OKC Thunder: Time to stop downplaying Russell Westbrook’s triple-doubles

(Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Russell Westbrook is on pace to average a triple-double for the third straight year, but why does it seem like his historic run is being downplayed?

Russell Westbrook’s 2016-17 season was something special to watch. Not only did he win MVP,  but he made history in the process.

The Oklahoma City Thunder‘s star point guard messed around and averaged a triple-double for that entire season, going for 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game.

He was just the second player in NBA history to achieve that feat. Many people thought it would never happen again, so we marveled at his brilliance on the hardwood each and every game.

It was unbelievable.

Prior to Westbrook, the great Oscar Robertson was the only person in NBA history to average a triple-double for a full season, doing so with the Cincinnati Royals in 1962. The “Big O” dropped 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists per game.

It was safe to say Westbrook was already in good company, but then he did it again for a second straight season, averaging 25.4 points, 10.3 assists and 10.1 rebounds a night in 2017-18.

So why does it seem like he isn’t getting enough credit for what he’s doing? Why does it feel downplayed? Ignored? Like it’s being put on the back-burner?

Not a single player has averaged a triple-double for an entire season more than once — Westbrook is on pace to 3-peat like he’s the 2000-02 Lakers. So far this year, he’s averaging 21.2 points, 11.2 assists and 11.1 rebounds per game.

Not even some of the greatest players ever to stuff the stat sheet have achieved this feat once, including LeBron James, Magic Johnson and Jason Kidd.

The truth is, Westbrook is consistently rewriting history at the point guard position.

He capped off the 2016-17 campaign with 42 triples-doubles, which surpassed Robertson’s 41 the year he averaged a triple-double. Russ finished the 2017-18 season with 25 of them.

Westbrook hasn’t let up this season either. He’s already recorded 23 triple-doubles on the year, and counting. He’s also had eight career games with at least 15 points, 15 boards and 15 assists. Four of the eight are from this season alone.

The 30-year-old dynamic point guard recently made even more history. In the Thunder’s 120-111 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday, he passed the great Wilt Chamberlain by recording the most consecutive triple-doubles in NBA history.

He’s done it 10 straight times to Chamberlain’s nine.

According to Basketball-Reference, that puts him at 127 triple-doubles and counting for his career. That’s third all-time behind Oscar Robertson (181) and Magic Johnson (138). He’s reached this mark in 796 career games, while the Big O played in 1,040 games and Magic played in 906.

And still, it feels like it’s being swept under the rug.

Some critics point to his offensive woes, particularly shooting the ball. His shooting percentages from the field (41.2 percent) and charity stripe (65.1 percent) have dropped significantly this year.

Others say he’s just padding stats because he’s a selfish player.

That’s an odd line of reasoning, because when Westbrook gets a triple-double, the Thunder are 72-20. They’re 17-6 so far this season. Not only that, Paul George and Steven Adams are both having career years.

George came to Westbrook’s defense after the team’s 117-112 win over the Houston Rockets on Feb. 9. Here’s what he told OKC Thunder Wire:

"“We gotta stop with the narrative about Russ not doing well or Russ not having a good night,” George said. “He’s doing everything. Russ is doing everything for this team. We just play hard. We rally behind Russ. Russ is a heck of a teammate, a heck of a competitor. It’s not going to be his night sometimes offensively shooting the ball but he does so much. I knew I had to step it up and help him out. Got in a good rhythm, he found me and I just took over.”"

One of the oldest sayings in the book is, “You never know what you have until it’s gone.”

Flaws and all, we should appreciate Russell Westbrook for what he’s doing now. Because when he’s gone, the NBA, along with its fans, may not see another player average a triple-double in a season — let alone multiple seasons — for another 50 years.

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Let’s not wait until he’s retired. Give him the credit he deserves now.