma City and crowned him MVP in a “Bad and Bougee” remix. So that settles that.
Westbrook was also named dropped in a new song by Kendrick Lamar.
Tables turned, lesson learned, my best look/You jumped sides on me, now you 'bout to meet Westbrook/Go celebrate with your team and let victory vouch you/
Just know the next game played, I might slap the s— out you/
This might have made Russ happier than anything else this season:
Russell Westbrook on getting mentioned on Kendrick's new song: pic.twitter.com/DIL64V0tZz— ㅤ (@GoatRapLines) March 26, 2017
Westbrook gets a triple-double without missing a shot
In a March 22 win over the Sixers, Westbrook finished with the triple-double (18 points, 14 assists, 11 rebounds) with zero misses. He went 6-of-6 from the field and 6-of-6 from the foul line.
Westbrook breaks triple-double record, sinks Nuggets at the buzzer
Westbrook broke Oscar Robertson’s record for triple-doubles in a season with his 42nd on April 9. That’s only part of the reason this night was so memorable.
With the Thunder trailing by two on the final possession, Westbrook drained a 35-foot three-point to give OKC the win. He finished with 50 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists on the night — his third 50-point triple-double of the season.
Westbrook’s season ended in the first round against the Rockets in five games. Somehow after 87 games, it felt like we still needed more Russell Westbrook in our lives.
Russell Westbrook wins 2017 NBA MVP
There was only one way this incredible season could have ended, and that was with Russell Westbrook winning the MVP. It’s the ultimate award for the ultimate season. Not only did he win the award, his speech had tears also as he thanked his family for all of their support.
Who knows what we will see from Westbrook next season but we’ll always have the Russ Revenge Tour in our hearts.