With just over 40 seconds left to play in a fairly meaningless game between the playoff-bound Oklahoma City Thunder and the lottery-bound Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, Isaac Bonga, a 19-year-old Lakers rookie, badly missed a 15-foot shot. Russell Westbrook, the veteran Thunder guard, snatched the ball out of the air for a defensive rebound.
“That’s for Nipsey!” he declared, referring to the rapper Nipsey Hussle, whose fatal shooting over the weekend seemed to shake many N.B.A. players.
Westbrook’s presence on the floor in the closing moments of an easy 119-103 home victory for the Thunder would usually have been odd, but on this night the modern master of the triple-double was out there to grab his 20th rebound of the night.
Combined with his 20 points and 21 assists, the rebound made Westbrook the second 20-20-20 player in N.B.A. history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He joined Wilt Chamberlain, who had 22 points, 25 rebounds and 21 assists on Feb. 2, 1968.
Over the last few years, Westbrook’s triple-doubles have come so frequently that it is hard for one to stand out. He is in line for his third consecutive season of averaging a triple-double; Oscar Robertson, the only other player to compile such an average, did it just once. And along the way, Westbrook has set the record for triple-doubles in a season (42 in 2016-17) while recording a stunning 98 of them over a three-season span.
It was clear that Westbrook was headed for an interesting night when he recorded 10 assists in the first quarter.
Westbrook, a 30-year-old All-Star, had previously reached 20 rebounds in a game just once in his career, and he had topped 20 assists just four times. In his closest previous attempt at a 20-20-20 game, he had 17 points, 18 rebounds and 17 assists in a win over the Lakers during the 2016-17 season. No player other than Westbrook and Chamberlain has had even an 18-18-18 game.
In a postgame interview Tuesday, Westbrook described himself as humbled by the experience and brought the conversation back to Hussle.
“That wasn’t for me,” Westbrook said of the performance. “That was for my bro — that was for Nipsey. Twenty plus twenty plus twenty.”
Published at Wed, 03 Apr 2019 14:30:30 +0000