Russell Westbrook’s 2016-17 season has the potential to be truly historic. In addition to his well publicized pursuit of a triple-double average for the season, Westbrook is a top candidate for MVP — we listed him as the early frontrunner for the award this week — and figures to be the focus of attention as he and the Oklahoma City Thunder attempt to prove themselves without Kevin Durant.
Westbrook’s putting up such big numbers, in fact, that it’s sometimes hard to distinguish between his new normal and the kinds of lines that are legitimate rarities in NBA history. The OKC superstar had another one of those on Friday night at the Boston Celtics, scoring his team’s final 15 points to finish with 45 points, 11 assists, and 11 rebounds in a 117-112 win. Westbrook has now put up at least 40 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists three games in row.
Those stats are well within the realm of possibility given Westbrook’s season so far. However, few NBA players in recent history have managed a 45-point triple-double:
Two of those Westbrook games have come this season — the other involved 51 points — an incredible achievement considering that every player on this list except Vince Carter is retired (and most for quite a while). Plus, Westbrook was three assists from another one this week when he had 46 points and 11 rebounds in a Monday loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
Westbrook would still be well off Robertson’s record, but that’s of negligible importance considering he’s on a list with two true legends who retired before Richard Nixon resigned the presidency. Even more incredibly, three of Westbrook’s six career 40-point triple-doubles have come in OKC’s first 30 games of the season. It’s not unrealistic to think he can match Wilt’s seven in 2016-17 alone.
It’s tempting to say that Westbrook can only put up these numbers because he’s in a unique situation on a team trying to adjust to the loss of another elite player. But plenty of other squads ask one star to do a lot and none of them put up the kinds of numbers Westbrook has so far this season. There is no context that explains away three 45-point triple-doubles in a little more than one-third of season.