By Jack Golub
I prefer to save this space for discussing issues vital to society. I seek to illuminate intersections of sports and race and politics to demonstrate larger themes present in our country and our world. For these reasons, I am going to use all of my remaining words to highlight one of the greatest scandals perpetrated by the media, ever. Yes, I am talking about the utter lack of coverage of Russell Westbrook’s 2017-2018 season. In case you haven’t noticed, Russ has just averaged a triple-double for an entire season. The only thing more remarkable than this fact is that it is he has done it for the second year in a row. Here is the list of all NBA players, besides Russell Westbrook, who have ever averaged a triple-double for a full season: Oscar Robertson. Here is the list of all NBA players, besides Russell Westbrook, who have averaged a triple-double for multiple seasons, either consecutively or not: .
Yes, the list is empty. Russ’ dominance over the game is unprecedented, and the lack of media coverage on his accomplishment is astounding in its ignorance and disappointing in its injustice. LeBron, having a great year, no doubt, is averaging 27 points, 8 boards and 9 assists. While that stat line is impressive, it falls short of Russ’ 25-10-10 and looks immature next to the 32-11-10 that Westbrook put up last season. Yet LeBron is the one with the ESPN headlines and the MVP consideration. Yeah, the Thunder haven’t had the most impressive season. But I’d argue they are just as impressive as the Cavs given that the Cavs play in a far weaker conference, and that the Thunder beat the crap out of them in one game and only narrowly lost the other head-to-head.
To clinch his triple-double, Russ put up 20 boards and 19 assists in the final game of the season. He has got to be the only player in the league that could affect the game so deeply and still not get attention for it. Look, he likes to get on people’s nerves. He’s standoffish with reporters and he competes with a snarling fury that makes it hard for some fans to appreciate him. I am aware of his less inviting features. But to let those minor flaws distract from transcendent greatness is to dim the flame of human achievement. Russ is a fire-breathing freight train sent from the heavens to liberate us from the shackles of our prison-cell-minds. Maybe we don’t appreciate him the way we should because we cannot understand him.
Russell Westbrook is human, probably. The intensity with which he plays, however, cannot be contained in human form. That is why he grimaces and bellows after a big play; why he smashes the rim with a tomahawk dunk so full of rage it could fell an army; why, after draining a three-pointer, he injects his three fingers into the side of his head like bullets to his brain. His veins pulse with a roaring energy that doesn’t rub people the wrong way so much as it burns them, leaving their skin sizzling. LeBron gets all the hype because he’s a tactful media manipulator, easily negotiating the common land mines other public figures carelessly step on. Russ is a tank, rolling straight over said land mines and not even noticing when they explode.
Russell Westbrook does not get the love he deserves. This man gives everything he has to give every single game he plays. There are very few players of which the same can be said. If he’s not your favorite player, fine. If you don’t think his triple-doubles are otherworldly that’s okay, but pay attention to what they mean. He is the rarest combination of talent and drive. For him to average a triple-double for two seasons in a row proves that he has reached a rare plateau. Now that the playoffs have arrived, get ready for that plateau to rise just a little bit higher.
Contact Jack Golub at golubj “at” stanford.edu.