Russell Westbrook

The old cliche is records are made to be broken, and NBA Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson appears to agree. On Friday, Robertson told ESPN’s Andy Katz he thinks Russell Westbrook deserves to win MVP, and hopes the Thunder guard breaks the triple-double record.

Here’s what Robertson had to say about Westbrook’s MVP chances, with some additional insight on how the award has possibly changed over the decades:

“I think it’s Westbrook. That’s what I really think,” Robertson told Katz of his MVP pick. “Because years ago it was tough to win an MVP because it was based on winning championships — and Russell with the Celtics. They dominated. But one year, Wilt [Chamberlain] averaged 50 points a game and 29 rebounds and me a triple-double, but Bill [Walton] won because his team advanced and we did not.

“It’s changed now. A lot of people understand what an MVP means. They understand basketball better than they did years ago.”

That puts Robertson on the opposite side of Mavs owner Mark Cuban, who doesn’t think Westbrook deserves any MVP consideration. Westbrook certainly helped his MVP campaign with a historic 57-point triple-double earlier this week.

Earlier this month, Robertson said during an NBA TV segment he “wouldn’t care” about Westbrook breaking his triple-double record. Robertson had 41 triple-doubles in the 1961-1962 season with the Cincinnati Royals. Westbrook currently has 38.

Interestingly, Westbrook’s approach to the whole triple-double craze is similar to what Robertson remembers from his experience back in 1962. As early as December, Westbrook said he didn’t care about the record or joining Robertson as the only NBA players to ever average a triple-double for an entire season.

During that NBA TV segment, Robertson said he didn’t know what a triple-double even was. He just did what he needed to do for the Royals to win games.

And here’s what Westbrook told The Oklahoman a few months back:

“Honestly, man, people and this triple-double thing is kind of getting on my nerves, really,” Westbrook said after a 109-89 loss to the Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. “People think if I don’t get it, it’s like a big thing. When I do get it, it’s a thing. If y’all just let me play – if I get it, I get it. If I don’t, I don’t care. It is what it is. I really don’t care. For the hundredth time. I don’t care. All I care about is winning, honestly. All the numbers s*** don’t mean nothing to me.”

While Robertson’s comments about Westbrook from earlier in March seemed a bit removed, Friday’s comments to ESPN suggest Robertson has developed a greater rooting interest 0ver these past few weeks:

Speaking at the Final Four in Phoenix on Friday, Robertson told ESPN’s Andy Katz that “I’m rooting for him” to break the record and that “I hope he does it.”

“I always thought he was a great basketball player,” Robertson said of Westbrook. “I was talking to some basketball people the other night, and I said, ‘I don’t think any of these guards can beat him on a one-on-one game.’ I think he’s been tremendous for the team, his fans and also for television.”

Westbrook needs four more triple-doubles in the final eight games to break Robertson’s record. That seems like a freakishly tall task, but Westbrook is a freakishly good basketball player. He’s posted triple-doubles in more than half of his games this season, putting him on pace to just barely set the new record.

He will also go for the record while trying to will the Thunder into a top four seed in the West. Going into Friday’s game against the Spurs, they are in sixth place, 2.5 games behind the fourth-place Jazz.


About Jesse Kramer

Jesse is a writer and editor for The Comeback. He has also worked for and runs The Catch and Shoot, a college basketball website based in Chicago. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Follow Jesse on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer.