3 Other Ways Russell Westbrook's Record-Breaking Triple-Double Was Historic
In the Oklahoma City Thunder's 106-105 win over the Denver Nuggets Sunday night, Russell Westbrook made history by notching his 42nd triple-double and passing Oscar Robertson for the most in a single NBA season.
This is significant on many accounts, including the fact that the record stood for over 50 seasons. However, we shouldn't confine ourselves to this one record, nor should we be satisfied with Westbrook's triple-double average, which he locked in just a few days ago. That doesn't do Westbrook or his season proper justice.
We need to use different ways to best measure a record-breaking performance, and we need to do it with more than just a single designation than bunching all his trouble-doubles together.
Master of the 50-Point Triple-Double
Westbrook's 50-point, 16-rebound, 10-assist performance Sunday night broke a tie between he and fellow MVP candidate James Harden for the most 50-point triple-doubles in NBA history. Now with three, Westbrook is the only player to have ever accomplished such a feat.
Even if we were to knock the point total down to 45, Westbrook still leads all players with five such performances. Next in line are Harden and Larry Bird, with two apiece, and there are only four other players to have ever done this (Michael Jordan, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter and Michael Adams).
Saved His Best for Last
His big game also constituted his highest Game Score of the year, which is a rough measure of a player's productivity for a single game. His mark of 45.6 is 1.4 superior to his previous high, stemming from his last 50-point triple-double against the Orlando Magic on March 29th.
Along with those two games, Westbrook has one more performance with a triple-double and Game Score of 40 or more, which came in a losing effort to the Magic in November.
In those three contests, Westbrook averaged 49.3 points, 13.7 rebounds and 12.3 assists in 38.8 minutes, and his average Game Score of 44.2 is even more than outstanding. The Thunder hold a 2-1 record in the trio of contests.
The best triple-double game of the best triple-double season in history? That's historic.
Something We Haven't Seen in a While
Even if we set aside points, rebounds and assists, Westbroook's most recent showing places him in great company. According to Basketball Reference, he is only the fourth player ever (since they began tracking Game Score in 1983-84) to have posted a Game Score of 40 or greater in at least five games in the same season. It's also only the eighth time it's been done ever.
Here's the full list of seasons in which it happened.
Westbrook is the first player to achieve this since the 1993-94 season. So far in this century -- in the days of Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Stephen Curry and many more -- this has never happened. Curry was closest last year with four such games, and Harden has done it three times this year.
Yet, there's a fine line between joining such elite company like Jordan, Robinson and Bird -- and for good reason. It's the stuff Hall of Famers are made of. Thanks to a dominant season, Westbrook is rubbing elbows with those guys.