Russell Westbrook. Public enemy number one - Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Mid-way through the fourth quarter in Sunday night's game, Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook jumped up and messed with Rocky's behind the back shot. What he did was more than deny Nuggets' fans free Queso from Qudoba. He raised a giant middle finger to every Nuggets fan.
There are some people who, for lack of a better word, can be di**k's with humor. One such person was Charles Barkley. In the mid-90's, Barkley famously had a "feud" with Nuggets' mascot Rocky. At one point punching the mascot in the nose and knocking him out (actually a couple times).
Charles Barkley owns mascot (via 7deathsjorbri)
To this day Barkley will tell people how much he loves Rocky. There was so much humor in what Barkley did with the mascot that by and large Nuggets fans were ok with it. The outside observer may think "man, that guy is sure a jerk to that mascot" ... but it was clearly done in good fun and Barkley played it up every time he came to Denver. Understanding that, yes, this game is where he makes his living, but it is also entertainment.
That being said, there was no humor in what Russell Westbrook did. He was just being a d**k. End of story. Fans, by and large, are forgiving of things that people do if they appear to be rough, particularly if you do it with a wink and a nod to the fact that this is just a game. That wasn't done by Westbrook, and the fact he later went on to get into a shouting match with the people in the courtside seats probably tells you all you need to know about the mercurial point guard of the Thunder.
Listen, Russell, the fans in Denver already don't care for you ... primarily because you seem to have good games against the Nuggets. Being a jerk to the fans is one thing, but going out of your way to "in your face" it to the paying audience is just the sign of a person who is deliberately antagonizing and poking a sleeping giant. Why do I say sleeping giant? You see Russell, by and large the Pepsi Center crowds have been AWFUL this year. Not in attendance, but just in participation. At one point during the Nuggets game against the Spurs in December, after hitting a big time three Danilo Gallinari had to BEG the crowd to get into the game. I attended the game the Nuggets played against the Golden State Warriors on January 13th, and the biggest ovation came when Rocky and other mascots imitated the famous scene in the movie Titanic. That is how bad the paying crowd has been at Pepsi Center.
Until you messed with both Rocky and the audience, the crowd at the arena was not exactly whooping it up. The fact that you went on to hit a game-tying three to send the game to overtime is irrelevant. The fact that you did that TWICE during a critical fourth quarter shows how much disdain you have for both the Nuggets and their fans. You know what?
Keep doing it.
Throughout the Nuggets' history, we haven't been blessed with a "natural" rival. While many Nuggets' fans will point to the Utah Jazz, I will say to you that the mention of the Jazz doesn't exactly make the blood boil like it does when you mention the Oakland Raiders to Denver Broncos fans. The closest the Nuggets have come to a "rival" is the Los Angeles Lakers, but let's face it Nuggets fans, that rivalry has been one-sided for many years. What is developing between the Thunder and the Nuggets is proving to be quite tantalizing. Russell Westbrook and his ability to antagonize is exactly what Nuggets fans needed.
You add in the fact that Oklahoma City was "gifted" a ready-made franchise with a superstar in tow under shady circumstances and a fanbase that's never experienced the rough patches (while they had a poor record the first season in OKC, there was much promise for the future) and there you go. What you get is the makings what I hope is a promising rivalry.
I don't blame Russell Westbrook for not being aware of the history with Rocky and Nuggets fans. I do blame him for being deliberately d**kish and then arrogantly going after the fans afterword. It showed such disdain toward the fans in Denver that you almost have to sit back in awe. While I hate it ... and it makes my dislike of Russell "angry face" Westbrook increase, it makes me happy that the beginnings of a true rivalry may coming to fruition.
That is kind of cool.
Note: Ty Lawson's rather disappointing comments about Westbrook last night are frustrating. Mostly because it keeps showing the lack of awareness and standing up for the fans you want from a leader. We get it, you like Westbrook ... however, understand how upset your fanbase was and have the foresight not to say how much you think he is "funny" when he raised a metaphoric middle finger to your fans.
Twitter: @jmorton78 https://twitter.com/#!/jmorton78
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