‘One of the best teammates I’ve ever had’

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During his one-and-a-half-year tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers, Russell Westbrook developed a checkered reputation and image with the team’s fans. A good amount of it was hyperbolic — even though he never fit in schematically, he always gave it his all and was almost always available to play. He even accepted a move to the bench early this past season with nary a peep.

Still, fans wanted him off the team at all costs, and some even felt he was one of the worst players in the NBA, not to mention a total malcontent.

Yes, there were times when Westbrook was hard to handle for his teammates and coaching staff. In fact, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, a source described Westbrook’s departure in February as akin to removing “a vampire from the locker room.”

However, some have come to Westbrook’s defense since then. In fact, Austin Reaves said that the former regular season MVP was one of the best teammates he has ever had (h/t HoopsHype).

“Yeah, he’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever had as a person, you know, you can’t get much better. I got COVID in December of my rookie year in Minnesota, and I was stuck there for like seven days. It was rough, but, you know, he reached out like three or four times, asked me if I needed anything, offered to send me stuff, whatever I needed. So as a person, you know, you couldn’t get better.” “And same as a teammate, he was always empowering everybody to really be better and do better. And one more thing, like you said, he gets a bad rap, and I don’t really understand why.”

Beneath his ultra-competitive, frantic and, some may say, prickly persona, Westbrook seems to be a very decent human being and a good soul. For further proof, one only needs to look at his activities off the court, which include his Russell Westbrook Why Not? Foundation, which looks to empower children, and being the executive producer of “Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre,” a documentary about one of the worst mass killings of Black individuals in American history.

Story originally appeared on LeBron Wire