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Triple-double

A triple-double is a basketball term, defined as an individual performance in a game in which at least 10 of the following are accumulated: points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocked shots. The "easiest" way for a player to achieve a triple-double is by points, rebounds, and assists, though elite defensive players occasionally achieve 10 steals or blocked shots in a game.

A triple-double is seen as an indication of an excellent all-around individual performance. In the current National Basketball Association, they are rare but not unheard-of, as the top players can accumulate around 10 (out of a possible 82) in a season. In today's NBA, Jason Kidd is generally seen as the most viable triple-double threat in any given game.

Exactly one player in NBA history, Oscar Robertson , has achieved the feat of averaging a triple-double over an entire season. During the 1961 - 1962 season, Robertson averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 11.4 assists per game. Robertson's feat is highly unlikely to be duplicated in today's NBA. Offensive play is more deliberate than in Robertson's day, due both to offensive strategy and increasingly sophisticated defenses. With fewer possessions in a game, there are fewer opportunities for players to put up high numbers in assists or rebounds. In fact, it has been estimated that there were about one-third more rebounds available in an NBA game of the early 1960s than today. Also, the greater emphasis of one-on-one play in today's NBA as opposed to that of Robertson's day tends to limit opportunities for assists.

LeBron James is the youngest player in NBA history to have a triple-double. On January 19, 2005 versus the Portland Trail Blazers, he had 27 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists to become the youngest player to have a triple double, aged 20 years and 20 days.

Wilt Chamberlain merits mention as being the only player in NBA history to record a double-triple-double (at least 20 of any three statistics). During a game in 1968 , Chamberlain's line was: 22 points, 25 rebounds, and 21 assists.

Jason Kidd merits mention as being the leader amongst active NBA players in triple-doubles. He has 66 triple-doubles as of April 8th, 2005. He has the 4th most triple-doubles ever, just 12 short of Wilt Chamberlain who has 78.

There are also quadruple-doubles, a game in which a player accumulates 10 or more of four of the above-listed statistics. In NBA history, there have been only four quadruple-double performances. (There have been no quintuple-double performances.) They are:

Wilt Chamberlain merits mention as being the only player in NBA history to record a double-triple-double (at least 20 of any three statistics). During a game in 1968, Chamberlain scored 22 points, 25 rebounds, and 21 assists.

 

Robertson's totals during '61-62: 30.8 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 11.4 apg.

 

Examining the magnitude of Oscar Robertson's season through Jason Kidd
The Art of the Triple-Double

By Lina Balciunas

 

For all the talk of how today's players are bigger, stronger and more athletic, there are statistical achievements from "way back when" that are untouchable now and could easily stay that way well into the future.

Forty years after Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double (30.8 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 11.4 apg) for the entire 1961-62 season, his closest current counterpart, Nets guard Jason Kidd, thinks the legend stands secure in the record books.

Triple-double specialists present and past.
Noren Trotman (left) and Ken Regan/NBAE/Getty Images

NBA ALL-TIME TRIPLE-DOUBLES LEADERS
Includes games played through April 10
Oscar Robertson181
Magic Johnson138
Wilt Chamberlain78
Larry Bird59
Jason Kidd46

1961-62 vs. 2001-02
Includes games played through April 10
PlayerPPGRPGAPG
Oscar Robertson30.812.511.4
Jason Kidd15.07.310.0

It's one thing to reach certain milestones in scoring, rebounding or assists quite another to do so in all three at once. That's the art of the triple-double, a statistic so rare that Kidd leads the league with eight this season and his closest competition is Cleveland's Andre Miller with only three.

"It's hard. Everything has to go your way," Kidd says. "Your teammates have to knock down shots, you have to knock down shots and then you have to go battle with the trees the big guys for rebounds. Sometimes people think it's easier than it is. Everything has to go your way that night and so for Oscar to average one for a whole season is just unbelievable."

To start off with, you have to be an "assist guy" and that, in itself, is a rarity in a league dominated by scorers. For this reason, point guards have a better chance at achieving triple-doubles than players in other positions. Since his rookie season, Kidd has had a reputation for being unselfish, someone who would pass first and shoot second. This gives him not only much-desired teammate status, but also a leg-up on the triple-double. Celtics forward Antoine Walker, for example, has 28 double-doubles this season, but only two triple-doubles. And just three times in those double-doubles was Walker within two assists of reaching the third double.

However, Kidd's got the assists in the bag and so he says, the rebounds, something that you'd think might be difficult for a 6-4 point guard. The toughest part, he believes oddly enough, is in the third category.

"It's more, probably for me, the scoring," Kidd says with a wry chuckle. "I've probably come up short because of the scoring a lot of times on the triple-double. The rebounding part isn't as hard, just because I come back and try to help the big guys a lot. I don't know. Scoring or rebounding, it's either one on any given night. Because sometimes my big men don't want to give me any rebounds. It depends though. Most of the time I've fallen short not because of assists, but because of rebounds and points."

In all fairness to Kidd's shooting confidence, he's only missed a triple-double on account of scoring three times this season. But, given the rarity of the achievement, adding three triple-doubles would increase his season total by almost 50 percent. And certainly the Nets aren't going to argue with him becoming more of a scoring threat as they enter the playoffs. So fire away, Jason.

The only numbers Kidd keeps track of during a game are the points on the scoreboard. He'll take a win over a triple-double any day. But his teammates don't let him stay completely oblivious, especially when he's getting close to the magic number.

"One of my teammates will say, 'You need an assist; you need a rebound; can you please give me two points?'" Kidd says. "When they say 'give me two points,' it's kind of funny because most of the time that's not the one stat people are worried about. That's how I find out. Or I have a sense that I'm involved, but sometimes you think you have more assists than you do. The big thing is going out there and playing and not so much worrying about the triple-double because that will take care of itself."

Just as Robertson's triple-double season gave him the moniker as one of the game's most complete players, Kidd takes pride in his own accomplishments because a triple-double lets him know that he was very much involved in all aspects of the night's game. It also usually means a win. The Nets are 7-1 this season when Kidd has logged a triple-double.

As impressive as Kidd's proficiency for a triple-double is, it still pales in comparison to that of Robertson. Kidd has a whopping 135 triple-doubles to go before catching Robertson's career mark. With a week left in the season, the Nets guard will wind up falling about two and a half rebounds per game short of averaging a triple-double, although this will be the closest he's come in his nine-year career. So Kidd might very well be the one most impressed with Robertson's 1961-62 season.

"Huge," he says of Robertson's triple-double average. "I think it ranks up there with the home run chase. Everyone said it wouldn't be broken and I think this record won't be broken. Averaging a triple-double, everything has to go your way almost every night. He did it quite well, so that one will stand for a long time."

 

 

Nine players averaging fives or better in 2001-02

Triple Play

Posting one triple-double -- never mind averaging one over an entire season -- is a rarity in today's NBA, and the small group of current players considered to have superb all-around games don't really come close to matching Oscar Robertson's feat of 40 seasons ago. Here's a look at everyone recording triple fives or better during 2001-02 (All stats through April 9):

Triple Sevens
PLAYERPPGRPGAPG
Jason Kidd15.07.310.0
The only player in the league to average better than seven points, rebounds and assists, New Jersey's Jason Kidd ranks fifth all-time with 46 career triple-doubles.

Triple Sixes
PLAYERPPGRPGAPG
Steve Francis21.87.16.3
Averaging career-highs in points and rebounds, third-year Rockets guard Steve Francis is posting triple sixes for the second consecutive season.

Triple Fives

Garnett
PLAYERPPGRPGAPG
Brent Barry14.55.55.2
Kobe Bryant25.45.65.5
Kevin Garnett21.212.25.3
Michael Jordan22.95.75.2
Tracy McGrady25.47.75.3
Scottie Pippen10.75.35.9
Antoine Walker22.28.85.1