Russell Westbrook: History with an asterisk*

As the NBA’s regular season comes to a close, we here at 789 Media would like to take a brief moment to speak on the history being made in a small city in the state of Oklahoma.

For the third straight season, NBA fans and sports fans across the globe have watched the basketball history books be rewritten in Oklahoma City. Guard Russell Westbrook has now averaged a triple double for three STRAIGHT seasons.

A triple-double is when a player in basketball records a double-digit stat total in three different categories. The most common example is a player recording at least 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Triple-doubles can be achieved using other stats such as blocks or steals but they are most commonly acquired via points, rebounds and assists.

Prior to Russ’s three seasons averaging a triple-double only ONE player in NBA history had ever averaged a triple-double for an entire regular season. Oscar Robertson achieved this feat during the 1961-62 season as a member of the now defunct Cincinnati Royals.

Robertson achieved this averaging 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11. 4 assists. He did this his second year in the league by the way at the age of 23.

There is no denying that what Russ is currently doing is nothing short of extraordinary, and what he has done will never be forgotten.

Now, with that being said, his achievements may be remembered for a lifetime. However, many witnessing this history as it is being written truly do not appreciate what is happening before their eyes.

Many people believe that Russ’s accomplishments are simply not that impressive simply due to “stat padding.”

Stat padding is when a player goes out to simply achieve a certain stat. The player is not worried about the team. Their only concern is raising their stats to their liking.

Many fans and basketball purists accuse Russ of being a stat padder. Many feel that throughout the course of game he knows exactly where he is statistically and goes out of his way to achieve the numbers necessary for a triple-double.

Why does that matter? Many would argue that it ruins the integrity of the game. People feel that Russ is not truly trying to help the team, but instead he is only looking for his own numbers.

They would argue that a “true triple-double” should be achieved via the flow of the game.

In a recent poll conducted by The Athletic, Russ was voted as the league’s most overrated player by his peers. The poll was taken by 47 players and Russ was tied with the Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green for most overrated.

But the question fans and players across the league should ask themselves is… does any of that really matter?

Whether or not Russ is achieving these triple-doubles in a way people prefer, he is still getting them. He is still rewriting the history books.

Even if Russ is stat padding, he is far from the first person to do that, and most certainly will not be the last.

He did something that no other player had done in 55 years, and then did it again two more times. If what Russ was doing was so easy it, would have been done already.

Hundreds of players were in and out of the league prior to Russ being drafted in 2008, and none of them were able to accomplish this. Russ is one of the few in the history of the NBA that can say he accomplished something even Michael Jordan could not do.

Even Jordan knows how big of an accomplishment this is. Russ is signed to Jordan brand and even has is own signature shoe with the company.

When Russ won league MVP after he first averaged a triple-double for a season back in 2017, the folks at Jordan made sure to let know him just how special he was.

They sent him a one of one case of Air Jordans with three different pairs of sneakers. A pair of the Air Jordan XXXI and two pairs of Air Jordan 10’s each in Oklahoma City Thunder colors. (Russ averaged 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists that season.)

Along with the shoes came a note from the man himself, Michael Jordan.

“Congrats, Russell. I got my first MVP award before my first ring, too… KEEP GOING!”

When the GOAT goes out of his way to send you a personalized gift, you know you are doing something right.

Fans and even players alike may not like how he is doing it but we should all take a moment and appreciate the history being made. Russ is on run that few athletes have ever done in any sport.

People may try to discredit or look down on his accomplishments but there is no denying what Russ has done.

*Stats courtesy of basketball-reference*

NBA MVP Race Heating Up

The NBA season is over 40 games in, with the season at its midway point it is time to look at who has thrown their name into the MVP race this season.

The Favorites

  • James Harden, Guard, Houston Rockets
    • 34.1 PPG, 8.7 APG, 6.1 RPG

The reigning MVP has shown no signs of slowing down this season. Harden has been on a scoring tear, scoring at least 40 points in seven of his last ten games including three triple doubles.  Harden knows how well he’s been playing this season and is not shy about showing it. Harden told Turner Sports’ Ros Gold-Onwude “I need it. I need it for sure. And I’m going to get it” when asked about this years MVP.

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo, Forward, Milwaukee Bucks
    • 26.6 PPG, 6.0 APG, 12.8 RPG

The Greek Freak is having a career year this season. He’s averaging career highs in field goal percentage (58.1%), rebounds and assists. Giannis is playing great and has the Bucks on their best run in over a decade. The Bucks are currently second in the Eastern Conference at 29-12. If the Bucks can secure a top two seed, and if Giannis can improve his three point shooting the Greek Freak just might go home with his first MVP award this June.

  • Russell Westbrook, Guard, Oklahoma City Thunder
    • 21.4 PPG, 10.6 APG, 10.8 RPG

Even with his poor shooting this season Westbrook still has the chance to

Wizards v/s Thunder 03/14/11make NBA history. During the 2016-17 season Westbrook became the second player in league history to average a triple-double for the season. Last season he became the ONLY player in NBA history to average a triple-double in back to back season. He is currently on the verge of averaging a triple-double for THREE straight seasons.

  • Kawhi Leonard, Forward, Toronto Raptors
    • 27.1 PPG, 3.1 APG, 7.9 RPG

Leonard was limited to only nine games last season due to a right quad injury. In his first season with the Toronto Raptors Leonard has reminded everyone just how good the 2014 Finals MVP truly is. Leonard is averaging career highs in both points and rebounds, and the Raptors are currently on their best run in team history. Sitting atop the NBA with a league best record of 32-12.

  • Nikola Jokić, Center, Denver Nuggets
    • 19.2 PPG, 7.5 APG, 10.2 RPG

Jokić has solidified himself as one of the best and most versatile big men in the league. His skills as a passer are amazing, making the young center a constant triple-double threat. He currently has five on the season. Jokić’s play and leadership has led the Nuggets to the second best record in the NBA, and first in the Western Conference at 28-13.

Outside Looking In

  • Joel Embiid, Center, Philadelphia 76ers
    • 26.9 PPG, 13.5 RPG, 1.9 BLK

JoJo has shown that he is a legitimate 2-way threat on both sides of the ball, dominating on both offense and defense. If JoJo can shoot better from three and if the Sixers can make a jump in the Eastern Conference standings (currently fourth) JoJo could see a jump in the MVP rankings.

  • Paul George, Forward, Oklahoma City
    • 26.7 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 2.2 STL

George is having a career year in his second season with Oklahoma City. George is averaging career highs in points, rebounds and steals this season. He has been a nice constant for the Thunder who have been dealing with Westbrook’s shooting woes this season. Thanks to George’s play this season on both ends of the floor the Thunder have been able to maintain a top three seed in the Western Conference currently sitting at third.

Sleepers to Watch

  • Anthony Davis, Forward, New Orleans Pelicans
  • Stephen Curry, Guard, Golden State Warriors
  •  Kevin Durant, Forward, Golden State Warriors

*Key: PPG = Points Per Game, APG = Assists Per Game, RPG = Rebounds Per Game, BLK = Blocks Per Game, STL = Steals Per Game

*Stats courtesy of Yahoo Sports*