For more than half a century, Oscar Robertson stood alone in NBA history, his 1961-62 campaign representing the only time anyone averaged a triple-double for a full season.
Then Russell Westbrook came along and did it in 2016-17… and again in 2017-18… and 2018-19… and, even if he puts up zeroes in every game left this season, 2020-21.
Westbrook did not put up zeroes on Saturday night, scoring 33 points with 19 rebounds and 15 assists in the Wizards’ 133-132 overtime win in Indianapolis. That makes it 181 triple-doubles in the former MVP’s career, tying The Big O for the all-time record. And once Westbrook gets his next triple-double, it might be another half a century before anyone catches him. Now that they stand together, Westbrook gave a salute to his fellow legend.
Magic Johnson is third all-time with 138 triple-doubles, followed by Jason Kidd at 107 and the active leader among non-Westbrook players, LeBron James, with 99. The biggest threat to catch Westbrook among players in the league now probably is Luka Dončić, who is only 22 years old and already has 35 triple-doubles — but that still means Dončić needs more triple-doubles than anyone but Robertson and Westbrook over the rest of his career to be able to reach the top, and of course Westbrook is still going.
Dončić has started his career averaging a triple-double every 5.54 games, compared to every 5.18 games for Westbrook in his career and every 5.75 games for Robertson. That’s a massive task to keep up over a decade or more of games, not only staying in peak form, but staying healthy enough to do it.
The one thing Robertson did that Westbrook hasn’t is win an NBA title, and that almost certainly won’t happen this year with the Wizards. For Robertson, it took a trade from the Cincinnati Royals to the Bucks for their 1971 title run. It’s still incredible, though, that Westbrook, alongside Bradley Beal (who scored 50 on Saturday), has helped a Wizards team with very low expectations to ninth in the East and a chance to get into the Play-In Tournament.
Washington still needs to win out to finish with its first .500 record since 2017-18, but after it was widely thought last year that Westbrook was cooked and the Wizards were making a huge mistake trading John Wall for him… well, here he is and here they are. And maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise, because after all, for more than 50 years it appeared that Robertson’s single-season mark was untouchable, and for nearly that long it appeared that his career mark was, too.
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