For the past several years, any time that LeBron James has secured a rebound and pushed the ball up the floor against a scrambling and discombobulated defense we’ve been serenaded with “when he gets a head of steam, he’s like a freight train,” or some similar variation, by Fred McLeod, Eric Reid, Kevin Harlan or whoever happens to be calling his games to the point where it is almost getting old. Surely there has to be a more revolutionary comparison to make for an athlete like LeBron, perhaps the greatest in the history of human civilization, than a freight train, which has been around for a couple of centuries. I think we, as a basketball community, dropped the ball on that one.
Russell Westbrook has yet to have a mode of transportation become his designated calling card any time he does something marvelous in the open court. Being that he’s as prone to explode at the rim as anyone else in the league, I feel it necessary to expedite his application process for his own personal metaphor to a form of conveyance.
Hit the jump for the rest of Mark’s piece…
This feeling was brought about, of course, by Westbrook’s monster jam against Argentina yesterday in which he put Argentina’s Juan Gutierrez on the best poster of the Olympics.
Westbrook’s emphatic throwdown didn’t come in the traditional fastbreak since in which he was have a second or two to prepare for the impending highlight. This came as a result of a soft double by Westbrook’s man on Andre Iguodala, who stood about 15 feet from the basket on the baseline. Once Facundo Campazzo started scrambling back to Russell, Westbrook stepped in from the left wing to the left elbow and caught a good pass from Iguodala. After Westbrook put one dribble down his intention was clear. The lane was parted like the red sea and the runway was clear for takeoff, with the unfortunate exception of one Argentinian defender who catch a wheel on Westbrook’s ascension to the rim. After Westbrook put the ball on the floor, he used his gather step and, with his lead foot outside of the restricted area, launched to the rim in a matter of milliseconds.
While LeBron’s slams seem elongated by his signature cockback and majestic hangtime, Westbrook is all about acceleration and compactness. Even when Westbrook is alone on the break he often dunks swiftly and with extreme force. LeBron’s designation is like a golf swing: The longer he holds the ball back, the more force he pounds the rim with at the completion of his dunk. Westbrook’s dunks are like a Mohammad Ali jab: With a quick extension of his arm, he delivers something effective, terrifying, unfathomable and nasty, packing knockout power in a concise package.
Watching Westbrook takeoff is not unlike watching an episode of Extreme Machines on the Military Channel about world class fighter jets. The way they both shoot into the air at mind numbing speeds and carry so much firepower in such an agile frame is nothing short of evolutionary. The way Westbrook gets from point A to point B so quickly and such high altitudes makes him apt for the human personification of an F-22 fighter jet, the class of the United States Air Force, which is his natural vehicular metaphor. It’s too bad Clay Bennett came along because Westbrook is also as close to it gets to a human moving at supersonic speeds in the air (sorry Superman). Instead we’ll have to settle for the thunderstuck feeling we all get after seeing Westbrook display his mastery of aviation.
So the next time Westbrook uses the lane as a landing strip, imagine your watching a military grade aircraft sailing through the sky and see if you detect the similarities. And since Westbrook doesn’t have a good nickname outside of the shortening of is first name, I figured I’d give him one of those, too. Mach is the ratio of the speed of a body to the speed of sound that is often used as a numeral to describe the speed of fighter jets – the F-22 can reach up Mach 2 with afterburners. So, how does “Mach-0″ sound?