Russell Westbrook’s season has taken the NBA by storm this season with triple-double feats we have seen only a few other occasions, if ever. Now he has a share of one of the two records that will seal his 2016-17 as one of the most impressive statistical seasons in league history.
Several minutes into the third quarter of Tuesday’s home game against the Milwaukee Bucks, Westbrook notched his 10th rebound and 10th assist of the night to complete his 41st triple-double of the season, tying the legendary Oscar Robertson for the single-season record. The historic board and dish came on the same play — a miss from Bucks wing Tony Snell that Westbrook grabbed and took to the other end to find big man Taj Gibson for a lay-up.
Robertson’s 41 triple-doubles took place in the same 1961-62 season during which he became the first (and as yet only) player to average a triple-double over a full season. Westbrook came into Tuesday needing just 11 rebounds and 29 assists to match that feat (if he plays all 82 games) and finished with 12 points, 13 rebounds, and 13 assists in 27 minutes. It could’ve been more, but the Thunder star left the game for good with 2:34 remaining in the third quarter of a 110-79 blowout win. As things stand, he will clinch a triple-double average in Friday’s game against the Phoenix Suns if he sticks to his per-game numbers.
Westbrook’s triple-double was his seventh in a row, which matches Robertson, Michael Jordan, and himself for the second-longest streak in NBA history. Wilt Chamberlain holds the record at nine straight, which Westbrook could match in that same Suns game if he comes through with another on Wednesday at the Memphis Grizzlies.
Russell Westbrook: 1st player to have 2 streaks of 7 straight triple-doubles in same season— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 5, 2017
Every possible MVP argument has been made at this point in the season, but it’s possible that this late surge of records and milestones will give Westbrook an edge over James Harden when the league’s new 100-person media panel votes at the conclusion of the regular season. Recency bias can often be a powerful weapon in a race this close.
Not that Westbrook will make any public statements about how much he wants the MVP. When asked about his rare feats, he seemed confused by the wonder and acted as if such things were always within the realm of basketball possibility:
Westbrook on if he ever thought in previous years that it was possible for someone to average a triple-double: pic.twitter.com/KAZFaJAwRX— Royce Young (@royceyoung) April 4, 2017
Of course, that incredible self-belief is part of what makes Westbrook a singular force in the league. He’s challenging records that have stood for more than 50 years not just because he refuses to see them as obstacles, but because he believes his only limits to be those he places on himself.