This season, Russell Westbrook has been a phenomenon, averaging a triple double for Oklahoma City Thunder (OKC). A triple double is achieved when a player ends up in double figures for points, assists and rebounds in a particular match. To put this achievement into context, Oscar Robinson (1961-62) is the only player in history to average a triple double for the entire season. However, Westbrook’s team OKC are struggling in the Western Conference placed 7th. Previously, David Butler and John Eakins discussed (here) whether Golden Boot winners in Europe’s top four soccer leagues played for eventual league champions from 1992-2013. They show that only 28% of top goal scorers in each of the domestic league competitions played for the eventual champions. I decided to analyse whether these results are persistent across other sports namely, basketball.
Table 1 shows the NBA Scoring Champions and NBA Champions between 1990 and 2016.
Thus, the ‘Michael Jordan effect’ can be considered an exception rather than the rule. No player in the last 16 years has won both the NBA Scoring title and NBA Championship. So why is this the case? One possible explanation often used, with reference to Russell Westbrook, is that the reason a player becomes leading scorer in the league is that there teammates are not good enough so one player must take it upon himself to try and win games on his own. Whilst this approach most certainly boosts their own stats, once these teams reach the play-offs and come up against teams with more talent they will almost always be eliminated.