Zero Rus-spect

On February 14, 2019, against the New Orleans Pelicans, Russell Westbrook extended his consecutive triple-double streak to 11, the longest stretch in NBA history, passing the previous record holder Wilt Chamberlain, who’s feat concluded at 9 games in 1968.

The 30-year-old guard from UCLA is currently averaging 22.5 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 10.9 assists per game. I.e., he is averaging a triple-double.

Westbrook is once again on-pace to average a triple-double for the third-consecutive season. In the 72-years of NBA basketball, only Westbrook and Oscar Robertson ever averaged a triple-double throughout a full season. On the contrary, Westbrook is the only player to do it twice, and now possesses a historically rare opportunity to do so for the third time.

In the 2016-17 NBA regular season (Westbrook’s MVP season), Westbrook became the first player since Oscar Robinson to average a triple-double for an entire season. Simultaneously, breaking Robinson’s record for most triple-doubles ever in one season.

The 2017 MVP continues to prove his case as one of the great basketball players of his generation; but remains underrated throughout sports media outlets. According to NBA.com. Westbrook doesn’t crack the top-10 candidates list to win league MVP honors. It’s mind-boggling to rationalize a superstar player, averaging a triple-double, with a successful team not being considered within a 10-player list that includes players with less successful clubs, inconsequential stats and nowhere near the historical imprint on the game of basketball. Credit is due. Westbrook was labeled as an honorable mention in the article.

It provokes the question: Does Westbrook’s constant triple-double accomplishments make the feat uninteresting. In other respects, us basketball fanatics, do we under appreciate this man’s exhilarating performances?

Now, Westbrook is not the perfect basketball player. He is third in the league in turnovers, shoots an abysmal 26.5 percent from three-point land and is shooting a pathetic career-low 65.6 percent from the free-throw line.

Nonetheless, his franchise is winning. The Oklahoma City Thunder are 38-23 this season and are third in the western conference, so do not argue that the team is doing poorly as Westbrook pads his stats. To build off that, since 2016, the team is 70-22 when Russell notches a triple-double putting the team at .761 winning percentage. Not to mention, Westbrook’s greatness was the organization’s key factor in persuading All-Star forward Paul George to decide not to return to his hometown of Los Angeles, and instead signed a four-year, $137M max deal with the Thunder this summer.

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There is a negative narrative in the media atmosphere conjuring up the idea that Westbrook is selfish, hard to play with and is focused on individual accomplishments over prioritizing winning championships. Popular sports talk show host constantly say those allegations directed towards Westbrook are correct, ultimately causing Kevin Durant’s walkout on his eight-year teammate back in the 2016 off-season. Nevertheless, what defines a selfish player? Would you call a player who has finished in the top-five assist leaders for five-years in a row a selfish teammate? In fact, Westbrook is the only player who remained in the top-five assist leaders over a half-decade span. Last season, Westbrook’s dynamic passing and altruistic play helped him lead the whole NBA in assists, averaging 10.3 dimes on a nightly basis. Notably, Westbrook’s 10.9 assist average this season is leading the NBA, potentially crowning him the assist king for two consecutive seasons, therefore annihilating the portrayal that he is a destructive parsimonious player.

To illuminate, Paul George is performing at career-best this season alongside Westbrook. PG’s 28.6 points per game this year is the most in his impressive nine-year career. As Westbrook plays floor general, George is able to transform himself into one of the most deadly three-point assassins, making 228 long-balls (third in the league) while shooting 39.8 percent. Even more, George can freely play defense because of Westbrook’s ball-hawking tendencies, averaging 2.1 steals per game. As a result, PG sits atop the NBA in steals this season (2.3) and according to NBA.com/Stats, he ranks second in defensive win shares (.173).

Westbrook’s heart and determination on every possession cannot be denied. The former 2x Scoring Champion knows his best ability is his availability. Since 2015, Westbrook has played in more regular season games than future Hall of Famers: Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and Kawhi Leonard. The NBA’s ironman has only missed 13-games over a 4-year span. Westbrook’s ability to play with that level of ferocity and intensity while averaging 35-minutes over that extensive duration is remarkable.

Westbrook on his demeanor: “Every day, when I get on the floor I give it my all and play because you never know what tomorrow holds.”

Last night, versus the Philadelphia 76ers, Russell Westbrook’s tireless motor earned himself  another triple-double in a 108-104 hard fought lose without his partner-in-crime Paul George. This latest triple-double increased his season-leading total to 25, doubling his lead on second-place Nikola Jokic (12).

Westbrook’s 129 career triple-doubles ranks him third all-time behind Magic Johnson’s 138, and the all-time leader Oscar Robinson who earned 181 triple-doubles over his 12-year Hall of Fame career.

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