Russell Westbrook completed the ultra-rare double triple-double Tuesday night, in a 119–103 Thunder win over the visiting Los Angeles Lakers. The counting stats are absurd: 20 points, 20 rebounds, and 21 assists, in 37 minutes. He had 10 assists in the first quarter, and 17 by the mid-point of the third; only another lousy shooting performance—8-of-23 from the floor, 2-of-9 from deep—kept this from being a 30-20-20 night.
Russ joins Wilt Chamberlain—a man whose career statistics are generally among the most absurd in sports history—and no one else on the list of players to accomplish the 20–20–20 triple-double. Wilt pulled it off only once, in a 22 point, 25 rebounds, 21 assist game on February 2, 1968. Incidentally, these two triple-doubles also represent the only 20-assist and 20-rebound games in NBA history.
Westbrook had some extra motivation for his pursuit of history, telling Jason Terry after the game that he did it for rapper Nipsey Hussle, who was fatally shot in Los Angeles on Sunday:
Gotta say, it must be cool as shit to be able to go onto an NBA floor and do some Wilt Chamberlain shit in order to make a Rollin’ 60s reference.
Positionless basketball and the rise of the three-pointer have produced an era of NBA hoops where certain numbers look jarringly different, and the related and concurrent rise of analytics has taken the shine off certain traditionally sacred basketball numbers. The triple-double doesn’t mean what it used to. But it’s wild to think that Westbrook is wrapping up his third consecutive season averaging a triple-double, something that had only been done once before, and by another legendary player from Chamberlain’s era, a time when superstar numbers tended to be insane.
If basketball fans have been taught to disregard the triple-double, by god Westbrook will show them the double triple-double. It doesn’t need the stamp of analytic approval to be cool as shit.