ATLANTA — Oscar Robertson’s NBA record of 181 triple-doubles had stood since 1974 and was once thought to be untouchable — until Russell Westbrook surpassing it became inevitable.
Westbrook got it done Monday night, hardly a surprise given that he’s averaging a triple-double this season and this was his 36th, including seven in his last eight games.
“I normally don’t like to pat myself on the back but tonight I will just because I’m so grateful for the ones before me and so blessed to the man above to allow me to go out and do it,” Westbrook said. “I take this job very seriously and I’m super grateful for my teammates and coaches on my journey so far.”
The 32-year-old Westbrook, in his 13th season overall and his first with the Washington Wizards, completed his 182nd triple-double when he grabbed his 10th rebound with 8:29 remaining in the game against the Atlanta Hawks. He finished with 28 points, 13 rebounds and 21 assists and missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer as the Wizards lost 125-124.
Although triple-doubles happen more frequently than in Robertson’s era thanks to the pace of the contemporary NBA game, Westbrook has no peer for how routinely he fills the stat sheet. Magic Johnson is third all-time with 138 triple-doubles. Jason Kidd finished his career with 107, and LeBron James is the closest among active players with 99.
Westbrook began the night averaging 11.5 assists, tops in the NBA and the only player in double digits. He ranked sixth in rebounds with 11.6 per game and was averaging 22 points. He has triple-doubles in five straight games, three of them before the start of the fourth quarter.
Westbrook, the 2016-17 MVP and a nine-time All-Star, praised Robertson after he tied the record in Saturday’s overtime win at Indiana. He had 33 points, 19 rebounds and 15 assists, closing out the game with a blocked shot.
“It’s just a blessing,” Westbrook said Monday night. “You put so much into the game. You put in so much time. You sacrifice so much and to be able to mentioned with guys like Oscar and Magic and Jason Kidd and those guys, it’s just something I never dreamt about when I was a young kid growing up in LA. I’m truly grateful for moments like this.”
Washington acquired Westbrook in a trade with Houston for John Wall before the season, reuniting Westbrook with coach Scott Brooks, who guided him to that MVP season with Oklahoma City.
The Wizards, who are trying to secure a spot in the postseason play-in tournament, were playing the first of at least two games without Bradley Beal, the NBA’s No. 2 scorer who has a strained left hamstring.
That was nothing new for Westbrook, who has seven triple-doubles in nine games that Beal has missed. Westbrook also has at least 15 assists in five straight games, the longest streak in the league since Steve Nash in 2007-08.
The crowd at State Farm Arena cheered when Westbrook broke the record and the video board offered congratulations.
“They’re witnessing a guy who competes every single possession,” Brooks said. “Not a lot of guys you can say that about. I see it, but he does. He competes. Oscar Robertson is special. What he did was incredible. That’s why no one’s come close to it in 50 years. We always say that every record is meant to be broken. I don’t know that anybody’s ever going to get to this again, but he’s definitely set it to another level now. He passed one of the greatest of all-time to ever play the game.”
Westbrook had eight triple-doubles during his first six seasons in Oklahoma City. Then something clicked, and he’s produced 174 over the last seven seasons.
His league-leading 36 this season is the second-highest total of his career. He had 42 in 2016-17 when he became the first player since Robertson in 1961-62 to average a triple-double. He will match that feat for the fourth time in five seasons.
“I just want to thank him and the things (Robertson) was able to do for the game. I probably wouldn’t be doing some of the things I’m able to do now without his sacrifice and the things he did for the game as well,” Westbrook said.