Photo via Sporting News
With 2.9 seconds remaining on the clock in Sunday night’s Denver Nuggets-Oklahoma City Thunder matchup, Russell Westbrook and the Thunder faced a two-point deficit. It had already been a historic night for Westbrook; earlier, he recorded his 42nd triple-double of the season, breaking Oscar Robertson’s record that had stood since 1962, yet he was not done with the theatrics yet. As time expired, teammate Steven Adams quickly dumped the ball into Westbrook’s hands, where he proceeded to pull up from far beyond the three-point line and hit the game-winning shot. The amazing shot, which not only won the game, but also put Westbrook at 50 points on the night, was just another amazing moment in what has been truly one of the greatest single-season performances in the history of the NBA.
While talking heads debate who should really be the NBA MVP, I roll my eyes. James Harden has put up incredible statistics on a team that has won eight more games than Westbrook’s Thunder, but he has a stronger supporting cast, and his numbers simply don’t measure up. LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard have both had superb seasons on great teams, but once again, the statistics just do not measure up. Russell Westbrook is the no-brainer option, and his 2016-17 campaign will be remembered in history.
Playing the entirety of his career in the shadow of even bigger superstar Kevin Durant, many did not know exactly what to expect from Westbrook coming into this season as the defacto leader of his team. Everyone knew he was one of the most tenacious players in the league and would assuredly be playing with a chip on his shoulder following the departure of Durant to the Golden State Warriors, but nobody could have foreseen the truly incredible season Westbrook just concluded.
Westbrook set the tone of utter dominance early when he became the first player to ever record at least 100 points, 30 rebounds, and 30 assists in his team’s first three games of the season. Immediately, everyone realized that an unleashed Westbrook was a statistical monster, but even then it would have been far-fetched to accurately predict what he would continue to do throughout the season.
Westbrook became the first player to ever record 57 points in a tripe-double. Westbrook became the first player to ever record a triple double while shooting perfectly from both the field and the free throw line. Westbrook blew everyone away when he became the first player to ever record five consecutive 30-point triple-doubles, but later in the season he somehow managed to one-up that feat by averaging 40 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists over a five-game span.
This season Westbrook became the first player ever to average 10 assists per game after winning the scoring-title in the previous year. Somehow, he managed to achieve this while on his way to winning the scoring-title again this year.
Most importantly of all, Westbrook averaged a triple-double. Nobody in the NBA has managed to do this since Oscar Robertson did in the 1961-62 season. That same season, the NBA featured only nine teams, and the Championship games were played on a tape delay.
Robertson lost the MVP to Bill Russell during his triple-double season, but one can only hope Westbrook won’t meet the same injustice. Westbrook has blown the roof off of what could be conceivably expected out of an NBA stat-line and has willed his team to the playoffs in the process. Russell Westbrook is the MVP of the 2016-17 NBA season, and if you disagree, I recommend you re-read some of the feats I discussed.
A Westbrook loss would be like Citizen Kane losing the Best Picture Oscar to How Green Was My Valley in 1942 or like Pete Rose, the MLB’s all-time hits leader, being shunned from the Hall of Fame for conduct after his playing career.
I hope to look back on the 2016-17 season as the year that Westbrook defied logic in his quest to terrorize the rest of the NBA, and not the season he received the biggest snub in the history of sports.