“What he has done has been historic in nature. He’s played with passion and pride and it’s really outstanding what he done in the way he did it.” Those were the definitive words of NBA legend Oscar Robinson expressing his praise to another legend in the making.
Back in the 1961-62 season, Oscar Robertson became the first player to average a triple-double with 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 rebounds. Outside of Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game, Robertson’s season was fabled in basketball lore as the NBA’s most untouchable record.
Flash forward 55 years. Mr. Triple-Double has been reincarnated, now only bigger, faster and stronger. Get to appreciate Russell Westbrook. He is the NBA’s MVP. What Westbrook has done this basketball season is truly is history in the making.
Let’s just start with the stat line. 31.6 points per game, 10.4 assists per game, 10.7 rebounds per game. In the modern game of basketball, where the superstars aren’t as elevated from the rest of the league’s players by leaps and bounds, Westbrook did the unimaginable. Not only did he break Robertson’s single season triple-double record with 43, but he made it look routine.
When another NBA player gets a triple-double, its a headline. When Westbrook does, it is expected. And don’t forget the backdrop in which Westbrook is dominating competition day in and day out. Although Westbrook does not have any elite teammates and battles against elite defense, he still gets it done, with scary efficiency.
Westbrook is averaging a triple-double in only an average 35 minutes per night. Back when The Big O did it in ’62, he averaged over 10 more minutes per game. Over the course of an entire career, that’s hundreds and hundreds less minutes Westbrook needed to put up the numbers he has.
Despite Westbrook’s success, analysts have continued to discredit his season as too good to be true. Many present Houston Rocket’s star James Harden (29.1 PPG, 11.2 APG, 8.1 RPG) as an alternative MVP.
“It is a very close race between Westbrook and Harden,” said junior basketball player Tony Caletti. “I don’t think either of those are a wrong answer but I’d lean towards Harden over Westbrook, even though I think Westbrook will win it.”
Even though Harden’s successful season should not go unnoticed, and in another year he would be a sure-fire MVP, Westbrook has just been that much more impressive. Although Westbrook’s ball dominance has resulted in his teammate’s usage rates decreasing, he has also been able to elevate the play of those around him. He has become a guy who always makes the right reads and always picks the right spots to pull up, drive or pass it off. Russ has been able to dump the ball off under the basket for Steven Adams and Enes Kanter, resulting in wide open dunks and easy finishes.
Others knock Westbrook for his team’s record. Oklahoma City finished 47-35 this regular season, only resulting in a No. 6 seed in the playoffs.
“I thought winning was what this is about,” Harden said about the MVP race. “I’m not going to get into depths, but I thought winning is the most important thing.”
Arguments like these gravely underestimate the success Oklahoma City has had this season. In the most talented conference in league history, Westbrook has almost single-handedly willed the Thunder to a playoff birth, and with only a handful of wins less than Harden’s Rockets. And Westbrook has done it without Kevin Durant, and with arguably less talent around him than Harden is working with. As far as overall value that Westbrook adds to a team, no one else comes close.
All this is not bad for the kid from Long Beach, California who not too long ago didn’t make his high school varsity team until his junior year. Sounds eerily reminiscent of that guy who used to play for Chicago.