As soon as the 2016-17 NBA season tips off next week, Steph Curry and LeBron James will immediately become two of the frontrunners for the 2017 NBA MVP award. They play for the two best teams in the league and they’ve obviously both shown that they can play at an MVP level, so their names will be mentioned time and time again when the MVP discussion is brought up over the next ten months. But heading into the season, Curry and James are not the favorites to win the award. That distinction belongs to Russell Westbrook, who is expected to tear through opposing teams this year following Kevin Durant’s exodus from Oklahoma City. He has all the motivation in the world to go out and play like an MVP all year long for the Thunder.
One thing Westbrook won’t be doing, though, is using other players for MVP motivation this season. Not Curry, not James, not even Durant. He appears on the cover of the November issue of GQ, and in his cover story, he talked at length about playing angry on the court and treating this season just like any other, despite the loss of KD.
But when GQ senior editor Daniel Riley brought up the MVP award and asked Westbrook if the success of players like Curry has helped keep him motivated as he attempts to chase down his first MVP trophy, Westbrook downplayed the role that other guys play on his development. According to him, he doesn’t need Curry or anyone else to stay hungry. Here’s an excerpt from the GQ piece:
During last year's conference finals, it seemed that Westbrook was playing as though he were finally sick of hearing all the Steph Steph Steph business of the last couple of years. I told Westbrook that he was the favorite for league MVP, above even James and Curry—but that I had suspected he'd maybe felt he was the league's best player for a while. That the Steph Steph Steph chorus might even be part of what's pushed him to that place.
Elsewhere in the interview, Westbrook also addressed his fractured relationship with KD—"Uhh, not much, no," he said when he was asked if he has talked to KD since he joined the Warriors—and explained why he made the decision to sign a contract extension with the Thunder this summer without exploring other options in free agency next summer.
"It was just very simple," he said. "I wasn’t trying to figure out if I was leaving or not. I was happy where—I am happy where—I’m at. It’s very simple."
You can read Westbrook’s entire GQ cover story here. You can also watch a behind-the-scenes video from his GQ cover shoot below: