Russell Westbrook was listed on the injury report as ‘questionable’ for Monday’s game against the San Antonio Spurs after injuring his left ankle the night before in a win over Cleveland, yet he played and not only did he play, he reeled in another triple-double, his 29th of the season.
That triple-double made history and got him one closer to the ultimate record for the stat.
It was Westbrook’s 12th triple-double, which is now an NBA record for a single month, edging Wilt Chamberlain, who had 11 in March of 1968. That could be seen as the one positive of the condensed 2020-21 schedule: more games per month to chase records of that sort.
Westbrook’s 29 triple-doubles are also the fifth-most for a single season. He owns the first and third spots on that list, with 42 in 2016-17 and 34 in 2018-19. His 29 this year, however, are through only 54 games.
Now, for the big one. Westbrook got his 175th career triple-double and that puts him only six back from Oscar Robertson’s all-time career record of 181. He now needs only seven to pass him and could do so this season with 11 games left.
Roberton’s record has stood for 47 years since 1974. Yet Westbrook feels he doesn’t get enough respect for his own triple-doubles.
“I honestly believe there is no player like myself and if people want to take it for granted, sorry for them,” Westbrook said.
“I’m pretty sure if everybody could do it, they would do it. I honestly make sure I impact the game in many ways every night; defending, rebounding, passing, whatever it is my team needs from me to win. That’s what I do. I really don’t, honestly, I don’t care what people think about it.”
Westbrook, in fact, seems to notice the specific criticisms lobbed at him, particularly on social media. He addressed what some of his biggest detractors in the media and particularly among fans often like to say. That he’s supposedly a selfish player who collects triple-doubles to the detriment of his team.
Westbrook finds that opinion to be ridiculous.
“I don’t care what anybody thinks of this whatever they want to call it ‘stat-padding’ or ‘not useful.’ I think it’s very interesting that it’s not useful when I’m doing it. It wasn’t useful when Magic [Johnson] and Oscar [Robertson] and those guys were doing it. Now that I do it and it looks easy, this s— ain’t easy, though. I’ll tell you that. It ain’t easy,” he said.
All of the critics seem to have created a defiance within Westbrook. While he might take the humble route with other feats like big scoring nights or winning streaks for his team, with triple-doubles he feels comfortable speaking up for himself.
For instance, he referred to Monday’s record, the most triple-doubles in a single month, as an “unbelievable accomplishment.”
“To be able to break that record this month, it’s a blessing. I’m truly, truly blessed and thankful to the man above just for allowing me to go out and play. I don’t take this game lightly. I don’t take my opportunity for granted,” he said.
Westbrook still has two more games this month to add to the record, on Wednesday against the Lakers and Friday vs. the Cavs. After that, topping Robertson’s record appears to be an inevitability, whether you are impressed by it or not.