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I’m Gonna Take “The Big O” At His Word

Like Oscar Robertson before him, Russell Westbrook isn’t preoccupied with his triple-double success. Photo: Scott Strazzante, sfgate.com

“The Big O”, NBA legend Oscar Robertson, is basketball royalty. He is one of the few people who have played the game that have a singular accomplishment all to themselves. We can’t think of Wilt Chamberlain without discussing the fact that he was the only player ever to score 100 points in a game.

Similarly, we can’t talk about Oscar Robertson without mentioning that he is the only player that has ever averaged a triple-double for a season.

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook is making a serious run at joining Robertson as the second player ever to average a triple-double for a season. Many people, including Thunder fans I know, thought he would fall off of the triple-double pace in the second half of the season and come up just short of duplicating The Big O’s historic feat.

That is still a very real possibility but with only 20 games left in the regular season Russ is still sitting on 31.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.1 rebound per game.

Naturally, Robertson has began receiving, and will continue to receive, questions about Westbrook’s run of triple-doubles.

The Big O is rooting for Russ.

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The cynics immediately assumed that Robertson was just attempting to be gracious publicly while privately rooting for Westbrook to fall short of joining him in triple-double lore. I’m going to take The Big O at his word. He achieved his triple-double feat in the 1961-62 season, his second season in the league! He was 23 years of age. He also flirted with triple-double seasons in his rookie, third, fourth and fifth seasons as well.

Honestly, this was no big deal to him. He was just consistently making it do what it do, as it were. He was just coming in and playing his game, and tearing up the league in the process.

Robertson will turn 79 in November. When he says that he hopes Westbrook finishes the season averaging a triple-double, I believe him. Unlike the ’72 Dolphins, The Big O hasn’t desperately clung to the exclusiveness of his accomplishment and openly rooted for others to fail to achieve it. There aren’t any occurrences of him gleefully celebrating when guys have just missed having triple-double seasons.

When he says that he doesn’t care that soon he may not be the only player to pull this off, he really seems like he doesn’t care that he soon may have company. He’s also right about it being “great to talk about”, because it is great to check Westbrook’s stats every night and see what he’s done and wonder aloud if he can sustain it.

Oscar Robertson has been in rarefied triple-double air for 54 years, he seems at peace with Russell Westbrook joining him if that ends up being the case. There are just more things that define and take higher priority to Robertson than his triple-double season. For example, shortly after his historic 1961-62 season concluded, his wife Yvonne gave birth to Shane, one of their three daughters. What do you think he’s more proud of from the year 1962?

Robertson overcame many obstacles in the 1950’s and 60’s to even play the game and help it get to where it is today. In 1997, he donated one of his kidneys to his daughter Tia, who suffers from lupus. In short, when it comes to life milestones, the triple-double season is quite a ways down the list for Robertson.

I agree with The Big O, Westbrook’s pursuit of a triple-double season is great to talk about. I like seeing great sports achievements that happened before I was born have a chance to be duplicated. I wanted to see the New England Patriots go 19-0 and win the Super Bowl in 2007, they came up just short. In 2012, Detroit tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera win the first Triple Crown since 1967 and it was cool to see.

If Russ can keep this up, as hard as he plays it’s hard to envision him slowing down, I think he will be able to pull it off. That would be really a great thing to see.

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