After Monday's win over the Indiana Pacers at Capital One Arena, Russell Westbrook ran over to a Wizards fan in the crowd and handed him his game-worn shoes, a customary ritual for the point guard which dates back to his time in Oklahoma City.
The kid will want to hold onto those.
Those shoes were worn during a game in which Westbrook did something no other player in NBA history has ever done. He became the first player to have at least 24 assists and 21 rebounds in a single game.
Now, NBA fans are often more impressed with round numbers like 60 points or 30 rebounds. But the facts are the facts and Westbrook had a one-of-one game in the Wizards' win, which improved their odds of making the NBA's postseason play-in tournament as they secured a tiebreaker over the No. 9-seed Pacers. For now, Washington remains the No. 10 seed.
Westbrook also added 14 points, which earned him his 178th career triple-double. He is now only three back from Oscar Robertson's all-time record, which means he needs four more to call it is own. At the rate he's going, with eight triple-doubles in his last 10 games, it appears to be a certainty Westbrook will get there by the end of the season, with seven games remaining.
Westbrook is making history with his stats and getting proper praise because of it. People around the league are paying him his respects, like LeBron James who gave him a tribute on Instagram last week. Maybe it's because he's nearing Robertson's record, but it seems like the pushback to Westbrook's critics has become stronger than ever.
While the narratives surrounding Westbrook and the greatness he brings to the NBA court are well-known to other fanbases, all of it is relatively new to those in Washington, where he was traded last December. Wizards fans are getting to watch him every night for the first time and are now able to understand on a deeper level the production as well as the passion and excitement that he brings.
Westbrook has likely won over quite a few D.C. fans in the past several months, those who doubted him or had a certain impression of who he was as a player or a person. You can see it anecdotally on social media, those who are now admitting they were wrong about him or the trade that brought him here.
When you watch a player like Westbrook give 100% effort every single night, it's hard not to appreciate that. There are plays every game where he comes out of nowhere to give the Wizards an extra chance with a second effort, often with his rebounding. Even at 32, he can fly by or soar above players younger than him and with contracts that suggest they should be hungrier.
Westbrook, though, plays the game like he's on a 10-day contract despite playing on a supermax deal. It's not fake, it's who he is and clearly no amount of money or NBA accolades can change that. He's done just about everything an NBA player can do, yet still plays with a relentless drive for more.
This level of greatness has not been seen in quite some time from an NBA player in Washington. There have been many good to really good players. You could even argue he's not the best player on his own team, that Bradley Beal is. Head coach Scott Brooks even said as much on Monday.
But Westbrook is making history unlike any player has in this town in many, many years, if ever. If, or when, he breaks Robertson's record, it will be arguably be the most exclusive individual achievement ever accomplished by a player for the Wizards/Bullets franchise. There has never been anyone like Westbrook in this town and, in the NBA, for that matter.
To find a parallel, you probably need to look outside of the Wizards' franchise, but you don't have to look far. In fact, there are three playing for other teams in D.C. Westbrook could be considered in the same category as Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals and Max Scherzer of the Nationals. Elena Delle Donne of the Mystics needs to be mentioned as well, as she is an all-time great in her sport, though it is hard to compare the historical element, as the WNBA only dates back to 1997.
When you watch Ovechkin, you know you're seeing one of the greatest goal scorers in the NHL's more than 100 years of history. When you see Scherzer pitch, you understand you're witnessing one of the greatest pitchers in a league that dates back to the 1800s.
Westbrook should be viewed the same way. He doesn't have the longstanding connection to the city and its fans like the others do, but the same principle applies. He's one of the greatest point guards in the NBA, which has been around for 75 years.
These athletes are all living legends, each still playing at a high level as they move up the ladder in the history books. D.C. sports fans continue to have it pretty good.