Although there was plenty of waiting to do before the verdict was passed down — the last game of the NBA postseason was two weeks ago, and the regular season ended three whole months ago — there was hardly any doubt that the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award belonged to Thunder superstar Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook posted averages of 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists per game — the first player to average a triple-double since legendary forward Oscar Robertson did so in 1962, over a half-century ago. For Westbrook to do so as a point guard is all the more impressive.
Hailed as one of the closest MVP races of all time leading up to the NBA awards show, Westbrook beat out former teammate and current Houston Rockets dynamo James Harden for the award. Even the third and fourth MVP choices Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James, respectively, had excellent cases for the award. None of the other could realistically top Westbrook’s remarkable season, though.
Westbrook lead all vote-getters with 69 first place votes. Harden trailed distantly with 22.
Despite losing an all-world player last offseason in Kevin Durant, the Oklahoma City Thunder were able to rebound and win 47 games, managing a playoff appearance against the Houston Rockets. The single biggest reason for their regular season success was, without a doubt, Mr. Westbrook.
It’s not as if his teammates were D-Leaguers (er, G-Leaguers), but Westbrook more or less single-handedly dragged the Thunder to the playoffs with his fantastic play. Drop Westbrook from the roster and suddenly Oklahoma City is a 15-win team among the worst basement-dwellers in the league. Goodbye NBA Playoffs, hello draft lottery. That’s the definition of value.
The triple-doubles and the records Westbrook set along the way were a fantastic consolation for his historic season. Getting honored on the court with Oscar Robertson is a moment no Thunder fan (and, obviously, Westbrook himself) will not soon forget.
But the ultimate honor Russell Westbrook has received in his basketball life? That came tonight as he accepted the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award. That’s one hell of a silver lining in the wake of the biggest bit of adversity the team (and its supporters) have endured in the Thunder’s short history.