It seems like there are two factions of National Basketball Association (NBA) this season: Those who love Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook and relish what he’s doing this season after Kevin Durant left the Thunder to join the enemy in Golden State, and those who truly hate the guy and think what he’s doing isn’t that impressive.
The people in that latter group are idiots, period.
They either don’t know enough about basketball, or can’t see past their mistaken preconceived notions about Westbrook, who always looks like he’s angry.
Guess what? Being angry works for him, and I’d be angry, too, if my teammate who won a league MVP award and had been loyal to the Thunder just up and left for greener pastures.
So Westbrook had a very big chip on his shoulder coming into this season, and he’s carried that chip all the way to the greatest NBA season of all time.
What’s that? You disagree with that sentiment? Well, let me prove you wrong oh Westbrook hater.
On Friday night he clinched the second individual campaign in NBA history in which a player averaged a triple-double. With three games left, Westbrook is averaging 31.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game.
Most NBA fans know by now who the other player to average a triple-double was: Oscar Robertson produced 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists per game in the 1961-62 season for the Cincinnati Royals.
But there’s huge differences between the campaigns.
First, in 1961-62 there were a whopping eight teams in the NBA. Now there are 30 teams, meaning more talent spread out over the league.
Second, they played less games back then: 80 instead of the 82 now, and Robertson didn’t play in every game (79). Westbrook has already played in all 79 OKC games with three remaining.
Third, Robertson needed to play almost every minute of those games to produce his stats. He averaged 44.3 minutes per game, which had more possessions than the modern NBA, meaning more chances for rebounds and assists. Westbrook is averaging just 34.8 minutes per game this year — almost 10 full minutes fewer than Robertson.
Think about that a little longer so you can comprehend the incredible meaning of that solitary stat. Westbrook is averaging almost one point more per game, and a little less rebounds and assists while playing almost one whole quarter less (NBA quarters are 12 minutes).
Westbrook has only played 40 or more minutes in five games this season, and they were all overtime contests.
What the heck would Westbrook average if he played the same amount of minutes as Robertson?
Since I love math and my dad was a math teacher for a couple decades, let me give you that answer. If Westbrook played the same 44.3 minutes per game “the Big O” played, he would have averaged 40.3 points, 13.6 rebounds and 13.2 assists per game.
My head just spun in a complete circle like Linda Blair in “The Exorcist” thinking about those numbers. That’s YMCA league-like.
Oh, and he still has a chance to add a record to this year’s resume. Robertson had 41 triple-doubles that season and Westbrook is sitting on that number right now. He will get in over the next three games.
But there are still so-called NBA experts who think Westbrook shouldn’t win league MVP honors. They think Houston’s James Harden — a former teammate of Westbrook’s at OKC — should earn the honor.
Sure, the Rockets are going to be three spots higher in the Western Conference standings, currently with eight more wins (53 compared to OKC’s 45), and Harden’s stats are pretty darn good, too, at 29.2 points, 11.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds. But when one player Westbrook) has done something that’s only been done once before, and averaging 2.5 more points per game than the other (Harden), I can’t comprehend how Westbrook can’t win the MVP.
He’s the only reason — let me repeat that … the ONLY reason — OKC is in the playoffs, while Harden has better pieces around him and has a new coach in Mike D’Antoni who should win coach of the year.
Oh, and Westbrook is averaging a triple-double, for God’s sake!
In 2012, when Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers became the first Major League Baseball player to win the Triple Crown (leading his league in home runs, batting average and runs batted in) since 1967, there were stat geeks saying Anaheim Angels outfielder Mike Trout should win the MVP because he had better all-around stats.
Cabrera hit .330 with 44 homers and 139 RBI, and did win the MVP. And rightfully so since he accomplished the crown jewel (pun intended) of baseball statistical achievements.
Robertson’s 1961-62 season has been revered by multiple generations of basketball fans, and Westbrook just blew it out of the water based on metrics. If he doesn’t win the MVP, the award is meaningless and those voting against him should have their credentials taken away.
Reach sports editor Steve T. Gorches at email@example.com or (219) 214-4206. Follow him on Twitter @SteveTGorches.