INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Russell Westbrook became an instant hit with his ability to deliver triple-doubles.
Now, the 6-foot-3 point guard is on the verge of a home run — eclipsing Oscar Robertson's seemingly unbreakable career record.
He had 33 points, 19 rebounds and 15 assists Saturday night in a 132-131 overtime victory over Indiana to tie Robertson's mark of 181. And, fittingly, it came just a short drive away from the Lockefield Dust Bowl, where Robertson and his future Crispus Attucks High School teammates first honed their craft.
Westbrook will get his first crack to break the record Monday night in Cleveland.
But the two men who share the record took dramatically different paths to the top.
Robertson was a high school star, a three-time All-American and an Olympic gold medalist before suiting up for the Cincinnati Royals and Milwaukee Bucks. In just his second pro season, Robertson became the first player to average a triple-double — a feat only matched by Westbrook a half-century later — and Robertson came within a whisker of achieving the feat in each of his first five seasons.
Westbrook, meanwhile, drew little college interest until his senior season in high school and started just one season at UCLA before turning pro. During his first six seasons in Oklahoma City, he logged eight triple-doubles.
Then he perfected the art.
He's produced 173 triple-doubles over the last seven seasons including 35 in 2020-21, 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 and Westbrook is on his way to achieving the feat for the fourth time in five seasons.
And now, after posting 19 in the last 24 games, he's one away from breaking a record that has stood since Robertson finished his career in 1973-74.
It's also fitting that Westbrook tied the record against the Pacers, against whom he has posted a career-high 10 triple-doubles including three this season.
He became the first player in league history with a 35-point, 20-assists triple-double against Indiana on March 29 and had a career-high 21 rebounds and a career-high matching 24 assists against the Pacers in Monday's victory over the Pacers.
That's not all. He now has 7,998 career assists, passing Rod Strickland for 12th on the NBA's career list and he moved within 41 points of surpassing Larry Bird (21,791) for No. 40 on the league's career scoring list.
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