What is a Triple-Double in Basketball and the NBA?
The NBA, as with the MLB, the NFL, and the NHL, is heavily focused on stats and analytics. And one of the most revered, and difficult, stat-lines in the NBA and in basketball is none other than the famous triple-double.
A feat of athleticism, the triple-double is one of the most difficult stats to pull off, with many all-time greats having never accomplished the feat.
But, for newer fans of the game, the triple-double may not be fully understood. That’s why, below, we are going to review and discuss just what is a triple-double in basketball and in the NBA.
And once you’ve gotten a better grasp on the term, you can even go out and attempt to earn your own triple-double at your local park!
What Are the Major Individual Stats in Basketball?
In a professional game of basketball, that is, in one that is being recorded with active player statistics and accomplishments, there are five major individual stats which are always recorded. And while there are many more individual stats, the main five are below.
In a game of basketball, the total number of points a player scores is recorded and documented. This includes points scored via the three-point line, a two-point field goal, and points made from the free-throw line.
While it is difficult to determine just what a good points-per-game average is, as it is highly dependent on player and role on a team, many of the all-time greatest NBA players averaged well above 25 points-per-game.
Similarly, another major individual stat line in basketball and in the NBA is the assist. An assist in basketball is attributed to the player who passes the ball to a teammate in a way that directly leads to a score by a field goal.
An assist can be attributed to a player wherein the pass directly leads to a successfully made field goal, including both the two-point field goal and from beyond the three-point line. However, no assist can be attributed to a player from a made free-throw.
Lastly, only the pass directly before a successfully made shot may count as an assist. If multiple passes are made before a successfully made shot is attempted, then only the last player to pass the basketball to the shooting player will be awarded the assist.
Typically, in the NBA, the point guard gets the most assists in the game as their primary function and role on the court is that of a passer and ball-handler. Conversely, players playing the center position tend to get the fewest assists as their primary function is to dominate inside the key and they typically have great positioning to finish the play at the hoop.
Another of the five major individual stats in a game of basketball is the rebound. The rebound is one of the most important stats in a game of basketball and is typically dominated by taller players who are able to effectively box out and ensure proper positioning to secure one.
In the simplest terms, a rebound is when a player takes possession of the basketball after a missed shot attempt. This possession can occur after an offensive or defensive sequence and will be counted as one rebound. The secured rebound is added to a player’s overall game stats and a single rebound can only be added to one individual players stats.
One of the most difficult stats to accumulate in a game of basketball is a steal. A steal in basketball is when a defensive player causes a turnover of the ball by the opposing offensive team. This is typically done by deflecting and controlling the ball or by catching an errant pass or dribble by the opposing team.
However, an interesting note, steals are credited to the defensive player who first causes the turnover, regardless of whether or not they end up with possession of the live ball.
The last of the five major individual basketball stats is the block. Another difficult stat, the block occurs and is credited to a player when that player legally deflects or alters the trajectory of a field goal attempt by an offensive player.
However, a block only counts if the defensive player does not commit a foul while in the act of attempting to block the ball and only while the shot is traveling upward or at its apex towards the basket.
Lastly, a deflected shot that still goes in does not count as a blocked shot but rather as a successfully made field goal, awarding the points to both the individual players stat line and the overall teams points.
What is a Double-Double?
In order to understand what a triple-double is, it is best to understand what a double-double is in basketball. A double-double is the precursor to the triple-double and occurs when an individual NBA player accumulates ten or more in two of the five major individual stats.
That is, a double-double occurs when an NBA or basketball player reaches 10 individual stats against two of the five major stats in a single game.
For example, a double-double will be awarded to an NBA or basketball player under some of the following circumsatnces:
- 25-points, 12-rebounds, 7-assists, 1-steal, 0-blocks
- 14-points, 3-rebounds, 12-assists, 0-steals, 2-blocks
- 0-points, 0-rebounds, 0-assists, 10-steals, 10-blocks
- 7-points, 6-rebounds, 18-assists, 11-steals, 0-blocks
As you can see from the above example, a double-double does not necessarily mean that any single one stat must reach the 10 threshold. Rather, any two of the five individual stat lines must be 10 or greater.
However, if a player does not reach the 10 threshold for four out of the five major individual stat lines, then they will not be awarded a double-double and will instead have their game stats recorded as usual.
What is a Triple-Double?
Understanding the underlying principle for a double-double, a triple-double simply occurs when an individual NBA player accumulates ten or more stats in three of the five major individual stats.
Decidedly more difficult than the double-double, the triple-double requires an NBA or basketball player to achieve 10 or more stats in any three of the five major individual stats.
And, utilizing the above referenced example stats, below are some possible triple-double circumstances which could occur in a basketball or NBA game.
25-points, 12-rebounds, 17-assists, 1-steal, 0-blocks
14-points, 3-rebounds, 12-assists, 10-steals, 2-blocks
34-points, 0-rebounds, 0-assists, 10-steals, 10-blocks
7-points, 16-rebounds, 18-assists, 11-steals, 0-blocks
As you can see from the above example, a triple-double does not necessarily mean that any single one stat must reach the 10 threshold. Rather, any three of the five individual stat lines must be 10 or greater.
However, if a player does not reach the 10 threshold for three or four out of the five major individual stat lines, then they will not be awarded a triple-double and will instead have their game stats recorded as either a double-double or as usual.
Notable Triple-Double Stats in the NBA
- Nikola Jokic led the NBA in the 2021-22 season with 19 triple-doubles
- Andy Phillip was the first NBA player to record a triple-double on December, 14, 1950
- LaMelo Ball is the youngest player to record a triple-double at just the age of 19
- The fastest triple-double was completed by Nikola Jokic in 14-minutes and 33-seconds
- Russell Westbrook holds the record for the most triple-doubles in the NBA with 194
- Russell Westbrook also holds the single-season triple-double record with 42 in the 2016-17 season
- Magic Johnson leads the NBA in post-season triple-doubles with 30
- Draymond Green is the only NBA player to achieve a triple-double without at least 10-points
Top NBA Players Triple-Double Records
As of the end of the 2021-22 NBA season, below are the triple-double records for some of the most popular and recognizable players to have played in the league.
- Russell Westbrook – 194 triple-doubles
- Jason Kidd – 107 triple-doubles
- Michael Jordan – 28 triple-doubles
- LeBron James – 105 triple-doubles
- Kobe Bryant – 21 triple-doubles
- Larry Bird – 59 triple-doubles
- Magic Johnson – 138 triple-doubles
- Steph Curry – 9 triple-doubles
- Allen Iverson – 1 triple-double
- Kawhi Leonard – 1 triple-double
- Giannis Antetokounmpo – 29 triple-doubles
- Scottie Pippen – 17 triple-doubles
- Dwayne Wade – 5 triple-doubles
- David Robinson – 14 triple-doubles
- Dirk Nowitzki – 2 triple-doubles
- Charles Barkley – 20 triple-doubles
- Kevin Garnett – 16 triple-doubles
- Hakeem Olajuwon – 14 triple-doubles
- Kevin Durant – 16 triple-doubles
- Tim Duncan – 4 triple-doubles
- Shaquille O’Neal – 2 triple-doubles
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – 21 triple-doubles
Is There Anything Greater Than a Triple-Double?
Theoretically, a basketball or NBA player could achieve a quadruple-double or quintuple-double, that is, achieving 10 or more stats in four or five of the main individual stat categories, however in the history of the NBA, no single player has ever recorded either.
There have been claims, though, that Wilt Chamberlain achieved a quintuple-double in 1968. From reporter Harvey Pollack who claims that Chamberlain had 53 points, 32 rebounds, 24 blocks, 14 assists, and 11 steals.
However, back in 1968, the NBA did not officially record steals and blocks, so the claim cannot be independently verified.
How Difficult is a Triple-Double?
Admittedly, the triple-double is one of the most difficult feats in the game. It requires not only superior shooting skills but also the ability to handle the ball and make the proper passes, while simultaneously being properly positioned to grab at least 10 rebounds.
And, as shown from the above NBA players list, few players in the history of the league are able to achieve the feat consistently and even fewer are able to record more than low double-digit triple-doubles.
The triple-double is extremely difficult to achieve and doing so takes much practice, athleticism, and basketball IQ.
How to Get a Triple-Double in a Basketball Game
If you are looking to get a triple-double in a basketball game, you will have to hone all five of the individual basketball stats. From points, to rebounds, to assists, to steals and blocks, you should be well-versed and capable in all five.
And even though you will only need to achieve 10 or more in three of the subjects, you may be given an opportunity to do so against any one of the five individual stat lines.
However, the easiest way to do so is to work on your shooting abilities. Learn how to become a more proficient and efficient shooter so that you may hit the 10+ points stat quickly.
From there, be sure to work on your ball handling skills and learn how to find the open player. Finding an open player who can easily knock down a shot or score from beneath the basket quickly will help you to reach the 10 assist minimum needed.
Lastly, be sure to work on your rebounding abilities. Learn how to box out effectively and properly so that you may secure the open rebound. In addition, be sure to hustle for each and every rebound on both the offensive and defensive ends to higher your probability of securing the 10 rebound minimum.