Russell Westbrook and the triple-double have become as synonymous as Louis Pasteur and pasteurization.
Averaging 31.2 points, 10.2 assists and 10.5 rebounds a game, Westbrook is trying to become the only player to average a triple-double for an NBA season other than Oscar Robertson, who did it in 1961-62 with 30.8 points, 11.4 assists and 12.5 rebounds a game.
The Oklahoma City Thunder point guard doesn’t just pile up cheap numbers, like a guy hitting a two-run homer in the eighth inning of a 10-0 game – all the energy Westbrook pours onto the court is instrumental to the team’s success. The Thunder outscores opponents by 3.2 points when Westbrook is in the game; the Thunder gets outscored by 3.1 points when he’s on the bench.
(Note: These numbers compare favorably to William the Conqueror’s plus-minus rating when he ruled England in the late 11th century.)
The 6-foot-3 Westbrook competes every possession, never taking a play off; he leads the NBA in scoring, is third in assists and is 12th in rebounding. Only Wilt Chamberlain – several times – ever came close to leading in all three categories.
(In 1965-66, for instance, Wilt was No. 1 in scoring, No. 1 in rebounds and No. 7 in assists. If you substituted making passes at women for making passes to teammates, then Wilt might’ve won the triple crown repeatedly.)
Westbrook has 26 triple-doubles this season – Robertson had a record 41 in 1961-62 – and the Rockets’ equally sublime James Harden has 14; the rest of the league has a total of 26.
(Harden and Westbrook also lead the NBA in turnovers per game – Harden 5.9, Westbrook 5.5 – but that is largely due to the fact that each of them spends more time with the ball than Cheech & Chong spent with a bong.)
The Westbrook-Robertson comparison, sadly, has some basketball savants unfairly denigrating Robertson.
They try to diminish the Big O’s numbers because the game was “different” then – faster-paced, with more possessions per game, creating more opportunities for points, assists and rebounds. But everything is always different, and Couch Slouch is tired of the mentality that Whatever We Are Seeing Now is greater than Whatever We Didn’t See Before.
(Similarly, I love the Dalai Lama – the 14th in the line of succession – but as sharp as he is, he’s not necessarily any more sage than the first or second Dalai Lama. And if Twitter were around in the early 1700s, I’d bet the seventh Dalai Lama could tweet just as well as the current one.)
Here’s another statistical stunner overlooked about Robertson: In his first five NBA seasons with the Cincinnati Royals, he averaged 30.3 points, 10.6 assists and 10.4 rebounds a game. That’s a heap of sustained triple-double production over 384 games.
Robertson’s prowess – and Westbrook’s – calls to mind other greats in history outside of basketball who managed to record lifetime triple-doubles:
George Foreman: 68 knockouts, 12 children, 99 million George Foreman Grills sold.
Susan Lucci: 31 years on “All My Children,” 21 Daytime Emmy nominations, 11 marriages as Erica Kane.
The Beatles: 20 Billboard No. 1 hits, 10 Grammy Awards, 37 wives and mistresses.
Willie Sutton: 24 banks robbed, 33 years incarcerated, 12 unsuccessful prison-escape attempts.
Alexander Hamilton: 51 essays in The Federalist Papers, 46 trespass cases litigated as New York lawyer, 16 Tony nominations last year.
Louis XIV: 72 years as king of France, 13 wars under his rule, 67 staircases at palace of Versailles (which he built).
Albert Einstein: 307 published scientific papers, 186 failed equations before hitting on E=mc², 160 IQ.
(This, actually, is a “triple-triple.”)
Then, of course, there is the rare “quadruple-double”!
Donald Trump: 10 bankruptcies, 10 draft deferments, 10 ethnic groups offended, 10 years without paying taxes.*
(* All numbers are estimates, pending completion of IRS audit.)
Ask The Slouch
Q. Isn’t it time for the NFL to pull its head out and adopt the overtime method high schools and colleges have used for years, allowing both teams an equal opportunity? Winning a Super Bowl on the flip of a coin is beyond ludicrous. (Pat Cadagan; Spokane)
A. It is ludicrous. It’s the NFL.
Q. Did anybody think to check the composition and balance on the coin flipped for Super Bowl 51’s overtime? (Perry Beider; Silver Spring, Md.)
A. Come to think of it, it looked like a Russian coin.
Q. Isn’t Falcons owner Arthur Blank actually Mayberry’s Howard Sprague from “The Andy Griffith Show”? (Jim O’Brien; Racine, Wis.)
A. But Blank didn’t have a manipulative mother and Howard preferred bow ties.
Q. Is it possible Roger Goodell took Tom Brady’s jersey – just to see if it met NFL specifications – and will it cost the Patriots a draft choice to get it back? (John Huber; Montgomery Village, Md.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email email@example.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!
Subscribe to The Spokesman-Review’s sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.