Russell Westbrook was named the MVP of the 2016-17 regular season at last night’s first ever NBA Awards show in New York City, being recognized as the league’s most valuable player in the league after averaging a triple-double (31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game) and leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to 47 wins. Westbrook bested James Harden and Kawhi Leonard, who were the two other finalists for the award.
In honor of Westbrook’s remarkable season, we take a look at his five best performances from his historic 2016-17 basketball campaign using Basketball Reference’s Game Score. If you aren’t familiar with what Game Score is, here is a brief description via BBall Reference’s glossary.
5. Game No. 62: Thunder @ Suns (111-118, Westbrook: 48 points, 17 rebounds, 9 assists, 41.4 GmSc)
Coming off of a seven-point loss to the Portland Trail Blazers the night before, a contest in which Westbrook dropped 45 points, Russ was looking to extract some revenge against the Suns and get the Thunder back to their winning ways.
Although Oklahoma City fell short of securing the victory, Westbrook notched another monster performance, stuffing the stat sheet to the tune of 48 points, 17 rebounds and 9 assists against the Phoenix Suns. This game marked the third of what would become four straight losses for OKC, before they broke the streak against the Spurs on Mar. 9.
During that four-game losing streak Westbrook averaged 45 points, 8.3 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game. Even in defeat he dazzles.
4. Game No. 10: Thunder vs. Magic (117-119, Westbrook: 41 points, 12 rebounds, 16 assists, 42.7 GmSc)
This one featured a duel between Westbrook and former teammate Serge Ibaka, who ended up besting his former point guard down the stretch with a game-winner for his then Orlando Magic.
If I had to give a game that’s a perfect summation of Westbrook’s season, this might be in. Furious drives to the basket, a flurry of beautiful assists, big plays down the stretch. This is how the story played out game after game, which is one of the main reasons why Westbrook had MVP honors bestowed upon him.
3. Game No. 64: Thunder vs. Blazers (121-126, Westbrook: 58 points, 3 rebounds, 9 assists, 43.6 GmSc)
That four-game losing streak I mentioned earlier? This was the last loss that the Thunder tallied in that stretch, and you could tell how determined Westbrook was to get off the snide as he dropped a career-high 58 points on the heads of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and whatever other poor sap that was tasked with stepping in front of Westbrook and trying to contain him.
Westbrook didn’t do his normal damage on the glass in this one, but he managed to dish out nine helpers and shot a blistering on 54% from the field. Efficiency has never been a great friend of Westbrook’s, but in this one they were able to coexist, although it wasn’t enough for his Thunder.
2. Game No. 74: Thunder @ Magic (114-106 OT, Westbrook: 57 points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists, 44.2 GmSc)
Does Westbrook have a personal vendetta against the Orlando Magic or something? He terrorized them last season when Kevin Durant was still in the fold, and had two of his best five games of the season against them this year, clinching the highest scoring triple-double of all-time in a late March road victory for the Thunder.
Oklahoma City continued to scrap for playoff positioning, and every contest was proving to be vital. As the stakes rose each night, so did Westbrook’s basketball sagaciousness. He would not be denied, deterred or defeated, attacking opponents incessantly to make sure a postseason appearance was imminent for his squad.
Westbrook drilled a game-tying three-point bomb to send the game into overtime, and hijacked the Amway Center from the Magic as fans were frenzied and in their trance rained down chants of “M-V-P” to celebrate Westbrook. Russ steered the Thunder into the winner’s circle when the extra fame hit, adding further to his regular season legend.
1. Game No. 80: Thunder @ Nuggets (106-105, Westbrook: 50 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists)
If you were still on the fence regarding the MVP race during the last week of the season, this game probably swayed you to abandon the Harden or Leonard faction and to enroll in camp Westbrook instead.
Not only did Westbrook break Oscar Robertson’s record for most triple-doubles in a single season with this performance against the Nuggets , but he drilled a nearly 30-foot buzzer-beater to push the Thunder to victory. This is peak Brodie: the beefy numbers, the energetic celebration, the fans in hysteria… That’s what 2016-17 Russell Westbrook was, and that’s why he was so revered in mostly all basketball circles.
Yes he’s one of the most polarizing figures in all of sports today, but what he was able to accomplish in his first year after the basketball breakup from KD was moving. Not only is Russell Westbrook the MVP of the NBA, but he doubles as the People’s Champ.