Denver Nuggets superstar Nikola Jokic won the 2020-21 MVP award, and deservingly so. However, if you ask NBA legend Oscar Robertson, he believes another player deserved it more: new Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook.
According to Robertson, it's hard to believe that a player who averaged a triple-double didn't win MVP, let alone finish as a finalist for the highest individual award in the NBA. The new Lakers star finished 11th in the voting, getting only one third-place vote for five points. Jokic, Joel Embiid and Stephen Curry round up the Top 3 for the MVP award.
“I look at Westbrook, and he got triple-doubles this year and no one even noticed it, they didn't think it was such a big deal,” Robertson said on The Knuckleheads podcast, via NBC Sports. “I think that's totally unfair. I think he should have won [MVP] again. If he [averaged] a triple-double again, and he didn't win [MVP], so why keep stats then?”
Russell Westbrook averaged 22.2 points, 11.5 rebounds and 11.7 assists for the Washington Wizards in 2020-21. He was a big reason why the team made the playoffs, though they were no match to the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round.
The argument on Westbrook's MVP case (or lack thereof) is the Wizards' poor record as a sub-500 team. Nonetheless, Oscar Robertson argued that at the end of the day, only one team truly wins.
“I think he's a great basketball player but for some strange reason some of the sportswriters are saying things like ‘Oh he got another triple-double, but they got beat,'” Robertson added. “So what? If you look at it, only one team wins it every year.”
While that is a legitimate perspective, it's still hard to give the Lakers playmaker a strong nod for MVP. After all, Nikola Jokic himself almost averaged a triple-double–putting up 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists. He also played all 72 games and was a major contributor in the Nuggets' 47-25 record (fifth best in the whole NBA).
Robertson is right to say that Westbrook's triple-doubles were overlooked, though, and perhaps he deserved more votes than what the media has given him.
Now that he's with the Lakers, though, the nine-time All-Star will be more focused on winning the title than individual accolades.