Why Russell Westbrook is more like Larry Bird than Michael Jordan

In the shadow of Kevin Durant and the league-leading Golden State Warriors, there’s Russell Westbrook — man on a mission, trying to carry the Oklahoma City Thunder to the playoffs all by himself.

Westbrook is averaging a triple-double, earning rave reviews from critics and fellow players, but he won’t start in the All-Star Game because Stephen Curry and James Harden topped him in the fan voting. FOX Sports’ Andrew Lynch writes it’s not surprising that the fans love Curry, whose fan-friendly image is closer to Michael Jordan’s than Westbrook’s is.

(Or as Jason Whitlock put it, “He’s Will Smith and Russell Westbrook is 2pac.”)

“I’d compared [Larry] Bird more to Westbrook than Jordan,” Chris Broussard said on “Undisputed” on Friday. “‘Cause Jordan had the commercials — ‘Come fly with me,’ ‘Be like Mike’ — his persona was likable and lovable. And he knew how to play the media. And Westbrook does not care. And I think Bird did not care.”

But while Westbrook’s one-man army should be winning him respect and votes, his feud with Durant has turned him — not the ex-Thunder star — into the villain in the eyes of many fans, Skip Bayless says. Westbrook often comes off as “surly and defensive” in interviews, and the obscenity he used in apparent reference to Durant after this week’s loss at Golden State went beyond normal trash talk.

That loss — the Thunder’s second in as many games against the Warriors this season — underscored the reality that Durant’s departure left Westbrook as a rival of much less stature than a guy like Larry Bird, simply because Westbrook doesn’t have a team that can compete with the Warriors.

“I don’t know if Russ will ever let it go. And the worst thing for Russ is that your team cannot compete,” Broussard said. “This is not like you’re close — like Jordan and Isiah could be at odds and they were close teams. Russ can play great and there’s no way they can beat that Golden State team.”