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Russell Westbrook vs. Allen Iverson Career Comparison: Which Guard Is Truly The Greater Player?

Russell Westbrook vs. Allen Iverson Career Comparison: Which Guard Is Truly The Greater Player?

Russell Westbrook is widely regarded as one of the most dominant guards of all time and easily the best athlete we have ever seen play the game from his position. The explosive point guard is already intimidating when he steps on the court, but there is no doubt he is a tremendous talent with incredible basketball skills. A former MVP and the greatest triple-double threat ever, Russ changed the NBA by encouraging players to play as hard as possible because it could result in incredible statistics across the board. Not to mention, Westbrook broke the record for triple-doubles and surpassed Oscar Robertson in terms of averaging a triple-double in a season more than one time.

Meanwhile, after 14 seasons of outstanding play in the NBA, Allen Iverson is considered arguably the greatest ball-handler of all time and a top-10 scorer of all time. With 4 scoring titles to his name, Iverson dominated the scoring charts and changed the NBA in terms of how players impose themselves and their character on and off the court. A polarizing figure, Iverson was truly a beloved athlete and a tough competitor who had his enemies on the court. Iverson, known as The Answer, is also regarded as a top-35 player ever in terms of skills and talent.

Both Westbrook and Iverson had amazing careers and should be honored as two of the greatest players of all time. Their achievements are extraordinary, and their longevity is something that is hard to compare to. To try to distinguish between the two legends, it is time to compare the careers of both players by their most important achievements and statistical categories. The end result might be surprising because both stars are held in the highest regard.


Championships

Russell Westbrook: 0

Allen Iverson: 0

Russell Westbrook has not won an NBA championship in his career so far. He made the NBA Finals once in his career in 2012, although the point guard did not win the championship despite being the best player on the team alongside Kevin Durant. Russ had a shot at winning it in 2012, but the Oklahoma City Thunder could not defeat the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals as they proved to be too inexperienced. Westbrook had a decent series on paper, but he could not do enough against LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

Similarly, Allen Iverson does not have an NBA championship on his resume. The Answer retired without ever winning a title, and that has been the only thing missing from his career. A multiple-time All-Star and 4-time scoring champion, Iverson accomplished everything, including leading a very average team to the NBA Finals in 2001. Iverson also stole Game 1 against the superteam Lakers led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant and deserves credit for doing his best. But in the end, the Philadelphia 76ers could not win the series and lost in 5 games.

Winning rings is the single most important part of a superstar's career, and neither player has the edge. Being ringless was the biggest criticism of Allen Iverson’s career, and it often perpetuated the stigma that the guard was not a team player and was instead a selfish scorer. Of course, Westbrook is facing the same stigma, except he is also facing more criticism for being inefficient and turnover-prone.

Advantage: Even


Finals MVP Awards

Russell Westbrook: 0

Allen Iverson: 0

Russell Westbrook has not won an NBA title and did not capture the Finals MVP award. Russ has accomplished everything in his career except for the NBA title and Finals MVP award, and he needs to find a way to add that to his Hall of Fame resume. It seems very unlikely that the point guard will win a title, never mind the idea that the point guard is declining and does not have the skill or capability to be the best player on a Finals team. As a result, Russ will very likely retire without a Finals MVP award.

Similarly, Allen Iverson never won a Finals MVP award. He had his best chance in 2001 with the Philadelphia 76ers, but he could not break through and had no shot at winning the award over Shaquille O’Neal of the Los Angeles Lakers. Other than the 2001 season, Iverson never really had a chance to win the Finals MVP award. It is a shame because the talented guard could not break through and capture the most valuable individual award. Of course, that means this comparison category also results in an even exchange.

Advantage: Even


MVP Awards

Russell Westbrook: 1 (2017)

Allen Iverson: 1 (2001)

Russell Westbrook won the MVP award in 2017 as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder that just lost Kevin Durant for nothing. He averaged 31.6 PPG, 10.7 RPG, and 10.4 APG for the Thunder, cementing himself as the best point guard in the NBA in terms of impact and value to his team. Russell Westbrook also led the league in scoring, and singlehandedly carried his team into the playoffs with a 47-35 record. Leading the league in scoring, averaging a triple-double for the first time since Oscar Robertson, and making the playoffs with a bad team has to be the best achievement in Westbrook's career as an individual because he won the MVP award.

Meanwhile, Allen Iverson also won one MVP award as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers. The Answer averaged a league-leading 31.1 PPG, 3.8 RPG, and 4.6 APG while also contributing a league-leading 2.5 SPG. Iverson carried the 76ers all season long, leading them to the top spot in the Eastern Conference with a 56-26 record. Amazingly, nobody expected Iverson to be that dominant when his best teammate was a defensive center past his prime in Dikembe Mutombo. Iverson was rewarded for his scoring ability and dominance as the best scorer in the NBA.

Ultimately, there is no separation between the two superstars. Both superstar players are recognized as the franchise players for their teams in their respective periods and also the best players at their position almost every season of their absolute prime.

Advantage: Even


All-NBA Teams

Russell Westbrook: 9 (2 First Team, 5 Second Team, 2 Third Team)

Allen Iverson: 7 (3 First Team, 3 Second Team, 1 Third Team)

Russell Westbrook has made 9 All-NBA Teams, with 2 First Team appearances and 5 Second Team appearances. Of course, sharing the court with other top guards, including Stephen Curry, James Harden, and Damian Lillard, cut back on his selections, although 9 total appearances were impressive. It seems unlikely that Russ will find a way to make more All-NBA Teams, although he could find a way to return back to his best version of basketball and add some more appearances. Still, through 14 years, Russ has impressively missed an All-NBA selection only 5 times in his Hall of Fame career.

Allen Iverson made 7 All-NBA Teams, with 3 First Team appearances. Of course, those are very solid achievements, and he could have had more All-NBA appearances had he played in today’s NBA. But The Answer was playing in an era with a tremendous lineup of guards and had his career cut far too short because he had 9 elite seasons instead of a few more. The guard faced some off-court issues and injuries, and that cut down on the All-NBA appearances. That still does not affect Iverson’s legacy. But as things stand, Russell Westbrook has an edge over Allen Iverson because the point guard passed up the Hall of Fame offensive player in 2017 in terms of All-NBA selections.

Advantage: Russell Westbrook


All-Star Selections

Russell Westbrook: 9

Allen Iverson: 11

As Russell Westbrook nears age 34, he has a total of 9 All-Star appearances. Making 9 All-Star Teams is nothing to sniff at, and he has a chance to make a few more before his career is up. But as it stands, Westbrook has quite a margin to make up if he wishes to equal Allen Iverson’s mark of 11 All-Star Team selections. With Westbrook’s late decline in his abilities, making another All-Star Team seems unlikely, let alone two. But if the point guard finds a way to dominate again with the Lakers or finds a new home where he can put up monster numbers again, he could add more selections as he has 9 All-Star appearances in 14 years.

Meanwhile, Allen Iverson has a total of 11 All-Star appearances in 14 years. That is an incredible achievement for a “little man” because the majority of small guys struggle to stay healthy and play at a star level for that long and often break down, as they take a ton of damage when battling in the paint. But Iverson is one of the most dominant offensive players ever, and he was able to impact the game for a very long time. In the end, The Answer has a solid advantage over Russell Westbrook in the career comparison category.

Advantage: Allen Iverson


All-Defensive NBA Teams

Russell Westbrook: 0

Allen Iverson: 0

Russell Westbrook is obviously not an elite defender, and it is clear to anybody who has watched him play since he came into the league. The 6’3” point guard lacks the discipline to be a force on defense, which is why he was normally beaten on the court by the opposing team’s best players. What Russ does on offense far exceeded his defensive deficiencies, but there is no doubt defense has to be factored in during a career comparison. Westbrook has shown he can lock in on defense at times due to his elite athleticism, but he does not have a single All-Defensive Team selection to show for it.

Similarly, Allen Iverson is not considered an elite defensive stopper and was named to zero All-Defensive Teams. Iverson lacked the size to handle opposing players, but he made up for it by stealing the ball at a very high level. The Answer led the NBA in steals 3 times and averaged a career 2.2 SPG when compared to Westbrook’s average of 1.7 SPG. Some might argue that Iverson was a better defender due to his ability to steal the ball so well, but he also does not have any All-Defensive Team selections to show for his abilities.

Advantage: Even


Total Win Shares

Russell Westbrook: 106.5

Allen Iverson: 99.0

Win Shares is a statistic that tries to allocate a team’s wins for each player on the roster. For example, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar owns the single-season record for Win Shares with 25.4 during 1971-72 on a Milwaukee Bucks team that won 63 games. In terms of contributing to a winning side and helping his side to win games consistently, it is obvious Russell Westbrook has a better win shares rating than Allen Iverson.

Russell Westbrook has a win shares rating of 106.5, a solid figure that is clearly higher than Allen Iverson’s. The point guard, for some reason, has proven to be more important to his team with regards to win shares when compared to The Answer. The point guard is obviously a player that impacts winning, and this particular statistic does reflect that when comparing the legendary Oklahoma City Thunder star to other all-time great players. Obviously, Russ has played on some elite teams, including the Thunder teams led by Kevin Durant, while also competing for the Houston Rockets alongside James Harden for one season.

Allen Iverson’s win share rating is solid but not as spectacular when compared to Russell Westbrook’s statistic. The Answer influences the game in various ways, including having the ability to create his own shots and also take contact, and go to the line as well. Iverson’s win share rating is not bad by any means, but it does not have the same weight as Westbrook’s. Iverson could not rebound or play make the ball like Westbrook, and he played on far worse teams over his career, including the Philadelphia 76ers teams that had no other offensive threats beyond an older Dikembe Mutombo and a backup guard in Aaron McKie.

Advantage: Russell Westbrook


Career Player Efficiency Rating

Russell Westbrook: 22.6

Allen Iverson: 20.9

Player Efficiency Rating, better known as PER, is a statistic created by John Hollinger that’s goal is to give each NBA player a comprehensive rating. Hollinger’s PER metric is unique because it combines a player’s positive and negative contributions on the court.

With a PER of 22.6, Russell Westbrook is the 31st-best player of all time, according to the statistic. Russ has winning potential because of his incredible offensive skill set and managed to have incredible all-around stats of 22.8 PPG, 7.4 RPG, and 8.4 APG over his career. On any level, that is absolutely elite, and Westbrook truly made the most out of his physical gifts by going after rebounds and using his speed to attack the rim and create for others. Due to his incredible physical gifts, Russ dominated the scoring charts as well.

Allen Iverson ranks 60th all-time with a PER of 20.9. Iverson has a positive influence on winning due to his incredible offensive skill set. The Answer managed to have shooting splits of 42.5% FG and 78.0% FT while averaging a career 26.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG, and 6.2 BPG. Given that Iverson played for 14 years and consistently discovered ways to improve his performance in the biggest games, it is simply elite on any level. It can be argued that The Answer is a better scorer than Russ because of his advantage in shooting the ball, but he could not rebound or set his teammates up as well as his counterpart. As a result, in terms of the advanced statistic of PER, Westbrook has a nice advantage.

Advantage: Russell Westbrook


Final Score

Russell Westbrook vs. Allen Iverson 3-1

In the end, Russell Westbrook has a significant career advantage over Allen Iverson, and that will stay the course since the current Los Angeles Lakers point guard is still going in the league right now. Westbrook earns the advantages in this career comparison so far because of his incredible dominance during his prime and his gift of being a consistent physical force in competing at a high level since his third NBA season. That gives the triple-double king the advantage of appearing in more All-NBA Games and also benefitting from advanced statistics due to his athleticism and rebounding. In terms of this career comparison, Russell Westbrook is considered the better player with the better career, thanks to his long career at the top and the advanced statistics favoring him.

At 3-1, this does not seem like a very close career comparison, even if both players are exceptional players with impactful playing styles. But the majority of fans and pundits will still argue for Allen Iverson being the greater talent as an individual. Sure, he did not have the size to dominate the boards and other areas like Russ, but he was an elite scorer with a beautiful jumper from mid-range. Had Iverson managed to say healthy and focused longer, he would have had an even greater career with a greater collection of advanced statistics.

Allen Iverson is one of the greatest scorers ever, while Russell Westbrook has yet to convince the masses that he is the best point guard of his time. To his credit, the former Oklahoma City Thunder star managed to stay effective for a long time, because he is an elite athlete who could also use his size to have an impact. That meant Russ could accumulate more All-NBA selections compared to a miniature guard who is limited in terms of size. But overall, Russell Westbrook has a 3-1 career advantage in major categories including All-NBA Team selections and advanced statistics including win shares and PER. 

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