No one plausibly thought Oscar Robertson’s triple double averages for an entire season would ever be replicated by any other player not even the man closest to Michael Jordan on the NBA’s All Time best player hierarchy, Magic Johnson.
How can a player do it in the modern game where there are more games to play thus decreasing the likelihood of sustaining such huge numbers while increasing the risk of injuries and an overall improvement in the talent pool.
Aside the depth in talent of today’s players, they are stronger, faster and adaptable to do things which were considered out of this world, decades ago.
However strange it might sound, players of the modern game of basketball are defying a lot of logic. Case in point the great Jordan switched hands in the air in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers and gave the world an epic moment that lives on every highlight reel of Number 23. First year pro for the Denver Nuggets Jamal Murray, switched hands in a game against Utah Jazz which made it to a few highlights sessions on sports programs but lasted mere hours before falling into oblivion.
While the technique in both plays are very close, the ambience sets them apart since Jordan’s move happened in the 1991 Finals while Murray’s was in a regular season game. The rationale behind this is simple; epic moments are now everyday moments in the modern world. Nuances in the new game means star players like LeBron James are de-facto General Managers who make wish lists of players they want to play with and they are granted.
Back in the day, players wishes came after those of the coaches and in the cases where such players insisted, they were traded just like Robertson, who got flipped from Cincinnati Royals to Milwaukee Bucks after disagreements with Bob Cousy. Former Sacramento Kings Center DeMarcus Cousins was front and center of George Karl’s departure from the Californian capital. Teams have been built around players but never before has there been a deliberate attempt to conform to every minute detail of the players’ strengths and weaknesses. Houston Rockets pulled off several stunts to get James Harden rolling towards an MVP title by giving him arsenals to fire off his performance on the box score.
Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams have been brought in to finish off drive and kick moves Harden loves to play. Not o forget Mike D’Antoni’s hire as Coach was to make Harden more explosive on offense than he already is. As things stand, Oklahoma City Thunder Point Guard Russell Westbrook will equal Robertson’s triple double averages for a season in the wake of recording his 37th triple double of the season against Dallas Mavericks. Westbrook, like former running mate Harden, has the team built for him to the point where there have been several instances his mates have played a huge role for Westbrook to catch the elusive feat.
Russell’s 10.5 rebounds per game for instance has been made possible by the likes of Steven Adams and Enes Kanter who have ferociously boxed out opponent’s to free Westbrook to get rebounds. Thanks to the frantic efforts of his mates, Westbrook isn’t closing in on just equaling Robertson’s historic feat but also chasing an MVP award. Two players, Harden and Westbrook; Two players who are the main architects on the court and two players who are in front of the MVP race. Anything is possible in modern times, just as Kevin Garnett told us all some few years ago. However true that might be, some things are always sacred.
Take Bill Russell’s 11 title wins as an example of how unachievable some feats are. The Boston Celtics great has more rings than his fingers can handle and he won all of them in an era where there were few teams competing in the league and players weren’t as dynamic as they were today. According to Ethan S of Bleacher Report, Russell was one of only four players who stood at or above 6 foot 8 inches; that group included Wilt Chamberlain who stood 7 foot I inch tall. Early on Wednesday, perhaps one of the few teams that have not just a superstar, but two superstars takes on James Harden’s Rockets. The Golden State Warriors has two MVP winners Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry on its roster without the team purposely built for either guy.
It is at best a well oiled machine that runs smoothly with all parts in sync with each other. The Warriors are an exception to the rule of the modern trend of star oriented dominance in the NBA; little wonder the team has the most wins in the regular season in history.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter