The triple-double has become increasingly prevalent over the past few NBA seasons. This basketball phenomenon is defined as when a player gets double digits in three of the five major statistical categories. These categories are points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals. With one exception, all triple-doubles at the NBA level have been achieved with points, rebounds and assists.
This season, for the first time in history, three players have above 10 triple-doubles. LeBron James has 13, James Harden has 21 and Russell Westbrook has 42. Westbrook’s single-season triple-double total has earned him a place in the history books. 55 years ago, Cincinnati Royals point guard Oscar Robertson became the first player in NBA history to average a triple-double per game. He did this with 41 triple-doubles in the 1961-1962 season. With 42 triple-doubles this season, Westbrook not only becomes the second player to average a triple-double per game for an entire season, but also sets the single-season record for triple-doubles.
It is possible that the cause of Westbrook’s historic season was a change in his style of play. After losing Kevin Durant in the off-season, The 2016-2017 season did not look promising for the Thunder. Westbrook has had to be an exceptional team player in order to lead the team to its current position as the playoff-bound, sixth ranked team in the Western Conference. This team-oriented approach will naturally lead to more assists and rebounds, which are the more difficult two of the three categories in which Westbrook scored double-digit points. To make all of this more impressive, Westbrook has done this while leading the league in scoring. As of Sunday, April 9, Westbrook was averaging 31.9 points per game, an incredible mark. His ability to be so dominant in an individual category while also averaging double-digits in two other categories is phenomenal and shows his well-roundedness as a player.
The game where Westbrook clinched the triple-double per game average was a special one. For several games before it, Westbrook nearly reached the milestone, but came up short in the assist column. Finally, Westbrook got the triple-double he had been waiting for against the Denver Nuggets. Westbrook did not stop there, though. He went on a scoring spree towards the end of the game, helping the Thunder get the comeback win with a shocking 50 points. Clearly, Westbrook is not just breaking a record this year. He is having the best season of his career, and doing something special for his team.
Many players never believed this day would come. When asked if he thought anyone would ever average a triple-double per game again when he was growing up as a young player and NBA fan, Westbrook said in an interview with Bleacher Report, “Umm, no. I didn’t know that anybody did it back then.” Others shared this belief, believing that the triple-double records were too great to be broken.
Westbrook has received much praise for his outstanding accomplishments this season. When Westbrook broke the record, Robertson said, “I could not be happier for him. Congratulations to Russell Westbrook on a magnificent season.” NBA superstar Lebron James tweeted a video just under two minutes long, congratulating Westbrook on his achievement. It was an all-around wonderful gesture from another all-time greats.
Russell Westbrook’s achievements this season have been phenomenal, and he has truly elevated his team to a level not expected of them at the beginning of the season. Look for Westbrook and his Oklahoma City Thunder to make a deep playoff run this 2016-2017 season. Looking to the future, at the age of 28, Westbrook has the potential for several more seasons of stunning statistics like this one. He is far from done dominating the NBA and setting records in the process.