INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Russell Westbrook became an instant hit with his ability to deliver triple-doubles.
Now the 6-foot-3 point guard is on the verge of a home run – breaking Oscar Robertson’s seemingly unbreakable career record.
He tallied 33 points, 19 rebounds and 15 assists on Saturday night in a 133-132 overtime win over Indiana to tie Robertson’s mark of 181. And, rightly so, he came a short distance in. drive to the Lockefield Dust Bowl, where Robertson and his future Crispus Attucks High School teammates first honed their craft.
Westbrook gets his first crack to overtake Robertson on Monday night in Cleveland.
“I am very proud to do whatever I can to make an impact on winning,” he said. “To have a conversation with Oscar, I just want to thank him because he paved the way. The things he was able to do then allowed me to do the things I do today. So I appreciate that and I also appreciate his support.
But the two men now linked in the record books have taken radically different paths to reach the top.
Robertson was an Indianapolis high school star, three-time University of Cincinnati All-American and Olympic gold medalist before playing for the Cincinnati Royals and Milwaukee Bucks.
In just his second professional season, Robertson became the first player to average a triple-double – a feat Westbrook only matched half a century later – and Robertson came within a hair’s breadth of the game. achievement of the feat in each of its first five seasons.
Westbrook, meanwhile, attracted little academic interest until his final season in high school and only started one season at UCLA before turning pro. In his first six seasons at Oklahoma City, he scored eight triple doubles.
Then he perfected the art and produced 173 more in the past seven seasons.
They met in 2017, a reunion Westbrook called overwhelming.
“He flew to Oklahoma City and he didn’t have to do that,” he said. “He took the time to talk to me and my family about this moment. I was honestly more intrigued because he faced social injustice when he was playing and so I was really intrigued by the way he handled that and continued to play at such a high level.
Westbrook also found a way to produce large numbers night after night.
This season, he leads the league with 35, the second-highest total of his career. He was 42 in 2016-17 when he became the first player since Robertson in 1961-62 to average a triple-double. With a week to go in the regular season, he’s set to match that feat for the fourth time in five seasons.
And now, having posted 19 triple doubles in the last 24 games, he’s nowhere near breaking a record since Robertson ended his career in 1973-74.
“Doing that every night is really hard to do,” said teammate Bradley Beal. “You go there and try to do it every night, it’s very difficult. It’s mentally tough. It shows how seriously he takes the game.
It’s also fitting that Westbrook tied the record against the Pacers, against whom he posted a career-high 10 triple-doubles including three this season.
He became the first player in league history with a 35-point triple-double and 20 assists against Indiana on March 29 and had a career-high 21 rebounds and a career-high 24 assists against the Pacers in Monday’s victory over the Pacers. .
That’s not all. He now has 7,998 career assists, overtaking Rod Strickland for 12th on the NBA career scorecard and he’s topped 41 points after overtaking Larry Bird (21,791) for No.40 on the career scorecard. of the league.
“I knew he was going to get it, I didn’t know if he would get it this year,” said coach Scott Brooks. “For him to let Oscar Robertson pass is absolutely incredible. I hope somehow he (Robertson) can come (to a game), I would like to meet him. There are certain guys in NBA history that you put on a pedestal and until you meet them they’re kind of mythical. It’s hard to believe that coaching Russell 13 years ago he was going to break Oscar Robertson’s record, but I’m happy to say that because he truly is a special player.