Appreciating one of the most ridiculous seasons ever
If at any point this year, you found yourself being unimpressed with the Oklahoma City Thunder's one-man force of nature, just like a test I cram to understand you. If you still feel that way as we close out his record-setting campaign, like the Korean grocer told O-Dog in Menace II Society, "I feel sorry for your mother."
Let's be clear from the jump, Russell Westbrook is in the midst of one of the most remarkable basketball seasons ever. I'm talking about in the entire illustrious history of the game!
If you find the urge to minimize what he's accomplished in averaging a triple-double, while notching 42 of them this year in breaking Oscar Robertson's previous record of 41 such games in one season, there's something severely flawed with your comprehension of the sport.
I've often found myself scratching my head at folks out here who claim that Westbrook is simply a selfish player who is out here chasing stats.
Let's begin with the simple axiom that the great Big O, Oscar Robertson, a man who single-handedly instituted a paradigm shift in the sport, is the only player ever to accomplish the feat. No one averaged a triple-double before or since, until Westbrook's remarkable 2016-2017 season.
Throw out every all-time great you want - Magic, Bird, MJ, Kareem, Wilt, Hakeem, Jerry West, Dr. J, KG, Dirk, Havlicek, The Iceman, Pistol Pete, The Glove, Luke Babbitt (just wanted to see who was paying attention), Clyde Frazier, LeBron, Shaq, Kobe, Timmaaaay, KD, Bill Russell, etc. - none of them did it.
Off the bat, without any real in-depth analysis, Westbrook's accomplishment over an 82-game marathon of a regular season is mind-boggling. But when you peel back the layers beyond how difficult it is, and view it through the lens of a league of phenomenal size, skill and athleticism, we're looking at something here that borders on the supernatural.
Far from the misconceived notion held dearly by the game's uneducated that anyone could chase stats in an easy pursuit of averaging a triple double, is the undeniable truth that pulling it off was recently viewed as next to impossible. The thought among the cognoscenti was that if the most qualified candidates couldn't do it, those being Jason Kidd, Magic Johnson and LeBron James, then it simply couldn't be done.
The feat was simply deemed an anomaly of a bygone era, where Oscar Robertson was simply light years ahead of those he competed against. The Big O was the sign on the hoops super-highway that alerted us that players like Magic and LeBron were soon to come
To go out every night against the best players in the world and dominate in this fashion, while carrying an inferior squad to a playoff berth in the rugged and super-competitive Western Conference in the way that Westbrook has, is almost the game's equivalent of Halley's Comet.
But to put it in its proper context, you have to understand that what Russ has been doing is all about necessity and survival.
He hasn't been out there in a selfish pursuit of numbers! To minimize it in this way is idiotic.
What he's done, night in and night out, has been a vicious, driven and relentless pursuit of doing whatever is necessary for his team to win.
Let's look at last night's 106-105 win over the Nuggets, where the Denver fans gave him numerous standing ovations, as a microcosm of what Westbrook has been doing all year.
He didn't just score 50 points, grab 16 rebounds and dish out 10 assists, capping it off with a 36-foot game-winner at the buzzer. To dismiss a performance like that as stat-stuffing reeks of someone dealing with their own self-esteem issues while gulping copious amounts of Haterade.
The Thunder needed every single one of those points, rebounds and assists, and Russ obliged with what was necessary in order to will his squad to victory.
“This is the way he’s played all year long,” head coach Billy Donovan said after the game.
This dude poured in OKC's final 15 points to close off what was previously a 13-point deficit.
Now think about this - Russ has three 50-plus point triple-doubles this year, and counting. Guess who's accomplished that before in a single season. No one!
Guess who has had as many 50-point triple-doubles for an entire career? No one!!! Are you starting to smell what I'm cooking?
“I don’t know any other way to play," Westbrook said last night. "When I get on the floor, I try to leave everything I have, regardless of seedings, records, the time of day, whatever. It doesn’t matter to me. Basketball is basketball, and I try to go out there and leave it all on the floor.”
In an era where people complain about the AAU-ification of the pro game, how players don't leave it all on the floor, how they rest up and skip games, how they only care about jumping to teams with a better shot at a championship or a franchise that will give them max money, we have this one alien (I'm convinced that his DNA traces back to the Roswell UFO landing) who is the antithesis of all of that.
And yet, some of you think this dude is simply out there chucking up shots? C'mon, son!
This year, he has 247 "clutch points", defined as points scored in the final five minutes of a game when the margin between the teams is within five points. That is a mere four shy of what LeBron did in 2007-2008.
Oh, you're one of those dummies who thinks LeBron isn't clutch either? If so, stop reading and study up on the NFL Draft, because basketball ain't for you.
Westbrook's 2016-2017 "clutch points" trails only LeBron as the most in a season by any player since Wu Tang dropped Triumph in 1997! That's a 20-year stretch for you non-mathematicians.
Stat-stuffing? Numbers-chasing? Child please!!!
To paraphrase Inspectah Deck, Russ bombs atomically, Socrates' philosophies and hypotheses can't define how he be droppin' these mockeries, perform hoops armed robberies, fleeing with the lottery!...Shackling the masses with drastic ball tactics, his graphic displays melt the steel like blacksmiths!!!
Seriously, it's illogical to hate on his 2016-2017 season.
He's got the whole league's wig fried like a bad perm, and some of ya'll fools are sitting here hating? That's more wack than the ending of The Departed.
Westbrook carries the biggest individual burden of anyone in the league, for a team that has nowhere near the talent that squads like Houston, Golden State, San Antonio and Cleveland, along with those respective other MVP candidates in James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Steph Curry and LeBron have.
To think that getting a triple-double is easy is beyond foolhardy and shows a true lack of knowledge of how tough this game really is, and how incredibly difficult it is to do what he has done.
Now let's factor in that when Russ doesn't go off for one, the Thunder are 13-25. When he does notch one, they're 33-9.
So is he chasing stats, or hunting victories, willing an inferior squad to a playoff berth in the process? That's a rhetorical question, by the way.
The man just delivered one of the most remarkable seasons ever in NBA history. The sad part is that some of you have no idea about, or a learned appreciation of, what it is you're actually seeing.