Russell Westbrook and Alexander the Great
OKLAHOMA CITY — Russell Westbrook did it again, again.
Are we supposed to care? Something so common requires little attention. If we sat around and praised rainfall in the Amazon every time a dark cloud formed over its dense forest, we would faint from exhaustion.
The fact still remains. Westbrook clinched a triple-double for the entirety of the 2018-19 season.
In historical terms, Westbrook’s triple-double prowess is similar to Alexander the Great’s conquest of the then unknown world. The famous Greek general explored land not known to local maps, only to continue adding in more and more lands.
Westbrook accomplished something beyond the realm of what people knew to be possible the same way Alexander added territory to his empire. If you can’t fathom that a subcontinent lies beyond Persia, can you even begin to describe, comprehend or predict its existence?
I listened to Billy Donovan on this one and took some time to really understand it. To attempt to grab a tangible hold on the intangible.
“What he (Westbrook) has done will be appreciated, much, much later, I think,” Donovan said following Oklahoma City’s win over Detroit on Friday.
I’m no better today in terms of describing the importance. Even after taking a few days to consume what Westbrook achieved. We, the collective basketball at-large, do not understand it just yet, nor will we until, as Donovan prognosticates, much, much later.
“No one will ever do this again”
Years before Westbrook’s Most Valuable Player season of 2016-17, people would sit in bars, office lunch areas and classrooms and argue over some of these basketball questions:
Is anyone/will anyone (be) better than Michael?
Is the draft lottery rigged?
Will anyone ever average a triple-double again?
Despite what some may tell you, triple-doubles did not become important recently. They were not created to become filler on a graphic scrolling at the bottom of your screen. They have been an integral part of the basketball box score narrative. Stats are important. Numbers are a part of the game’s story.
A story that is still going.
“It’ll hit me (someday),” Westbrook said when asked if he’s thought about his accomplishment. “Just like it’ll hit everyone else in this room.”
Westbrook has scratched and clawed his way into a niche. A space that until two seasons ago, many thought was not possible. He averaged a triple-double, a feat not accomplished since Oscar Robertson did it in 1961-62. A near impossibility considering the half-century it took. Westbrook accomplished something great, but someone else had done it before.
He did it again the following season? Now we’ve reached the cosmic realm. He did it a third time in a row? Welcome to the timeless realm of eons. A place where the question sheds its inquisitive skin of “Can someone do this again,” for the declarative armor of, “No one will do this again.”
Raymond Felton, the oldest player on the roster who would understand the historical aspects of basketball better than his younger teammates, agrees.
“I think people will look back on it and say no one will ever do this again,” Felton told The Franchise. “It’s not easy to do. It’s unheard of. He is a dear friend, a little brother to me. To see where his career has come from says a lot.”
For his detractors, triple-doubles are arbitrary. The fact that Westbrook has done this not once, not twice but now three times says more about the individualistic playing style of the Thunder. In other words, triple-double has become a curse word amongst the NBA intelligentsia. They will not appreciate the accomplishment, until much, much later.
Westbrook’s fans will trumpet the feat as evidence of his greatness. They will claim to understand it. But they can’t.
Don’t take that as a slight. You’re not supposed to understand history as it’s unfolding. Let it age like a fine wine. Allow Westbrook’s career to come and go along with his peers. To fully appreciate Westbrook’s historical legacy is to let it belong to history.
Yes, championships are the pinnacle. If Westbrook is unable to slide a title ring onto his finger before his time is done, it should and will be held against him. But Westbrook has reached a place where no one thought was possible — and then he claimed more land beyond that —
… and he did it again.