A Record Untouchable Since 1962 Was Just Tied

Russell Westbrook recorded his 41st triple-double Tuesday night
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 5, 2017 8:00 AM CDT
One of Basketball's Toughest Records Is About to Fall
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) waves to the crowd after tying the record for triple-doubles in a season in the third quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, April 4, 2017.   (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Is Russell Westbrook the best player in the NBA? It's a question NPR asked in March as the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard inched closer to claiming a storied record: the most triple-doubles in a season. Oscar Robertson did it 41 times for the Cincinnati Royals during the 1961-1962 season—decades before the term was officially coined. Getting one means racking up double digits in three of five basketball stats categories: points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocked shots. And on Tuesday night, Westbrook notched No. 41. In the Thunder's 110-79 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, Westbrook managed 12 points, 13 rebounds, and 13 assists. "It's historic," Thunder coach Billy Donovan tells ESPN. "If what he's doing wasn't so difficult, we'd have a lot more people being able to do it."

There's more than one record in sight. Robertson is also the only player to have ever averaged a triple-double for the season. With five games left, Westbrook needs only 16 assists to get there, which has Fox Sports proclaiming that "as long as the MVP frontrunner doesn't fall into a coma on the court," it's in the bag. Tuesday's game also put Westbrook on par with Wilt Chamberlain for the fourth-most career triple-doubles ever, at 78; in front of them are Jason Kidd (107), Magic Johnson (138), and Robertson (181). The origins of the "triple-double" aren't iron-clad, but the phrase is widely attributed to Harvey Pollack, dubbed the "basketball’s godfather of statistical analysis" by Bloomberg in its 2015 obituary of Pollack, who is said to have started using the term during Magic Johnson's 1979-1980 rookie season. (More Russell Westbrook stories.)

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