The triple-double; the ultimate stat-stuffing performance and box score dandy. A statistic that once was a rarity is now a nightly baseline for Russell Westbrook. Last night against the Hawks, Westbrook surpassed NBA Hall of Fame PG Oscar Robertson’s 47-year record of 181 career triple-doubles. A record that many over time have coined unbreakable. Russ obviously had other thoughts, and from this point forward, will only continue to raise the bar.
King of the Triple Double
Russell Westbrook is now the new NBA King of triple-doubles and well deserving. With 182 career triple-doubles now to his name, let’s look back at some of the best records he has broken along his quest to the title. Only two players in NBA history have averaged a triple-double for an entire season. Oscar Robertson surpassed the feat one time during the 1961-62 NBA season. The other, I am sure you guessed right.
Yes, Russell Westbrook, not once but four times (16-17, 17-18, 18-19, 20-21). Westbrook during the 16-17 season passed Robertson’s single-season record of 41 triple-doubles courageously as he recorded #42 that year in a contest against the Denver Nuggets where he also hit the game-winning three with time expiring.
Russell also holds the record for most consecutive triple-doubles recorded (11). No team has escaped the wrath of a Westbrook triple-double. Westbrook has recorded a triple-double against all 30 NBA teams not just once, but multiple times. In fact, Westbrook has recorded five+ triple-doubles against 23 of the 30 NBA teams. Westbrook, now the all-time leader, is one of only four players in NBA history to record 100 career triple-doubles individually.
New Era, New Game
As I mentioned above, triple-doubles used to be a statistical rarity early in the league’s history. In the NBA today they happen practically nightly. For comparison take a look at the increase over recent history. This season there have been 135 triple-doubles recorded across the NBA. The 100 triple-double marks have been surpassed each season since 2016-17.
A number that had never been passed before in an NBA season in history. In the 2012-13 NBA season, only 42 total triple-doubles were recorded league-wide. Many factors play into this changing facet of the game we know and love, but the rise has created a slightly negative stigma around the once highly coveted triple-double performance.
With the rise in total triple-doubles recorded, many media members and fans have questioned the value of the stat in today’s game. Many have even gone as far as to call the stat overrated. A continuously evolving game is the main culprit behind the rise of the triple-doubles. Having said that, many still are forced to ask whether a triple-double correlates to winning basketball/team success.
Westbrook puts that argument to sleep
With 182 career triple-doubles, Westbrook’s sample size is plenty large enough for this particular argument. Westbrook-led teams boast a record of 136-46 when he records a triple-double. That is a 74.7 win % rate. I would say it is pretty safe to say that a Russell Westbrook triple-double translates rather well to team success.
Comparing Westbrook to the other top five career triple-double leaders, he ranks third in win percentage. The only two above Westbrook are Magic Johnson (78.3%) and LeBron James (76.8%).
Westbrook, despite the individual statistical success, while still heavily contributing to team success, is the main recipient of NBA scrutiny. Why is this? Many blame Westbrook’s efficiency and a times erratic play style. But, if it translates into winning, when in fact he does record a triple-double, I am forced to ask the question why?
It seems as if this will always be a question as Westbrook continues to have to endure hate regularly. Amazingly, the constant backlash from the public continues to leave Westbrook unfazed and relentless when it comes to energy and effort.
Let us appreciate Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook is a one-of-a-kind athlete. His combination of size, speed, athleticism, and heart has terrorized the NBA and his opponents for years. One of the few guys in today’s game that can truly say night in and night out that he left every single ounce of effort out on that court. Endless hours, days, months, and years of blood, sweat, and tears to get to where he is now, and yet, he still embodies the attitude of an underdog.
He constantly plays with a chip on his shoulder. That is what I love most about Russell and something more people ought to start admiring before it is too late.
Westbrook is a future first-ballot hall of fame player. With 12 NBA seasons under his belt, it still seems as if Brodie still has plenty left in the tank. With that seeming to be a fair assumption, two questions are now on the table. Those being how many triple-doubles will Westbrook end his career with and will anyone ever catch him? My prediction is somewhere in the 250-260 range, and cementing his name in the record books quite possibly forever.
A huge round of applause is for Russell Westbrook as we cannot let this passing of a historic milestone be pushed under the rug.