The Misunderstood Genius of Russell Westbrook

Sam Anderson:

Triple-doubles are difficult and rare. You don’t stumble into one — it takes a special kind of player, a dominant generalist. Even the outliers capable of achieving them tend to get only a handful per year; Magic Johnson, the modern king of the stat, got 18 in his best season. A triple-double is not a statistical parlor trick, like hitting for the cycle in baseball. It actually captures the essence of basketball, the way the game allows every player to do everything on the floor whenever the opportunity arises. To get a triple-double, a player has to control the action physically, strategically and socially; he has to become a funnel through which the energy of an entire game pours.

Westbrook has always had the potential to ring up triple-doubles, and in past seasons he has put together impressive flurries of them. This season, he has gone bananas. Some games, it feels as if Westbrook’s stats are moving in fast-forward — as if he is pulling numbers out of wormholes that only he can access. One night, Westbrook generated 10 assists in only 15 minutes; another, he finished with 26 points, 11 rebounds and 22 assists — totals not seen since Johnson himself. For years, the popular narrative stressed how much Durant was sacrificing to fit in next to Westbrook. It has become clear that the opposite was certainly just as true.

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NBA