A triple-double is a statistical achievement by a basketball player when they get at least ten points in three of the five major statistical categories in a single game. The most popular triple-double categories are points, rebounds, and assists. However, a triple-double can also include steals and blocked shots.
So, why do people call it a triple double in basketball anyway? Can a player achieve anything greater than a triple double during a match? What are the five categories that make up the triple double? How often do triple doubles occur in basketball games?
Here is the complete breakdown on what a triple-double is in basketball.
Why Is it Called a Triple-Double?
A triple-double refers to a basketball player receiving double digits in three statistical categories. The name comes as an evolution of the double-double. A double-double refers to receiving ten or more figures in two out of five categories, so the triple means one more than that.
To get points for a triple-double, a player doesn’t just have to shoot field goals. Three-pointers and free throws also count towards achieving a triple-double.
Is There Anything Greater than a Triple-Double in Basketball?
Basketball players can also get quadruple doubles and quintuple doubles if they get ten or more points in four or five statistics.
What are the Five Triple Double Categories?
- Points: Scoring points includes free throws, layups, post ups, and three point shots
- Rebounds: Getting the ball after a shot either on offense or defense
- Steals: While on defense, you gain poccession of the ball from a player who currenly had pocession of it while they were dribbling
- Assists: A pass that directly led to a point for a teammate. Usually, an assist will be from a quick pass as a player was driving towards the hoop
- Blocks: Preventing a shot from going into the basket before it reached it’s highest arc point. If the ball was heading down towards the hoop and you interfere with it, you will receive a goaltending violation.
How Often Do NBA Players Get a Triple-Double?
During the 2020-2021 NBA season, 138 different active players earned a triple-double. Russell Westbrook had the most with 40, while Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets was a distant second with 17. That all-star performance helped him earn the MVP that year.
Draymond Green is the only player ever to achieve a triple-double without at least ten points. In 2017, Green collected 12 rebounds, ten assists, and ten steals against the Memphis Grizzlies. That stellar performance is one reason why he was Defensive Player of the Year that season.
How Often Do Triple-Doubles Occur in the WNBA?
While triple-doubles are common in the NBA, they’re less frequent in the WNBA. To date, there have only been a handful, with only two coming in the playoffs.
Sheryl Swoopes and Courtney Vandersloot have the same number of triple-doubles in their careers and are tied at two. Swoopes and Vandersloot are also the only WNBA players with triple-doubles in playoff games.
Who Got the First Triple-Double in Basketball?
The first triple-double belongs to Andy Phillip. On December 14, 1950, Philadelphia Warriors player Andy Phillip played against the Fort Wayne Pacers during a basketball game to achieve the triple-double accomplishment. During the game, he scored 17 points and had ten rebounds and ten assists.
Who Was the Youngest Players to Record a Triple-Double?
LaMelo Ball is the youngest player to record a triple-double at the age of 19. LaMelo Ball had 22 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists to achieve the accomplishment.
What is the Fastest Triple-Double in the NBA History?
It took 14 minutes and 33 seconds for Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic to record a triple-double. The accomplishment took place in 2018, and the game was against the Milwaukee Bucks. His final slash line was 30 points, 15 rebounds, and 17 assists.
Before Nikola Jokic, the previous fastest record was in 1955 by Jim Tucker, which took seventeen minutes.
Additional NBA Triple-Double History
As of October 2021, Los Angeles Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook holds the record for the most triple-doubles with 184. The previous record-holder was Oscar Robertson, who had 181. Magic Johnson, LeBron James, and Jason Kidd fill out the current top five players in career triple-doubles.
Magic Johnson also leads the league in post-season triple-doubles with 30. LeBron James comes in second in this statistic, while Westbrook is third. Westbrook also has the single-season record with 42 during the 2016-2017 season while playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The five-in-five stat dictates that a player gets five or more in each of the five major basketball statistics, points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals. Hakeem Olajuwon is one of the only players with six five-by-fives in his career. He’s also one of the few players to record a quadruple-double.
A quadruple-double and quintuple double are two statistics that function very similarly to the triple-double. The only players who have scored a quintuple double, or ten or more points in five statistical categories, are female high school players. These high school players to achieve this accomplishment are Tameka Catchings, Alex Montgomery, and Aimee Oertner.
There is a rumor that Wilt Chamberlain got the only NBA quintuple-double in 1968. This claim comes from estimates from reporter Harvey Pollack, who claimed Chamberlain had 53 points, 32 rebounds, 24 blocks, 14 assists, and 11 steals while playing for the Philadelphia 76ers. At the time, NBA statisticians did not record steals and blocks during games, so this achievement is not official.
Conclusion: What is a Triple-Double in Basketball?
In summary, a triple-double in basketball means that a player has (3) ten or more figures in three out of the five categories. Each time a basketball player achieves a triple-double, it’s cause for celebration. These stats show just how skilled and powerful players are becoming.
Now that players are starting to stand out as offensive powerhouses, we’ll surely see more triple-doubles and maybe even quadruple-doubles in the future. The evidence of more triple-doubles in the game is prevalent in stat websites like Statista, which show modern-day players have the most triple-doubles in NBA history.