Russell's tribute to slain rapper

Westbrook dedicates rare 20-20-20 feat to Hussle; Warriors tighten grip on top seeding

OKLAHOMA CITY • With just over 40 seconds left in a meaningless game between the play-off-bound Oklahoma City Thunder and the lottery-bound Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, Lance Stephenson failed to connect with his jumper.

Russell Westbrook promptly snatched the ball out of the air for a defensive rebound, before declaring: "That's for Nipsey."

His 20th rebound of the night, combined with 20 points and 21 assists in the Thunder's 119-103 win, made him the second 20-20-20 player in the National Basketball Association, matching Wilt Chamberlain's feat in 1968.

But the guard was emotional afterwards as he paid tribute to Grammy-nominated rapper Nipsey Hussle, whose fatal shooting on Sunday has shaken many NBA players. Los Angeles police said on Tuesday that the sole suspect had been arrested.

The eight-time All-Star told TNT: "That wasn't for me. That was for my bro. That's for Nipsey, 20 plus 20 plus 20... that's for my bro, rest in peace Nipsey.

"He was somebody I looked up to, somebody that paved the way for a guy like myself growing up in the inner city.

"It's huge, man. I can't honestly, I'm not gonna try to put it into words but, like I said on the floor, man, that's who it's for, and I'm going to leave it at that."

Thunder coach Billy Donovan said the death of a "close friend" hit a few guys pretty hard, adding: "For Russell, that was something that really, really meant a lot to him."


Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook scoring over Los Angeles Lakers' Mike Muscala during the Thunder's 119-103 National Basketball Association win at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City on Tuesday. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

  • WESTBROOK'S TRIPLE-DOUBLE RECORDS

  • 2

    Seasons he has averaged a triple-double (2016-17 and 2017-18). Oscar Robertson is the only other player to achieve it, but just once in 1961-62.

  • 11

    Consecutive triple-doubles (2018-19), breaking Wilt Chamberlain's nine set in 1968.

  • 42

    Most triple-doubles in a season (2016-17).

The 30-year-old, who missed 12 of his first 14 shots and ended up shooting eight of 23, was hailed by his peers on social media.

All-Star forward Paul George, who had 19 points, took to Twitter claiming he was in awe of his "incredible" teammate, while Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum tweeted it was "wild", with Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell also tweeting it was "dope as hell".

Over the past 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.

Westbrook also has the record for the most number of triple-doubles in a season (42 in the 2016-17 term) and he has recorded 98 of them over a three-year span.

In Oakland, the two-time defending NBA champions Golden State Warriors went a long way to ensuring that the top seeding in the West will belong to them with a 116-102 victory over the second-ranked Denver Nuggets.

DeMarcus Cousins, with a season-best 28 points, paced the hosts, who overcame the third-quarter ejection of Kevin Durant.

After stretching their lead over Denver to two games with five games remaining, guard Stephen Curry, who finished with 17 points, declared that "we control our own destiny now".

Golden State also own the tiebreaker after winning three of four against the Nuggets in the regular season.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2019, with the headline 'Russell's tribute to slain rapper'. Print Edition | Subscribe