(Photo: Reuters/Jeff Haynes)
NBA fans across America think Oklahoma City Thunder's mercurial point guard and Western Conference NBA All-Star reserve Russell Westbrook is the most exciting active professional basketball player on and off the court.
A recent study by global information measurement company Nielsen and E-Poll N-Score looked at the most exciting active NBA players. The study ranked Westbrook as #1 for having the most game on and off the court.
Known as a tough competitor with a flamboyant sense of style, Westbrook is also famous for throwing tantrums in the heat of games. In a recent nationally televised regular season game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Westbrook got visibly upset after he turned the ball over on an offensive five-second violation. He blamed his teammate Thabo Sefolosha for the lapse and got incensed when Thunder head coach Scott Brooks pulled him out of the game. Westbrook flipped a chair in the aftermath of that decision and had NBA analysts like TNT's Kenny Smith questioning his emotional maturity.
"I hate to walk around the locker room on eggshells when a guy does something like this. Now you can't act natural around this guy for a couple of days, and that really messes your team's morale up," said Smith who was quoted in a report by the Shreveport Times calling for Westbrook's suspension.
Coach Brooks, however, noted in the same report that Westbrook's behavior was due to his passion for the game and his competitive nature. "Russell's an emotional guy. He plays hard. He plays every night. He plays for his team every night," he said.
The list of top five most exciting active NBA players was rounded out by Westbrook's Oklahoma City Thunder teammate Kevin Durant; Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers; James Harden of the Houston Rockets and Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Westbrook's excitement factor in the national poll administered to 1,100 participants was 33 percent. Durant, Griffin and Harden were all ranked as exciting by 25 percent of the respondents in the poll, while Chris Paul was at 24 percent.
In a statement released on Thursday, Stephen Master, Nielsen's senior vice president of sports, said the results of the study were interesting particularly because of Westbrook's secondary media market background in Oklahoma City.
"While the NBA All-Star Game is a great way for all participating players to showcase their marketability, it's notable that the most exciting players on the court will be younger players from secondary market teams, like Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets, as well as the Los Angeles Clippers – a team that has emerged out of the Lakers' shadow," said Master in the statement. "It's also interesting that these players are in the Western Conference," he noted.
To arrive at the ranking, the companies looked at the overall endorsement potential of the NBA stars in the study and factored in attributes and demographic measures that align brands with endorsers. The sample is representative of the general population based on gender, income, age and education.