Russell Westbrook is having an historic season.
But do you know how many points he’s averaging per game? How bout how many rebounds per, or the amount of assists he’s averaging? Maybe, but likely not.
But we all do know Westbrook is on the verge of chasing down Oscar Robertson and will likely finish the season as the king of all triple-doubles.
Not just a notable season, a memorable one, too. Now, if we could just do a better job of remembering it for something more than just a triple-double/MVP chase.
It’s not Westbrook’s fault. It’s the culture of basketball. The only thing that ultimately matters is the number of titles you win, not your efficiency rating in “crunch time.”
Sure, plenty of people who love and support and follow the Thunder have more of a grip on Westbrook’s raw numbers, but think of it this way :Most sports fans know how many consecutive games Joe DiMaggio got a hit. Most know what Ted Williams batted as the last man to hit better than .400 and we all know how many home runs Babe Ruth hit. The thing we don’t know about Ruth is how many World Series titles he won with the Yankees or how many championships Dimaggio won. Why? Well, baseball doesn’t work that way. Basketball does.
No clue how many points Jordan had or Kobe’s field goal percentage stats. Instead we measure their greatness in titles. Jordan had six. Kobe, five.
Basketball isn’t the kind of sport where numbers are crucial to evaluating a player’s greatness and it is the kind of sport that won’t value those numbers – perhaps that’s wrong – when determining who the MVP will be. Sure, the numbers matter, but it won’t be the only thing that does.
James Harden and the Rockets have been impressive this season. Harden’s numbers aren’t at Westbrook’s triple-double level, but they aren’t so disproportionate it would be silly to choose Harden over Westbrook either. The Rockets have had a better season than the Thunder. They’ve won more games. Harden has evolved as a player and the Rockets are in some ways the surprise of the NBA season. Better than Golden State or Cleveland? Probably not, but more wins than the Thunder and that will likely count against Westbrook.
Be wowed by Westbrook, but just because everyone around here is, doesn’t mean everyone everyone else is as enamored as we are. Perhaps, that’s wrong, too. Perhaps everyone should see the numbers, raw and real and vote because what we are seeing hasn’t been achieved in the modern day NBA. Too bad it does’t work that way.
The Thunder, for the most part, haven’t beaten the best of the best, including four pitiful showings against the Warriors. More importantly, with or without Westbrook, the Thunder aren’t going anywhere this season in the playoffs. This is not a notable, championship kind of team and that will most certainly work against Westbrook when it comes to deciding the MVP. Plus, there’s the fact Westbrook is seen by many as a volume shooter, selfish at times, plus overly emotional – all factors that will matter. Has he made players around him better like Harden seemingly has? Steven Adams hasn’t been better, Cameron Payne was shipped. Anthony Morrow wasn’t good this year, either. Who’s improved? Perhaps Alex Abrines. Domantas Sabonis ? Past that, you could argue Enes Kanter, but Westbrook isn’t the facilitator LeBron James is or Harden has become. Now, that’s not the criteria for MVP either, but it will play some role in the decision making voters will be going through.
The numbers won’t be enough. They’re impressive. They’re legendary, but they won’t be enough, because there’s more to basketball than numbers. If Westbrook was in Major League Baseball, he’d be the winner for sure.