Zero to 100: Best of Westbrook's triple-double journey

From ESPN - March 13, 2018

It was Jan. 20 in Cleveland, and Russell Westbrook stood in the hallway outside the Oklahoma City Thunder locker room taking pictures and signing autographs for fans after an emphatic win over the Cavs. Westbrook was about as electrifying and dominant as he can be, racking up 23 points, 9 rebounds and 20 assists as the Thunder dropped 148 points.

Two teenage boys who had just gotten their photo with Westbrook were jumping up and down exclaiming "I ca not believe it!" as their dad pulled the phone down and got Westbrook's attention before he moved on to the next group.

"We were counting those rebounds!" he said. "One more for the triple-double!"

Instead, Westbrook checked out with 3 minutes, 31 seconds remaining, a rebound shy of what would have been his second career 20-10-20 game. Westbrook, who has grown a little exhausted by the triple-double narrative that follows him, politely grinned as he signed a program.

"Next game," he said. "Next game."

That's what it has become for Westbrook: a nightly opportunity to register what would be a career achievement for most players. (Get this: Westbrook has more triple-doubles in his career than 23 of the other 29 active franchises do, ever.)

He did not really become the triple-double king until the 2014-15 season, when Kevin Durant was injured for most of the year, giving us all a small taste of what Scorched Earth Russ looked like and what was to come; 93 of his 100 have come since the 2014-15 season.

"Damn. I think I have got like two," Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony said. "Just to be a part of something like that ... I do not know, that's working. A hundred triple-doubles, that's working."

Any time there's a hundred of something, there's a lot to choose from, but here are some of the most memorable moments from Westbrook hitting triple-digits on career triple-doubles.

Volume No. 1

Triple-double: No. 1
Game: March 2, 2009 (vs. Mavericks)
Stat line: 17 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists

Maybe it was foreshadowing. Or just fitting. Either way, Westbrook's first triple-double came in his rookie season: 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a 96-87 win over fellow 100-club member Jason Kidd and the Dallas Mavericks, all while Durant was sidelined with an injury. Starting alongside Kyle Weaver, Nenad Krstic, Thabo Sefolosha and Nick Collison, Westbrook led the upstart Thunder.

Collison is the only player still on the team from that first triple-double, and he does not remember a thing about it. Or really any of them, for that matter.

"I do not really give a s--- about them," Collison, with a wry smile, said last week.

No Thunder player knows Westbrook better than Collison, who has spent a decade watching him grow from an emotional, out-of-control, relentless rookie hell-bent on proving the world wrong into, well, an emotional, out-of-control, relentless superstar still hell-bent on proving the world wrong. That's Collison's point when he says he does not care.

"It's unbelievable what he's been able to produce," Collison said. "But for me, it's more just about him as a player and where we are going as a team. I ca not remember individual triple-doubles, but I can remember winning playoff series and big games, stuff like that. I do not want to dismiss them. It's a great achievement, and it is amazing he can affect the game in so many ways. ...

"I [take] back I do not give a s--- about triple-doubles," Collison said with a bigger smile, "but I do not remember them as these big moments. I remember the games and seeing him evolve over the years."

That night against the Mavs was a touchstone moment for Westbrook, too. He did not take a shot the first five minutes of the game, and despite shooting 6-of-18 from the field, he was the calming force after Dallas started the fourth quarter on a 16-2 run while he sat on the bench. There were a lot of times that first season when it looked like Westbrook might not ever figure things out, but that night in March was a sign of greater things to come.

Merry Christmas

Triple-double: No. 7
Game: Dec. 25, 2013 (at Knicks)
Stat line: 14 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists

By Westbrook's standards, it was an unremarkable triple-double: 14 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in a blowout win over the Knicks on Christmas. It was the fifth Christmas Day triple-double in NBA history and, at the time, a big deal. But what made it memorable was that a few hours after the game, Westbrook was on a flight across the country to Los Angeles to undergo a third knee surgery in nine months on his right knee.

It's not surprising that Westbrook would post a triple-double on a knee that needed surgery. The night all the knee trouble started, Game 2 of the 2013 first-round series against the Rockets when Patrick Beverley ran into Westbrook as he called timeout, Westbrook posted 21 of his 29 points in the second half -- on a torn meniscus.

"NBA 2K. On rookie."

Kevin Durant, on Russell Westbrook's 25-20-11 triple-double

"When I was playing on it, I was basically playing on one leg, kind of just hobbling around," Westbrook said of playing after tearing it. "You probably could notice, but kind of just hobbling around just trying to find a way where I can do what I can to help my team win. And at the same time I was in pain."

But after having surgery before the season started to remove a loose stitch, Westbrook was regularly having his knee drained and getting MRIs every month. And a few days before the Thunder played the Knicks, it was scheduled: Westbrook was going to have another surgery, with this one forcing him out almost seven weeks. It seems so far off now, but at the time there was genuine worry about the outlook of Westbrook's career -- if he'd ever be the same again, if he'd be able to maintain his trademark explosiveness and aggression.

The answer was a resounding "yes."

'Good execution'

Triple-double: No. 9
Game: Jan. 16, 2015 (vs. Warriors)
Stat line: 17 points, 15 rebounds, 16 assists

Two things made this one memorable, and they really do not have much to do with the game (a 127-115 win over the Warriors). First, Westbrook showed up to the arena wearing a yellow hoodie and a black ski mask pulled over his face. And second, it was maybe his most famous postgame interview.

After Westbrook posted 17 points, 15 rebounds and 16 assists -- a career-high in dimes at the time -- while dominating a matchup with Stephen Curry, he should have had every reason to be happy. Instead, his postgame availability went like this:

Westbrook: "Execution, I thought we did a good job of executing. ... Did a good job of execution. ... It was good. ... I thought we did a good job executing."

Confused, Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel asked Westbrook whether he was upset about something.

Westbrook: Nah. I just do not like you.

Tramel: You do not?

Westbrook: No.

Tramel: You do not like Nick [Gallo, the Thunder's sideline reporter and writer] either?

Westbrook: I love Nick. I do not like you.

Tramel: Well you gave us about the same answers.

Westbrook: You got another question?

Tramel: You played a great game. ... Is this one of the better games you can think of in your career?

Westbrook: Good execution.

The masked man

Triple-double: No. 14
Game: March 4, 2015 (vs. 76ers)
Stat line: 49 points, 15 rebounds, 10 assists

Westbrook took the inbounds pass in the first quarter, and with five dribbles and five seconds, he went all 94 feet to launch from a few steps inside the free throw line and hammer a two-handed dunk. As he landed, he was reaching for his face to adjust his mask and headband.

A few nights before, in Portland (where he had 40-13-11), Westbrook had dented his face -- a literal, actual dent. He had broken his cheekbone, and he underwent surgery to repair it. The Thunder were already without Durant, who was down with his foot injury, so there was no time for Westbrook to rest, dent or not. He sat one game and was back five days later. With a clear plastic mask, Westbrook took the floor against the Philadelphia 76ers and posted 49-15-10 -- his fourth straight triple-double -- in a 123-118 overtime win.

"It was OK," Westbrook said of the mask. "It was weird. Had to keep wiping it. It was a total big process of trying to keep everything from fogging up. That's not going to stop me."

Campaigning for one more

Triple-double: No. 16
Game: March 13, 2015 (vs. Timberwolves)
Stat line: 29 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists

Should Westbrook still be at 99 career triple-doubles?

It was March 13, 2015, against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Westbrook was still wearing the mask, and the Thunder were en route to a blowout win. Westbrook was dominant, and with 2:13 left and the game in hand, he unlatched his mask and walked to the Thunder bench with 29 points, 9 rebounds and 12 assists.

Standing midway between the bench and the scorer's table, Westbrook looked at the official hometown scorekeepers and held his arm up.

"Tip?" he said, nodding. "Tip?"

The scorekeepers had a quick chat, and would not you know it, right around when the final buzzer sounded, the official stats were updated: 29 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists. It was Westbrook's eighth triple-double of the season, the most in a season (at the time) since Jason Kidd had 13 in the 2007-08. It was a dubious rebound to be sure, a play in which Westbrook went up to tip back a missed 3 by D.J. Augustin with 2:35 left. It was really just him sort of getting his hand on the ball.

After the game, Westbrook was asked whether he was doing a little campaigning for the rebound. He shot his trademark death glare.

"Uhh, no," he said. Really now?

"No," he said, intensifying the glare. After it was over, he shook his head. "Do not do that. ... Do not do that."

The masterpiece

Half game, half amazing

The (first) 50-pointer

Nick Collison, on Russell Westbrook's road to 100 triple-doubles

The streaks

The Shammgod

The rebound

The perfect triple-double

Triumph in Denver

Welcome to the club


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