One of the things that “old school” fans of the NBA lament about the modern game is how star players are too friendly with each other and that there aren’t the same kinds of player rivalries that existed back in the day because there isn’t the same level of animosity.
That may be the case overall, but there are still some heated rivalries that exist between star players, most notably between Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook. The two All-Star point guards, both of whom wear the number 0, have a healthy disdain for each other on the court and it’s come through in a few heated moments, particularly in this last year’s playoff series.
Portland won that series 4-1, capped off by a Lillard game-winner that immediately became a legendary Blazers moment, and during the series the two jawed at each other and had a few run-ins and kerfuffles on the court. Last week, Lillard sat down with House of Highlights and was asked about his rivalry with Westbrook, and called it a “competitive rivalry,” noting both are intense on the court and stressing it was all out of respect.
Dame says he’s got nothing but respect for Russell Westbrook 💯 pic.twitter.com/VQjpAYSdP3
— House of Highlights (@HoHighlights) August 28, 2019
That’s the answer one would expect from Lillard, who goes on to explain how both he and Russ have similar levels of competitiveness but show it differently, with Russ being loud and in your face and Lillard being more calculated with the verbal jabs and ignoring the noise for the most part.
Lillard has a healthy respect for Westbrook’s game and vice versa, but when they find themselves going against the other they tend to ramp up the intensity and that can lead to some verbal and physical altercations. That’s good for the league, and with Russ going to Houston there’s still a great chance we see the two duel again in the playoffs this season in an early round matchup.