In Defense Of Russell Westbrook Partying In Miami

IF this is actually a picture of Russell Westbrook partying in Miami the night before a pivotal Game 5, nobody should get on his back about it.

This tweet and photo were posted this afternoon:

Let’s say that this is, in fact, a picture of Russell Westbrook “partying,” whatever the hell that means. And let’s say that it was, in fact, taken last night, none of which can be proven by either this picture or the dude who tweeted it. Should we care? Should we all immediately withdraw our support for Russell Westbrook and hope that he doesn’t produce another dazzling, athletically marvelous 40+ point game tonight? If he does, does his partying make it more or less impressive? How many drinks did he have? Did he have sex? How late did he stay out? Were the bouncers nice to him?

Does any of this matter? No. Because whenever we indict anyone for going out the night before a big something, we have to think about whatever it is that we expect them to be doing otherwise. Should Westbrook be sitting lotus-legged in his hotel room, meditating on the crushing mistake he made at the end of Game 5? Absolutely not — Westbrook’s game is predicated on his ability to play with no memory, and if he becomes enmeshed in his mistakes from earlier in this series, that confidence and intensity is fractured.

Should he be sleeping? Yes, but nothing about this picture says that he didn’t get a good night’s sleep. And even if he was in bed, who knows whether he would’ve just spent eight hours mulling over the next day, today, which will be the biggest game he’s ever played in his life.

Should he be drinking? No, but again, nothing in this picture says that he was drinking. And even if he was drinking, the game is 18 hours away, and Russ Westbrook’s an adult and a basketball player who presumably knows his body much better than we do. Nothing about Westbrook’s play or persona in the league has indicated that he ever plays at any level of intensity lower than “Destroy”; if anything, he could often benefit from restraining himself. The annals of hungover athletes — the annals of drug-abusing athletes — are long and fat and ambiguous, and parsing that sort of factor out of all the other millions of things that impact a given game is impossible. No matter how Westbrook plays tonight, we’ll never know what his chemical state was like (provided he doesn’t throw up on the court while screaming, “I’m so hungover!”). And if he does have a bad game, it would be beyond idiocy to point to this photo. Sometimes people have bad games. Just ask James Harden.

UPDATE: Shocker! This photo is from 2011, according to the blog Shot of Ginn. Can’t trust everything you read on the Internet. Still a good opportunity to make all these points about knee-jerk reactions to athletes partying, though.

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