Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook is having a season to remember. Much ink has been wasted over Westbrook’s break-up with Kevin Durant who left last July for the Golden State Warriors to chase championships. This stunned the entire franchise but Westbrook suddenly became an icon in Oklahoma by signing an extension. The departure of Durant also gave him what every superstar wants – his own team.
Without Durant, Westbrook is now totally unleashed leading the Thunder and dominating opponents. He is currently averaging a triple-double posting 30.9 points, 11.3 assists and 10.3 rebounds. To put these statistics in context, only one other NBA player has posted a triple-double throughout the season and that was 55 years ago. That feat was achieved by NBA legend Oscar “The Big O” Robertson in the 1961-1962 season when he averaged 30.8 points, 11.4 assists, and 12.5 rebounds. Only one other player has come close to those numbers. In 1981-1982, Lakers great Magic Johnson posted 18.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 9.5 assists per game.
Why the focus on the triple double? The triple double is basically defined when a player reaches double digits in at least three statistical categories including points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. This is a testament to a player’s talent and most importantly, his versatility.
That Westbrook is averaging a triple double 25 percent into the season is quite a feat. Just to gain an appreciation, the NBA game 50 years ago was much different than the one today. Big O’s NBA was much faster when team averaged nearly 130 possessions per game. Today, due to rule changes and an abundance of talent, possessions now average under 100. This means that NBA greats had more opportunities to rack up the stats. Usage rates were also much higher before unlike today when superstars’ minutes are limited to keep them fresh and free from injuries.
Doing a little research, I found that Robertson tops the list of Most Triple Doubles with 181 followed by Magic Johnson (138), Jason Kidd (107), Wilt Chamberlain (78) and Larry Bird (59). To date and hot on their heels are Westbrook with 46 and LeBron James with 45. This is indeed a rarefied list featuring the NBA’s greatest players.
It is still to be seen if Westbrook could keep up this torrid pace since he will have to slow down at some point. The problem is that he likes taking contact and using his athleticism to breakdown defenses and get to the basket. This makes him more injury prone than most guards who are content with passing and shooting long baskets.
The Thunder are currently 12-8 which is good for 5th place in the tough Western Conference. Barring major injuries, the Thunder can even break the Top 4 and gain the playoffs easy. Westbrook will definitely keep on going at breakneck speed and he will carry the team with him. He is putting together one of the best performances in NBA history.
SIDELINES. The last recorded quadruple double was back in February 1994. Hall of Fame Spurs center David Robinson posted 34 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, and 10 blocks versus the Detroit Pistons.