I’ll be frank, up until a couple nights ago, I hadn’t really watched any NBA this season. My frustrations with that league came to a head last year, and I’ve sort of been avoiding it since. Despite that, I follow enough sports pages and websites that I’ve still been kept up to date on the more important happenings in the league… namely, the insane accomplishments of one Russell Westbrook this year. And even with my avoidance of the league, I had to tune in during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s Thunder-Nuggets game to watch him make history.
And he did make history. Earlier this past week, he had already tied the record that many thought would never be even tied, let alone broken: the most triple-doubles in a single season, previously held by Oscar Robertson with 41. Westbrook then got #42 last night in an insane stat line with 50 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists. And then he didn’t do just that… he brought his team back from down 10 with about two minutes to go and made a 36-foot buzzer-beater that would make Stephen Curry proud. This man is no mere mortal.
Back on Friday, he also happened to officially clinch averaging a triple-double on the season as well… something no one else besides Robertson has ever done either. He’s having a legendary kind of season; one that the Thunder desperately needed too, seeing as in Kevin Durant’s absence they’ve dropped from being a #3 seed to a #6 seed.
And yet, despite that level of performance and all the records he’s broken this year too, there are some who would suggest that he is not the Most Valuable Player of the NBA. And let’s not forget, he wasn’t picked to be an All-Star starter either. Both of these notions are just ludicrous. Who is having a better season than Westbrook right now? Who is more important to their team right now than Westbrook? For crying out loud, as of last month, they were winning 80% of the time he got a triple-double.
The only other player who even remotely comes close is James Harden, who’s had a pretty remarkable season himself, having gotten 20 triple-doubles this season himself, and getting 50+ points a few times in them too. He certainly hasn’t been too shabby, and he’s valuable to his team as well. But between those two who have almost equal value to their teams, Westbrook has had ultimately the better season, and thus between those two, Westbrook is still the best choice.
There’s hardly anyone else who even deserves to be in the conversation. And yet I’ve seen some people suggest that LeBron James should somehow be MVP this season instead of Westbrook or even Harden. Anyone who suggests such things has no idea what they’re talking about. Sure, LeBron is doing his usual LeBron things, but he’s not being legendary the way Westbrook is. And is he really as valuable to his team? Considering that they have Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love?
What’s truly sad is the idea that such a thing as Westbrook losing the MVP is actually legitimately possible because of history. Players who win the MVP are generally in the NBA Finals, or at least part of a top three seeded team. The year that Robertson averaged a triple-double, he didn’t win the MVP either… nor did Wilt Chamberlin, the guy who scored 100 points in one game, averaged 50 PPG overall and 25 RPG in that very same year. Bill Russell ended up winning the MVP instead, the guy whose team won the NBA Finals, of course.
That kind of history speaks more to the ridiculousness of a league where in order to be a MVP, you generally have to have one of the best records in the NBA… regardless if someone with a lower seeding had a much, much better season. The sad thing really is, since the Thunder and Rockets are likely to face each other in the first round, it may just come down to which team wins the series, regardless of which MVP contender plays better.
If a guy whose team was the No. 1 seed really did have the best season—a historic one, even—then give it to him, like in Stephen Curry’s case last year. But Robertson deserved the MVP trophy in the early 60’s. As does Westbrook now. No one has had a better season than him, and really no one else (except maybe Harden) has been as valuable to his team.
Thus, it is concluded that Russell Westbrook is the unquestionable MVP of the National Basketball Association. The Thunder may not win the NBA Finals, but that doesn’t mean that Westbrook doesn’t deserve it. If he does not win it, it will only be further proof that the league isn’t worth our time and money if they refuse to recognize true greatness.