LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Russell Westbrook of the Washington Wizards wrote his way into National Basketball Association (NBA) history, bagging the 182nd triple-double of his career to break Oscar Robertson’s 47-year-old record on Monday.
Westbrook, who had matched Robertson’s record of 181 triples on Saturday, sealed his record-breaking triple with eight minutes and 33 seconds remaining in their 125-124 defeat to the Atlanta Hawks.
Westbrook’s 36th triple-double of the season included 28 points, 21 assists and 13 rebounds. He is already assured of averaging a triple-double per game this season.
A triple-double occurs when a player makes double-digit tallies in three of the five major statistical categories in a game — points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.
Westbrook has averaged a triple-double per game in four of the last five seasons, an eye-popping statistic that ensured he rapidly caught and overtook Robertson’s historic benchmark, which had stood since 1974 and was once widely regarded as unbeatable.
“Normally, I don’t like to pat myself on the back, but tonight I will,” Westbrook said afterwards.
“I am just so grateful for those that came before me.”
The 32-year-old Westbrook now has several seasons left in his career to extend his record, with few of his contemporaries anywhere near his total.
Westbrook has nearly twice as many triple-doubles as his nearest rival among currently active players.
After Westbrook with 182, LeBron James is in second spot with 99 triples while James Harden is third with 58.
Only two other players after Westbrook and Robertson, dubbed as the “Big O,” have scored 100 or more triples on the all-time rankings, with Earvin “Magic” Johnson third with 138 and Jason Kidd fourth with 107.
“It’s just a blessing. You put so much into the game,” Westbrook said.
“Just to be mentioned with guys like Oscar, Magic, Jason Kidd, those guys. It’s just something I would never have dreamt about.”
Wizards coach Scott Brooks described Westbrook’s achievement as “phenomenal.”
“It’s great for him,” Brooks said.
“You can’t take anything away from him.”
“The guy’s a winner. He’s making the basketball and the non-basketball world a better place. Not a lot of guys can do that, not a lot of guys have the impact that he has, on and off the court.”
Johnson, meanwhile, paid tribute to Westbrook’s record-breaking career prior to the game, saying the Wizards ace didn’t always get the credit he deserved.
When we show highlights, it’s how many points somebody had, how far can they shoot out on the court,” Johnson told The Athletic.
“Russell Westbrook is neither one of those things. He gets all these triple-doubles, but you don’t see him on the highlights.
“The things he’s been able to do, hopefully, we will say, ‘Give him his love, give him his respect.’ This is really big. This is something I couldn’t even do. I know how big it is.”
Westbrook’s critics have accused him of artificially inflating his personal stats to keep his triple-double tally ticking over, noting that a career that has included stints with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets and a 2017 NBA Most Valuable Player award has yet to yield an NBA Championship.
However, Robertson himself is among those who have dismissed the criticism of Westbrook’s failure to land a championship ring.
“I think he’s one of the elite guards in basketball, and I think it’s ridiculous that some sportswriters criticize him because he has not won a championship,” Robertson told The New York Times.
“Players don’t win championships by themselves. You’ve got to have good management. You need to get with the right group of players.”