Oscar Robertson laid down this sui generis stat package during the 1961-62 NBA season: 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists per game. Double figure averages in all three categories ain’t been done since. But now here comes Russell Westbrook. The most astonishing athlete working in today’s NBA is OKC’s nonpareil speed-strength-agility combo called Russ — there may be better basketball players (though probably not) on given nights in the NBA, but Westbrook would have to be the favorite if the NBA ran a decathlon event in the off-season. He does things physically, athletically that nobody else does. And Westbrook performs this particular wizardry with magisterial consistency.
Westbrook is not certain to average a triple-double this season. He’s at 32 ppg with 10.5 rebounds and 10.0 assists per game with less than a quarter of the season remaining. It’ll be close enough, no matter how he finishes. Most year’s this triple-double accomplishment alone would cinch the MVP Award for him. But this year Westbrook’s real claim on the award is in how he’s led his team after Kevin Durant’s departure. Losing a former MVP still in his prime would be devastating to most teams. (Miami wasn’t a real threat, for example, after LeBron James left.) But Westbrook has led the Thunder to a 35-29 record, 17 games behind the first-place Warriors in the standings. With Durant last year the Thunder finished 18 games in back of the first place Warriors. That’s why Westbrook is most valuable — he made it so OKC could absorb the loss of Kevin Durant and still contend. He just had to average a triple double to do it.