Seventy-one years; that’s how long the National Basketball Association has been around for. Throughout that time the league has produced some of the world’s greatest and most famous athletes such as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Shaquille O’Neal; yet none of them have had a season like Russell Westbrook just had.
We have to go back 55 years to see a player who put up the same statistical outburst that Westbrook did this year. In the 1961-62 NBA season Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double, with the statline of 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists.
Even though this era of the NBA played a far faster pace, nobody since Robertson had been able to achieve such an incredible feat — that was, until Westbrook did. In the 2016-17 NBA season Westbrook averaged 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists per game.
Not only did Westbrook average a triple-double for the second time in history, he also beat the record for number of triple-doubles in a single season with 42. Out of the thousands of players who have played in the NBA, including the best of the best, no one has done what Westbrook did this year.
Following the departure of superstar Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors, it was clear that Westbrook was in line for an outstanding statistical season. However, the prediction of some that Westbrook could average a triple-double for an entire season left many skeptical.
In the 2015-16 season while Durant was injured most of the year, Westbrook averaged 24, 8, and 10. Those numbers alone could be seen as all-time great; no one could have predicted that Westbrook would then improve on such a good season.
Westbrook lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to the sixth seed in the Western Conference, with a record of 47-35. Westbrook also lead the league in player efficiency rating (PER), in points per game, and was also third in assists per game.
As historic a season as Westbrook has had, it was not met without some controversy. Throughout the season it seemed Westbrook made it his mission to average a triple-double, and his teammates seemed willing to help tip the stats in his favor. Westbrook lead the league in rebounds coming off of missed free-throws, showcasing the fact that his teammates were leaving them for him. He also placed last in the NBA in contested shots at one point. This is another sign that he was doing so to increase his rebounding numbers. Westbrook was second in the NBA in turnovers per game, second to last in field goal percentage among point guards, and also took nearly 1,000 more shot attempts than the second place player on his own team.
However, it is hard to argue against his case for winning the regular season MVP trophy. Whether or not he padded his stats, his team was 33-9 when he had a triple double. He lead his team to the sixth best record in the west, when no one thought they would make the playoffs before the season started. Westbrook also did so with one of the weakest supporting casts in the league right now, as far as playoff teams are concerned. Although James Harden, LeBron James, and Kawhi Leonard might have had more efficient and meaningful seasons, Westbrook deserves to win the MVP for his incredible season. Westbrook and the Thunder are currently in the first round of the playoffs against James Harden and the Houston Rockets, with the second game set for April 19 at 5 p.m.
Story by Nick Fields