Russell Westbrook and Oscar Robertson led parallel careers. Both had to carry weaker teams and were criticized for failing to win titles in their primes. Both reigned as perhaps the best athletes of their era. They are the only two players in league history to average a triple-double across an entire season.
But now, Westbrook has officially passed Robertson in the NBA record books. In the fourth quarter of Washington's battle with the Atlanta Hawks on Monday, Westbrook finally recorded his 10th rebound of the night. In the end, he finished the 125-124 loss to the Hawks with a team-high 28 points, 21 assists and 13 rebounds, that gave him his 182nd career triple-double, passing Robertson's decades-long NBA record of 181.
"It's just a blessing," Westbrook said after the game. "You put so much into the game, so much time, you sacrifice so much, to be able to just be mentioned with guys like Oscar, Magic and Jason Kidd, those guys, is something I never dreamed about as a young kid growing up in LA. Truly grateful for moments like this. Normally I don't like to pat myself on the back but tonight I will. Just because I am so grateful for the ones before me and so blessed."
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Robertson has long been a fan of Westbrook's, and in a recent interview with Marc Stein of the New York Times, he reiterated that he hoped to see Westbrook break his record. "I hope he gets it," Robertson said. "I think he's one of the elite guards in basketball, and I think it's ridiculous that some sportswriters criticize him because he has not won a championship. Players don't win championships by themselves. You've got to have good management. You need to get with the right group of players."
The Wizards have three games left on their regular-season schedule before they are expected to participate in the play-in round of the postseason. That should give Westbrook time to expand upon his record this season. He already has 36 triple-doubles this season, including 26 in his past 31 games. Westbrook is on pace to average a triple-double for the fourth time in five seasons. He won't quite have time to match his own single-season record of 42 set during his MVP 2016-17 campaign, but as this is a 72-game season, he could still break his own record for most triple-doubles per game in a single season.
While triple-doubles are on the rise around the league, with Westbrook still going strong, it is highly unlikely that anyone breaks his new record any time soon. Only two other players in NBA history, Magic Johnson with 138 and Jason Kidd with 107, have even reached 100 career triple-doubles (though LeBron James with 99 will get there soon). With Westbrook likely to push at least into the 200s, he should hold the record for a long, long time.
Robertson once did. When he retired in 1974, it seemed almost impossible that anyone would catch him. Now Westbrook has. It's fitting. Westbrook is in many ways his generation's version of Robertson, and now, they will be linked in the record books forever.