June 15, 2024

How the Russell Westbrook-James Harden Death Match will play out

The Rockets-Thunder first-round matchup basically boils down to the one-on-one matchup between James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Here’s how the deathmatch will transpire.

This past NBA season has me feeling #blessed.

So many interesting things happened. LeBron James rested a few games, so a mass “controversy” ensued on whether or not he liked basketball. LeBron James said he didn’t care about a regular season game because he quote has been to six straight finals unquote, which also made people believe he didn’t care about basketball. LeBron James was seen at a Miami nightclub before a game against the Heat, further questioning his love for basketball.

Lol, I hate LeBron.

We also witnessed two historic seasons from a pair of offensive savants — Houston’s James Harden and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook.

The former embraced Mike D’Antoni’s offensive system with open arms, as he orchestrated a barrage of dribble-drives and 3-point kickouts that resulted in the league’s second-most potent offense. The shift in Houston’s offensive philosophy not only helped Harden average a career high in points per game (29.1),  but The Beard’s switch to point guard provided him the platform to lead the league in assists per game (11.2) and set the all-time record for most points created per game (57).

When The Beard is working his offensive voodoo, it appears as if he’s taking time, splitting the seconds like a cell and stretching them out further and further. His style is off-kilter, as if he’s lollygagging initially before slicing through a defense with impeccable ease.

What Harden is really doing is setting up his helpless defender. He’ll either piece together a string of subtle ankle-breaking moves on his way to the rim or deliver a pristine pass, whether it be a perfectly timed lob or a crisp bounce pass

Then, there’s the latter: Russell Westbrook.

What’s there to say about Westbrook that hasn’t already been said, both good and bad?

He became the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple-double for an entire NBA season. He broke The Big O’s record for most triple-doubles in a season (42) and led the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 47-35 record, which exceeded expectations after the departure of Kevin Durant.

Lol, I hate Kevin Durant.

And I’ll admit, I’ve been a skeptic. Every time I said that Westbrook was overrated, he would end my existence with a 50-point triple-double, which included shots like these:

Both players scored and created a lot of points. Because of that, there was literally an MVP debate after every game they participated in. You know those things that nerds do that show the probability of a team winning as the game goes along? Like for example, how when the Atlanta Falcons’ 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl meant their chances of winning was essentially infinity?

There should’ve been one of those for this season’s MVP race. It would’ve been so bi-polar. After every Harden turnover, Westbrook’s MVP chances would’ve skyrocketed to 99 percent, and after every wide-open teammate Westbrook failed to pass it to, Harden’s MVP chances would’ve also skyrocketed to 99 percent.


Regardless of who wins the MVP, one thing’s for certain: Every person in sports media will say that a lot of points will be scored in Houston and Oklahoma City’s first round matchup.

But they won’t tell you how it’s all going to go down. Luckily, I will. Here’s how it’s going to happen.

The Narratives

All the big sports media shows will discuss this series. It’s lit, it’s woke, it’s hype. It’s all of the above.

On Undisputed, Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe preview the series. The episode draws 92,000 viewers, while a 10-hour loop of George Bush getting a show thrown at him at a press conference in the same time slot receives 350,000 viewers. Skip, slapping on his desk after every syllable he utters, says “You know what, LeShannon Sharden, everything on paper says Houston should win this series. I mean, you have James Harden, averaging 29-8-11, that’s pretty great. You have Eric Gordon coming off the bench and averaging 16 points per game. That’s pretty great. Clint Capella and Ryan Anderson vs Steven Adams and Enes Kanter is tight, but I’ll give the edge to Houston. Then, the Rockets also have Patrick Beverly, as tenacious of a defender as I’ve ever seen… but it won’t matter because Russell Westbrook is on a mission right now. And by the way, I hate LeBron.”

“SKIYUP!” Shannon yells. “Come on, leave LeBron alone.”

At this point, Skip has developed a slight giggle. Shannon ultimately picks the Rockets to win the series in five. He alternates between his soft and loud voice with an emphatic clap as his transition. He also throws in one of his odd sayings.

“My momma always used to tell me,” Sharpe begins. “She said, Shannon, if you can’t catch a catfish, don’t expect to be called a dogshark.”

Moderator Joy Taylor looks confused. “What did you just say?”

Later on during The Herd, Colin Cowherd — a Westbrook hater — predicts the Rockets will sweep the Thunder because Russell Westbrook will try way too hard. Chris Broussard hear’s Cowherd’s prediction from another studio and quickly sprints over.

“But it’s historic!” Broussard yells. “It’s a triple-double!”

Kristine Leahy bumps in and says “Colin, stop it!”

Colin’s classic sly grin is plastered on his face and he begins to laugh, which then credcendos into one of his analogies.

“You know how you look at a Ferrari and you think, boy, I don’t want to take a glock into that,” Cowherd said. “Well, Russ is a glock in a rarri. He had this opportunity to be the engine of a well-oiled machine, but he’s messing it up by being a glock in a rarri!”

Broussard and Leahy are dumbfounded.

Game One

The energy is insane. The Toyota Center in downtown Houston is turnt to unpresidented (yes, that was on purpose) levels. The announcing crew of Mike Breen, Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy can’t hear themselves speak, but because Van Gundy is a Renaissance man, he quickly teaches them sign language, and the broadcast is performed through sign language. This ends up being a disaster.

During the game, Harden and the Rockets are cool, calm and collected, while Westbrook fulfills Cowherd’s prophecy and tries to do too much. He gets his triple-double, but ends up shooting 4-of-31 from the floor with nine turnovers. Meanwhile, Harden is the king of efficiency. He scores 30 points on 14 shots, grabs six boards and dishes 13 assists. He does turn the ball over seven times, but the Rockets win easily, 126-103.

Skip is a little frustrated the next morning on Undisputed, but finds a silver lining in Westbrook’s performance.

“You know what, I kind of expected that out of Russell because this is a big series for him,” Skip says. “He played too emotional, but remember, for a one-minute and 13-second stretch in the third quarter, the Thunder did outscore the Rockets, 6-2. So to me, Houston shouldn’t be up 1-0. They should be up 0.7-0.3. And Shannon, before you start, LeBron sucks.”


Cowherd is loving his day. As the show starts, he opts to smile instead of speak. Before long, he says, “I told you do. What did I say? Russ is the glock in the rarri!”

Leahy tries to talk, but Cowherd interrupts.

“Look, here’s a couple of things,” Cowherd states. “One, Russ shouldn’t win the MVP. If you’re driving a car and you hit a deer, it doesn’t make you a hunter. Just because Westbrook piles meaningless stats doesn’t mean he’s the MVP. And oh, by the way, LeBron is better than Jordan.”

Game Two

This game is billed as Westbrook’s sweet revenge. He enters the game mad, wearing headphones. Out of nowhere, Harden scoops in and removes Westbrook’s headphones to hear what he’s listening to. Upon hearing Russ’ music selection, The Beard laughs hysterically.

“Hahahahaha he’s listening to Boom Clap by Charlie XCX! Hahahahaha!”

The whole stadium begins laughing at Westbrook. He gets a technical foul for yelling obscenities. During the game, every time he touches the ball, the crowd yells “BOOM” in unison and claps. Even Van Gundy joins the fun and yells, “Hey Westbrook! Boom clap!”

That’s the final straw for Russ. Instead of carrying on with the Thunder’s offensive possession, he launches the ball so viciously at Van Gundy’s face that it caves in. Westbrook gets his second technical foul and leaves the game early in the fourth quarter with the Thunder only down by five. Harden has another great performance (27 points, 7 rebounds and 9 assists) as Houston wins, 119-97.

On Undisputed, Skip shows great disappointment in Russ.

“Look, I know Van Gundy can get under people’s skin,” Skip opens. “But Russ, I’m talking to you, you’re bigger than that. Now, having said all of that, I don’t think he should be suspended. In fact, I think LeBron should be suspended simply for even uttering the name Michael Jordan.”


After more discourse, it’s Shannon’s turn.

“What did I tell you from the beginning Skip?” Sharpe says calmly. “I told you Russell Westbrook would cost his team in the playoffs by throwing a basketball at Jeff Van Gundy’s face. I said it.”

On The Herd, the entire studio is decked out in Ferrari paraphernalia. Cowherd opens the show by saying, “Aint no glocks in here! Everything I said that would happen is happening. Glock. In. Rarri.”

Broussard is on the show and states, “I will admit to you, Colin. Maybe… you were right. Maybe I got too caught up in the triple-doubles.”

“What do I always say?” Cowherd asks rhetorically. “If you meet Albert Einstein, you aren’t going to challenge him on physics. Maybe fishing, but not physics. Don’t @ me when it comes to sports. You can talk about things I don’t know, which is nothing since I know everything.”

Later on in the day, it is announced that Westbrook is suspended for Game 3.

Game Three

With Westbrook out, Oklahoma City is doomed. Because one player had a usage rate north of 40 percent, the rest of the team forgot how to play basketball. The Thunder turn it over every possession and lose,125-0.

Harden records the most efficient triple-double in NBA history (26 points on two shots, 10 rebounds and 14 assists). Van Gundy tries his best to provide commentary, but because his face is caved in, all he can say is “Mffshh Wuhwuhwuh Mffsh.”

In the realm of truth known as Twitter, the series is declared over. No team in NBA playoff history has ever blown a 3-0 lead.

That is, until this series, according to Skip on Undispited.

“I’ve never been wrong before,” Skip says, which is ironic considering that statement in itself is factually incorrect. “Not once. And I’ve certainly never lost a debate. But you know what, because Russell Westbrook has had such a historic season… he’s going to continue it in the playoffs! Mark my words, the Thunder are about to thunder back and win the series!”


Cowherd is gloating. Harden is having an all-time series, while Westbrook has been a dud.

“I’ve been saying it all season long,” Cowherd says. “Triple-double, shmiple-shmuple. That’s fine. He can have them, but they’re bad for his team. Just like baconators are bad for your arteries and glocks are for your rarri, triple-doubles are bad for your team. Say it with me: Russell Westbrook. Baconator. Glock in rarri.”

Game Four

The Rockets enter Chesapeake Energy Arena on broom sticks. They want a sweep to happen. So Breen, being the broadcasting guru he is, says, “The Rockets have the brooms out, as they’re looking to sweep the Thunder here at Chesapeake Energy Arena  in downtown Oklahoma City.”

But Westbrook is having none of it. Instead of allowing a sweep to transpire, he goes nuclear, dropping Tsar bomba dunks while disregarding everything around him. Oklahoma City has a commanding lead throughout the first three quarters, but Harden begins cooking in the final frame. He hits six 3-pointers in the final quarter, with the last giving Houston a 132-130 lead with only eight seconds remaining.

What does Westbrook do?

He launches a shot from an impossible range and drills it as time expires. He then proceeds to combine eight different celebrations into one motion:

  1. He jumps into the air.
  2. He pumps his fist.
  3. He dabs.
  4. He transitions from the dab to the choke symbol with incredible grace.
  5. He then pretends to slit his throat.
  6. He flips the bird toward the Rockets.
  7. He files his taxes early because he’s a responsible adult.
  8. He removes one of his eyes, eats it, coughs it up, reassembles it and places it back in its original socket.

It’s a performance that stuns all.

Skip particularly loves it the next morning on Undisputed.

“Did you see what happened last night?” Skip said. “Westbrook did something your boy LeBron James could never do. He showed off the clutch jean (also on purpose).”


On The Herd, Cowherd doesn’t give a rip.

“Wow, you got one win. Congrats, you’re still down 3-1 loser.”

Game Five

With the series moving back to Houston, Harden wants to eliminate Westbrook and the Thunder as quickly as possible. He starts off hot, hitting his first five shots. But eventually, his shots stop falling, so he begins playing like a natural point guard and distributes the ball. Unfortunately, his teammates are letting him down.

Meanwhile, Westbrook is taking every Thunder shot. Literally. He sets the all-time NBA scoring record, scoring 114 points on 48-of-85 shooting. He also grabs 23 rebounds and turns the ball over 17 times. Harden cannot keep up with that production and Oklahoma City wins, 114-105.

On Undispited, Skip can’t believe what he’s just witnessed. He’s so flabbergasted that he’s willing to make the boldest of claims.

“I’m here to tell you something that is truly undisputed,” Skip says giving a look to the camera as he basks in the glory of his pun. “Of all the players whose last name represents a small stream headed toward the point of the horizon where the sun sets the equinoxes, Russell Westbrook is the best of them all.

Shannon cannot believe the blasphemy. “SKIYUP!”

“That’s right, I said it!” Skip responds emphatically. “You heard it here first. And by the way, Tim Tebow is better at baseball than Barry Bonds!”


On The Herd, Colin find a way to discredit Westbrook’s transcendent performance while talking to a smug Broussard.

“Okay, look, you look at the stats and you think, wow, Westbrook was great,” Cowherd says.

“He was,” Broussard interjects.

“Don’t interrupt me ever again or I’ll kill you,” Cowherd threatens.

“Alright,” Broussard says.

“Anyways, as I was saying,” Cowherd continues, “But despite the 114 points, he turned the ball over 17 times.”

“Colin!” Broussard yells. “We’re talking about 17 turnovers when the man just scored 114 points?!”

Colin pulls out a glock, shutting up Broussard.

“That’s right, you talkin now, buddy?” Cowherd says. “This studio is a rarri and now I got a glock in it. I don’t care about points, rebounds or assists. I don’t care about that stuff. All I care about is maintaining possession. Westbrook doesn’t do that!”

Game Six

Now that the series is back in Oklahoma City, the Rockets begin pulling out all the stops. They invite Kevin Durant, whose Golden State Warriors dominated Portland so brutally in Game 1 of that series that the Warriors were granted an additional three wins. Durant sits courtside next to the Thunder bench, where he attempts to engage in small talk with his former teammate.

Durant: So, Russ, did you hear about how…


Durant: Bro I just wanted to go somewhere different this has nothing to do with you I still love you dawg!

Westbrook: If you loved me…

(Both freeze in time, stare at each other intensely and begin singing “All I Want” by Kodaline.)

Westbrook: But if you loved me, Why’d you leave me?

Durant: Take my body. Take my body.

Westbrook: All I want is, and all I need is.

Durant: To find somebody. I’ll find somebody like you.

They both hug one another. Durant then makes a phone call to Steve Kerr and Adam Silver, asking for a temporary trade to Oklahoma City. The wish is granted and Durant is now a Thunder again.

When Harden sees Durant warming up for the Thunder, his immediate reaction is this:

“How is that fair? I want another superstar too!”

Harden sends texts around the league, asking if any player is open to being traded temporarily to the Rockets. Eventually, DeMarcus Cousins says yes and becomes a Houston Rocket. Because he must travel from New Orleans, the game is delayed. When he finally arrives, he’s automatically hit with two technical fouls and thrown out of the game. Harden can’t believe it, so he decides to protest the game. His teammates join, but since the game won’t be postponed or forfeited so it can fit my story, the Thunder are forced to play against nobody. Westbrook gets a triple-double (30 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists). He manages to turn the ball over eight times. Durant adds 52 points. The Thunder win, 148-0.

Game Seven

The world pauses to watch Game 7. Harden and Cousins vs Westbrook and Durant. Cousins makes a deal with the refs to only receive one technical foul upon entering the building. Durant and Westbrook are holding hands and skipping around the court, singing “We are the two best friends that anybody could have!” Everybody is happy, everybody is excited.

Van Gundy continues to muff along as he tries to provide pregame analysis. Mark Jackson talks about all the different appointments each player is going to have. “I expect DeMarcus Cousins to have multiple appointments with the rim. I expect Westbrook and Durant to have an appointment with a therapist because if I’m being honest, this whole thing is a little weird.”

“BANG!” Mike Breen screams, which startles Van Gundy and sends him falling backward in his chair. The force against the back of his head pushes his face forward, but because the fall was so violent, Van Gundy’s face skin sags, leaving him still unable to speak.

At tipoff, the game is so hype that every person in the crowd begins shaking uncontrollably. It’s a huge distraction for players to play 48 minutes surrounded by thousands of shaking humans, but they are paid millions while soldiers in the Military aren’t.

Breen is so extatic for the game that after every free throw, lay-up, jumper, dunk and 3-pointer he yells “BANG!” This annoys Westbrook, who tells Breen to “Shut the beep up.”

Breen’s reponse? “BANG!”

The game is tight the whole way, but like Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, the physical and mental exhaustion of the entire series has both offenses playing lackluster basketball.

Tempers also begin flaring. After knocking down a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter, Harden stares down Westbrook. The formerly betrayed “point guard” takes offense to this and charges at Harden, but Durant holds him back.

Durant: Hey man, you gotta keep your cool.


Durant: Russ. Holy grammar.

Westbrook: Why should I listen to you? How do I know you’re not trying to sabotage me? All I ever wanted from you was…

(Both freeze in time, stare at each other intensely and begin rapping “LOYALTY.” by Kendrick Lamar featuring Rihanna)


Durant: Kung Fu KD, now. My resume is real enough for two millenniums. A better way to make a wave, stop defending them. I meditate and moderate all of my wins again. I’m hangin on the fence again. I’m always on your mind, I put my lyric and my lifeline on the line. And aint no limit when I might shine, might grind. You rollin with it at the right time, right now. Only for a dollar sign.

Westbrook: Bad boy Russy now. Swerve, swerve, swerve, swerve deeper now. On your pulse like a CDM. Gas in the beep like it’s premium. Gas in the beep like it’s premium. Haul beep on a beep all in the fast lane. Been a bad beep way before any cash came. I’m established. Hundred carats on my name. Run the atlas, I’m a natural. I’m alright.

The mixture of Game 7 hype and fire Kendrick Lamar/Rihanna bars causes all the shaking fans to combust simultaneously. Suddenly, the basketball court and media row are surrounded by a ring of fire, but the game must go on because they’re trapped, so they might as well finish the game.

With the game tied at 90-90 with only 30 seconds remaining, Harden brings the ball up the court and calls an iso play. Westbrook is switched on him and the two engage in disrespectful discourse aimed at each others mothers. The war of words becomes so heated (haha) that the shot clock eventually expires.

That means, Oklahoma City ball with a chance to win.

Oh. My. Goodness. This is destiny for Westbrook.

After an Oklahoma City timeout, Durant inbounds the ball to Westbrook, who them immediately passes the ball back to Durant.

At that moment, Durant gives off a smirk. Westbrook sees it and knows what’s about to happen.

Time stands still. You can see each individual droplet of sweat run down Westbrook’s cheeks. Durant drops the basketball. It makes a thunderous sound with each thud against the hardwood. He suddenly rips off his Thunder jersey. Underneath it…a Rockets’ jersey. Durant is a double agent. All Westbrook can do now is say “E tu, Durant.”

Durant gives the ball to Harden, whom he fouls with .01 seconds left. Harden goes to the free throw line and knocks down both free throws. The clock runs out as soon as Westbrook contacts the ball.

Houston advances to the second round.

After the game, Durant said, “I didn’t do that because of Russ. I did that to get back at Skip Bayless.” Durant winks at the camera. Meanwhile, at his home in Los Angeles, Bayless is observing the game calmly. He actually doesn’t care about the game’s outcome, but knows that he has to play a character the following morning, so he pretends to be outraged.

His jaw drops so rapidly after Durant’s wink that Skip is unable to close it. The following morning, he announces his retirement via Twitter DM to FoxSports. He also sends a DM to Shannon. When Sharpe sees the notification on his phone, he opens it up and reads it.

The message from Skip reads, “LeBron still sucks.”


On The Herd, Cowherd is having the time of his life. He plays “679” by Fetty Wap for the entire show while he takes credit for Houston’s victory.

Featured image courtesy of Reddit 

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Follow me @DavidJBradford1 on Twitter, email me at dbradfo2@vols.utk.edu for any questions.