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'Passion Play: Russell Westbrook Review: Brodie shows his true side in rivetting docu

The Showtime documentary expains the innate 'Russ-ness' that makes Westbrook. It can only be felt, and not explained.
UPDATED OCT 18, 2021
Russell Westbrook in a still from 'Passion Play: Russell Westbrook' (Showtime)
Russell Westbrook in a still from 'Passion Play: Russell Westbrook' (Showtime)

Contains spoilers for 'Passion Play: Russell Westbrook'

It's not the 182 triple-doubles that Russell Westbrook has explosively racked up in his playing career. It's not the intensity, the fighting prowess, the game awareness, the IQ, the no-holds-barred, nothing-left-in-the-tank approach which he plays the game with. It's definitely not the uber-cool fashion, and it definitely isn't the stardom that defines Brodie. It's the innate 'Russ-ness'. It can only be felt, and not explained. But it has made Westbrook something — a phenomenon.

Showtime's latest basketball documentary on the now Los Angeles Lakers superstar is a stark contrast to its predecessors. 'Basketball County: In The Water' was all a fascinating examination of a remarkable community, 'Quiet Storm: The Ronn Artest Story' chronicled the NBA star's upbringing that was fraught with drugs and violence with Artest himself providing an unabashed account. 'Shut Up and Dribble' sheds light on the players bringing about a sense of social change and rolling out powerful statements in the current political climate.


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Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant (Getty Images)

'Passion Play' does just what the first word says, highlight Westbrook's passion for the game, and what drives him to be Russ each day. At a runtime of just over 105 minutes, the documentary is broken into segments named after emotions. Rage sees the point guard talk about the feelings he felt after the criticism he faced at the Oklahoma City Thunder (OKC). Pride was all about what he did in the aftermath of Kevin Durant moving to the Golden State Warriors. There's chaos, love and fear, and hope — Quite simply these emotions make Westbrook the man he is. They are the driving force, they help him shut out the noise. 

For someone known to be an enigma of sorts when it came to personal life, 'Passion Play' sees him get candid about the things that matter to him. It's not just traits like loyalty and hard work, it's family and friendships. His wife Nina Earl describes Westbrook as a man who always gets upset because he feels he's not doing enough. He's a family man, and the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic that had sports screech to a grounding halt meant he was away from the hardwood and holed up at home with his kids, and getting accustomed to life in the slow lane.

Westbrook's move to the Lakers isn't really explained, and quite honestly, there isn't a need. With the season starting in less than a week, where his new unit comprising of LeBron James and Anthony Davis will face off against the Golden State Warriors after losing all five of their preseason games. There's no doubt that there will be more brickbats coming his way if the favored Lakers fail to go the distance, especially after that blockbuster trade that became the news on the offseason.

But it doesn't matter. Because for those who get a chance to watch his documentary before the start of the season, there is a strong statement from the 32-year-old. This is who he is. This is how he will be. He's efficient, he's erratic, he's polarizing, but he's human and he's at peace with it. It just echoes with what he said during his press conference after linking up with the Lakers: He's got nothing to prove.

Hopefully, 'Passion Play: Russell Westbrook' changes perceptions.

Religion of Sports, the Emmy-award-winning sports media company co-founded by Gotham Chopra, Tom Brady, and Michael Strahan co-directed the documentary with Russell serving as an executive producer. Chopra and Religion of Sports Creative Director, Erik LeDrew, serve as co-directors.