WHILE you were busy watching college football or still recovering from the gluttony of Thanksgiving, Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook was racking up another epic triple-double on his way to NBA history.
Westbrook went off for 36 points, 12 rebounds and 18 assists in OKC’s 132-129 overtime win over the Denver Nuggets. With that epic stat line, Westbrook is officially off to one of the best starts we’ve ever seen.
Specifically, he became the first player in NBA history to average at least 32 points, 9.5 rebounds and 10.5 assists through the first 17 games of a season. For the season, Westbrook already has six triple-doubles, two more than James Harden.
Of course, something else might jump out at you from Westbrook’s ridiculous averages. With just four more rebounds through the first 17 games, the Thunder point guard would be averaging a triple-double on the season, something only NBA legend Oscar Robertson accomplished over a full 82-game slate.
Robertson famously averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists in 1961-62, his second year in the NBA. Unfortunately, Basketball-Reference’s Play Index only goes back to the 1979-80 season, so we can’t readily find Robertson’s averages through the first 17 games of that season. One assumes he surpassed Westbrook in rebounds and assists, given his lofty season-long averages, while not quite reaching Westbrook’s level as a scorer.
While most people are familiar with Robertson’s outstanding ‘61-62 season, it seems that many have forgotten that the Big O nearly accomplished that same feat again in 1963-64. In fact, Robertson averaged 31.4 points, 9.9 rebounds and 11.0 assists per game that season, falling short of a triple-double for the year by just seven total rebounds.
Westbrook has a long way to go to match Robertson’s record. A month into the 2016-17 season, though, I’m not betting against him.
Russell Westbrook has since gone on to record his seventh triple-double of the season on Sunday (AEDT) in a 106-88 win over the Pistons. Westbrook finished with 17 points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds.
RUSSELL WESTBROOK BESTS LeBRON JAMES IN CRAZY FASHION
Russell Westbrook and LeBron James have the same number of career triple-doubles, but if you were to illustrate their proximity, you might picture Russ rushing to the hoop and LeBron backpedaling like crazy, about to fall out of the picture.
Westbrook racked up his 44th career triple-double and seventh of the season Saturday night, with 17 points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds in a win over Detroit. It was one night after he went for 36, 18 and 12 in an OT win over Denver.
Westbrook, who’s averaging 9.94 rebounds per game, was just one board away from averaging a triple-double so far this season — something that only Oscar Robertson has done over the course of a whole season, and something that the entire NBA is watching for from Westbrook.
And while James has been almost as prolific this season, averaging 23.5 points, 9.5 assists and 8.2 rebounds, the smart money is on Westbrook. As ESPN.com’s Royce Young points out, he’s matched James’ 44 career triple-doubles in 395 fewer games.
At the pace Westbrook is on, James will be hard-pressed to keep up with him as he takes aim at Larry Bird (59) and Wilt Chaimberlain (78). And James could be retired while Westbrook chases Jason Kidd (107), Magic Johnson (138) and the Big O, who has a staggering 181.
(How many is that? Basically, adding Westbrook’s total so far to Magic’s career total. That’s all.)
However, when it comes to playoff triple-doubles, Westbrook has some catching up to do: He has just five while James has 16. And with LeBron making the Finals six straight seasons and Russ carrying a Thunder team that’s just trying to make the playoffs, there’s no guarantee Westbrook will win that one.