We speculated, imagined and dreamed, but no one actually expected Russell Westbrook to average a triple-double.
As remarkable as the feat is, it should be remembered not as the end goal, but rather the end result of a player carrying his team.
By eclipsing six assists in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 120-99 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Friday, Westbrook locked in a triple-double average for the season, joining Oscar Robertson as the only other player in NBA history to accomplish the ultra rare holy trinity.
Westbrook, who finished with 23 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists, fell just shy of overtaking Robertson’s record for most triple-doubles in a season with what would have been his 42nd, but has three games remaining to own that mark.
By securing a triple-double average though, the 28-year-old force of nature has immortalised his season, which will be remembered with great admiration and respect, as Robertson’s famous 1961-62 campaign is.
What’s insane in what has been a season of crazy is that Westbrook may not even win the Most Valuable Player award, potentially losing out to other worthy candidates in James Harden, Kawhi Leonard or LeBron James.
Regardless of your view on who should earn the honour, it’s impossible to deny how much of the burden Westbrook has shouldered, especially in the wake of Kevin Durant’s departure.
The fact that he’s registered triple-doubles with regularity has been the result of that burden.
There is no ‘chicken or the egg’ question here. Oklahoma City often win when Westbrook reaches double digits across the three categories. Westbrook doesn’t get triple-doubles because the Thunder win.
It’s not a coincidence that he averages 31.7 points, 11.8 assists and 11.4 rebounds in wins this season, compared to 31.6 points, 8.6 assists and 9.7 rebounds in losses.
Westbrook gets killed for ‘stat padding’ and while there are instances when he’s chasing numbers, those moments are heavily outweighed by the moments he’s doing everything in his power to help Oklahoma City win by any means necessary.
“My main goal since I got here, especially this season, is to win a championship,” Westbrook said after the loss to Phoenix. “If I wanted to get 10 assists, I could get 10 assists. Everybody wants to see the record broke, but it’s bigger than that for our team and for me.”
Yes, triple-doubles hold too much importance. They’re a measure of arbitrary, round numbers at the end of the day. But Westbrook has given meaning to those numbers and for that, his historic campaign should be appreciated.