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NBA player rebounding the ball on his way to a Triple-Double
The last rebound before the Triple-Double is earned.

What is the Triple-Double in Basketball?

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If you are a basketball fan or have recently started enjoying the sport, you may have heard about players bagging a triple-double in a game and wondered what the fuss is about that word. A triple-double is a statistical achievement in basketball where a player achieves double digits in three statistical categories.

The rest of this article delves into what a triple-double in basketball is as we shed light on why it is a significant achievement in the game.

When Does a Player Achieve a Triple-Double?

A player achieves a triple-double in basketball when they record ten or more points in 60% (3 of 5) of the significant recorded statistical categories within a game. Usually, the achievement is an advancement of a double-double where players get recognition for accumulating double digits in two statistical categories.

Although triple-doubles occur regularly, few players achieve them in their careers and even fewer in a season. Thus, watching a player get the double digits in three recorded categories is always exciting.

What Statistical Categories Are Recorded in a Triple-Double?

Initially, only three statistical categories were recorded: points, rebounds, and assists. However, five statistical recordings are currently considered when measuring a triple-double achievement.

These include:

Points

These are the number of field goals a player makes in a single game. The stat includes three and two-pointers or free throws made in the game.

Rebounds

A rebound is a statistic awarded when a player takes possession of the ball after another misses a field goal or free throw. It could be an offensive rebound where a teammate wins the ball back after a missed shot or a defensive rebound where an opponent wins the ball in a similar situation.

Assists

A player earns an assist when the pass they make to their teammate directly leads to them scoring a field goal.

Steals

A steal usually occurs when a defending player gains their team possession due to their positive aggression. It could be by deflecting or intercepting an opponent’s pass or catching their dribble. The turnover has to be legal to suffice a steal.

Blocked Shots

As the name suggests, a blocked shot is when a defending player successfully intercepts or deflects an offensive player’s shooting attempt. A foul is called when the defender cannot contact the attacking player’s hand.
If a player gets double digits in these mentioned statistics in a single game, they are deemed to have accomplished a triple-double.

Are Triple-Doubles Frequent in the NBA?

Triple-doubles aren’t a rare occurrence in an NBA season as several players get double digits in their points, assists, and rebounds statistics.

138 players made at least one triple-double in the concluded 2021-2022 NBA season, with Nikola Jokic leading the pack with 19 triple-doubles. The sublime performance earned the phenomenal player a second consecutive MVP accolade.

While most players who gain a triple-double usually do so after scoring double-digit points, Draymond Green is the only recorded player to get the statistical achievement without doing so.

In 2017, the athlete earned a triple-double by collecting 12 rebounds, ten assists, and ten steals in a game against the Memphis Grizzlies. This outstanding performance contributed to him winning that season's Defensive Player of the Year.

What Is the Frequency of Triple-Doubles in the WNBA?

Triple-doubles are less frequent in the WNBA than in the men’s league. Only ten female athletes have ever made triple-doubles, and only four of the ten have done so more than once.

Sabrina Lonescu and Candice Parker have the most triple-doubles and are tied at three, while Courtney Vandersloot and Sheryl Swoopes boast two triple-doubles each.

The latter are the only athletes to have achieved a triple-double in a WNBA playoff match.
Despite the scarcity of triple-doubles in the WNBA, the tournament is relatively new compared to the NBA, so we will likely see more of them in the future.

Who Has the Most Career Triple-Doubles in the NBA?

For a long time, Oscar Robertson held the record for the most career triple-doubles, gaining 181 of the statistical achievement in his 14-year career in the NBA. However, in late 2021, the hall of fame legend was surpassed by Russel Westbrook, who currently holds the record with 184 career triple-doubles.

As an active player, Westbrook stands a chance to make history and become the first player to reach 200 triple-doubles in his career before he hangs his boots.

Other active players with considerable career triple-doubles are Lebron James, Nikola Jokic, and James Harden, in the top 10 list of players with the most triple-doubles.

Michael Jordan, considered one of the greatest players of all time in NBA history, ended his professional basketball career with 28 triple-doubles.

Who Got the First Triple-Double in NBA History?

Andy Phillip was the first player to achieve a triple-double in an NBA game, reaching the statistical milestone on December 14, 1950.

At the time, he was a Philadelphia Warriors player, playing against the Fort Wayne Pacers. Phillip scored 17 points in the game and had ten rebounds and assists.

What Is Greater Than a Triple-Double?

Now that you know what a triple-double is and there’s so much excitement when a player achieves it, you may wonder whether there is a more extraordinary statistical achievement.

There is!

Players could also get a quadruple-double or a quintuple-double in a single game. Let’s see what each of them entails.

A Quadruple-Double

A quadruple-double is when a player achieves double digits in four of the five recorded statistics in a basketball match. This is a very rare and impressive achievement, as only four players have quadruple-double records to their name in the history of the NBA.

Nate Thurmond is the first American player with a recorded quadruple-double in the NBA, having made 22 points, 14 rebounds, 13 assists, and 12 blocks in a 1974 game against the Atlanta Hawks while he was playing for the Chicago Bulls.

Other players to have achieved the feat include Alvin Robertson in 1986, Hakeem Olajuwon in 1990, and David Robinson in 1994.

However, other great players such as Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Bill Russel, and Wilt Chamberlain may have achieved an unrecognized quadruple-double in their careers since the feat was only possible from 1973 to 1974 season when the NBA started recording blocked shots and steals.

For instance, in his biography, Jerry West claims he once achieved the feat with 44 points, ten assists, 12 rebounds, and ten blocks in an NBA match.

There is no quadruple-double recorded in the WNBA.

Quintuple-Double

A quintuple-double is an exemplary single-game performance where an athlete records double digits in all five statistical categories. While there are no records of any quintuple-doubles in the NBA and WNBA, Wilt Chamberlain is the only player believed to have achieved the feat in 1968, before the NBA officially recognized steals and blocks.

The phenomenal player made:

All in one game! It is claimed he may have achieved multiple such feats in his professional career.

Conclusion: Which Score Comprises a Triple-Double

In conclusion, a triple-double in basketball is an impressive achievement where a player records a figure equal to or higher than ten in any three statistical categories. So, if an athlete records double digits in three of five categories, including points, steals, rebounds, blocks, or assists, they have made a triple-double.

Considering how competitive basketball matches are, a triple-double is a rare and colossal accomplishment that needs to be celebrated, as not all players can make them.

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