Westbrook Stands Alone in the Record BooksBy Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer | firstname.lastname@example.org
DENVER -- The adoring cheers and "MVP" chants have rained down all season long, even in road arenas. But tonight was different. In a division rivals' arena, the Nuggets and Thunder fans here in Denver were rising with every point, rebound and assist. When they all surpassed 10, everyone in the building was on their feet giving a standing ovation. Russell Westbrook drove right into the lane and kicked to a wide open Semaj Christon in the corner for a three-pointer. It was his 10th assist to match double digits in points and rebounds, and the crowd went into a frenzy.
All season long, that's the type of impact Westbrook has had on the NBA and its fans. He, and the Thunder, have been must-watch every single night. Tonight, the entire league was watching as he broke Oscar Robertson's 55-year-old record by notching 42 triple-doubles in a season.
Westbrook sliced his way through the triple-double lists all season, also surpassing Wilt Chamberlain's mark of 78 career triple-doubles, leaving the Thunder point guard alone in fourth place in NBA history.
It stands to reason that since Westbrook racked up a triple-double in more than half of his games played that he's given himself a chance to do the unthinkable, average triple-double for an entire season. Only Robertson in that 1961-62 season had ever managed to pull that off, and the feat was looked upon similarly to Joe Dimaggio's 56-game hit streak: unbreakable in the modern era.
A CLOSER LOOK
Inside the Triple-Double Numbers
- 0 Field goals and free throws missed vs. Philadelphia 76ers on March 22, becoming the first player in NBA history to record a ‘perfect' triple-double.
- 3 Games with 50 or more points.
- 7 Consecutive triple-double games, first player since Michael Jordan (1988-89). He did it twice this season – Nov. 25-Dec. 9, March 22-April 4.
- 8 Games with 40 or more points.
- 14 Triple-doubles recorded in three quarters or less.
- 17 Triple-doubles recorded on the road.
- 18 Rebounds vs. Los Angles Lakers on Feb. 24.
- 18:45 Playing time needed to complete a triple-double vs. LA Clippers on Dec. 31.
- 22 Assists vs. Phoenix Suns on Dec. 17.
- 23 Games with at least 30 points.
- 51 Points vs. Phoenix Suns on Oct. 28.
- 57 Points vs. Orlando Magic on March 29, the highest point total recorded in a triple-double in NBA history.
To most, racking up those kind of historic numbers would seem outrageous. Despite never setting any kind of statistics as a goal, it's not surprising that Westbrook has never put a ceiling on himself or his team. But would a young Westbrook have ever imagined he could do this?
"I'd say Why Not?" Westbrook shrugged. "That's what I believe. That's how I really think. I never know what's possible or what's not possible. I don't know what people can or can't do. I don't limit myself. I just say ‘Why Not?' and continue to play. That's my motto and I stand behind it."
What's remarkable is that Westbrook and the Thunder hasn't sacrificed its game plan in pursuit of history. Rather, Westbrook thriving individually has been the engine for the Thunder's team success. In Westbrook's 42 triple-doubles, the Thunder are 33-9 and just 13-25 when he doesn't register one. Through film work and opponent analysis, Westbrook has simply assessed what his team needs from him on a given night, and then goes out and does it. The All-Star point guard's refrain, after wins or losses, is the same as it has been ever since he started in the NBA. What he cares about more than anything is winning.
"Russ' mindset is completely different," center Steven Adams noted, when asked about Westbrook's triple-doubles. "His eyes are fixed on a bigger team thing. Which is cool."
"You have to make winning plays. The game of basketball is not just about scoring," Westbrook said. Whether it's helping a guy out, getting your hand in there or getting steals or whatever it is to make basketball plays to win."
All season long, that's exactly what Westbrook has done – give his team a chance to win by impacting every aspect of the game, much like his predecessor, Robertson. Now they'll share one more thing in common. Westbrook holds the record that so many deemed unbreakable. Will it be another 55 years before anyone surpasses it?