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Slow Tuesday: Russell Westbrook and the Art of Chasing History

April 10, 2018

By Jon Carlos Rodriguez

To make history as the only player to ever average a triple double in two seasons, Russell Westbrook needs to grab 16 rebounds in his last game of the season. Will he make it?

Last season, Westbrook became only the second player in NBA history after Oscar Robertson to average a triple double with these insane, do-what-I-want per game numbers: 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists.

This year, he is on track to chase more history as the only player to average a triple double in two seasons. His numbers so far are equally insane: 25, 10, and 10 with only one game left in the regular season. To keep the triple double, he will need to haul down 16 rebounds against the Memphis Grizzlies—the league’s second-worst rebounding team.

Will he go for it? Damn right he will.

Westbrook is so close to again logging his name in the history books to let this slip away. He knows what’s at stake, just as Kobe Bryant knew in ’06 when he had 79 points with 50 seconds left in that seminal game against the Toronto Raptors. Going up against two defenders, Bryant knew the importance of scoring two more points to make the previous 79 count. It would be very, very un-Kobe if he passed on another shot before the big 8-0.

Side note: The awesome thing about the 81-point game was that it wasn’t in the agenda. At the half, Bryant only had 26 points. It was one of those games where he’d score 40+ points in a losing effort (the Los Angeles Lakers were down 18 points in the third quarter). But then, Bryant completely ad-libbed, fired up his blowtorch, and burned the stage with 55 points in the second half to snatch the W from the jaws of the Raptors. “That was something that just happened…It’s tough to explain. It’s just one of those things,” Bryant said after the game.

Steph Curry also knew the importance of history when his three-point counter hit 12 in 2016 to match the previous records held by Bryant, Donyell Marshall, and himself. Feed me the ball. Just one more three-pointer. To break the record, Curry shot over two New Orleans Pelican defenders to give the Golden State Warriors a comfortable 12-point lead in the closing minutes. He didn’t attempt another 3 after that until the game ended.

Westbrook’s chase this time around was crucial because it came off a victory that helped Oklahoma City Thunder clinch a playoff spot in the jampacked hell of a conference that is the West. This was in no way a Ricky Davis-manufactured attempt to notch a triple double by shooting at your own basket for a rebound. This is stat-padding on the way to greatness, which is an art that only Westbrook has mastered.

Sixteen rebounds away from making history and it looks promising. Westbrook has that familiar look in his eyes (it never goes away), and everyone must simply get out of his way. To grab yet another historic moment, he needs to grab at least 16 rebounds. Go get 18, Russ.