What Is A Triple-Double In Basketball?

triple double basketball

A triple-double in basketball is achieved when a player reaches double figures in three of five statistical categories in a single game: points, assists, rebounds, steals, and blocked shots. The term became officially recorded in the NBA during the 1979-1980 season, with players like Oscar Robertson and Russell Westbrook standing out for their remarkable triple-double performances.

We all know that basketball is physical, but like many other sports, basketball is also a game of statistics. The player’s performance can often be measured by their statistics, sometimes statistics are used in debates on who is the real NBA greatest of all time. There are five categories in basketball that have been tracking down to see how a player perform such as points, assists, rebounds, steals, and blocked shots

Players who score more get some accolades, but there is much more achievement that a player can achieve in one game. Plenty of good all-around players can achieve this achievement in one game, and sometimes they don’t notice that they are getting triple-doubles because they are so focused on the game.

A triple-double is a great accomplishment that a player can accomplish, but what exactly is a triple-double? When did the term triple-double start? What is the background of triple-double? 

What Is A Triple-Double?

We have mentioned above that there are five certain categories that basketball statistics is tracking down to measure a player performance such as: 

  • Point scored
  • Assists
  • Rebounds
  • Steals 
  • Shot Blocks

Triple-double is a term used if a player reaches double figures in any of these three categories in one game. Sometimes a basketball association counts how many triple-doubles a player made in the whole season, and they use it sometimes to decide if the player deserves the MVP award.

Let me give you two examples. First, if Draymond Green scores 11 points, has 12 assists and 13 steals in one game, then Draymond Green has a triple-double for that game.

Another example is, if Wilt Chamberlain scores 30 points, has 20 rebounds, and has 15 blocks in one game, then it means Wilt has a triple-double in that game. To keep it simple, a player will be considered to have a triple-double in one game if he gets double figures in three of these categories. 

Aside from triple-double, there is much more to achieve in a basketball game than triple-double such as double-double, quadruple-double, and the impossible to make, the quintuple-double. 

Double-doubles are the common achievement a basketball player can achieve in one game. Almost every game in the NBA, there will always be one player in the team that has a double-double. Double-doubles are so common because NBA players are so skillful and athletic, it is much easier for them to achieve a double-double.

Triple-double used to be rare in the past, but it is much more common in today’s basketball era. There are only four players who recorded a quadruple-double and they are David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Alvin Robertson, and Nate Thurmond. There are still no players who achieve the quintuple-double, and it seems that it will be impossible for a player to achieve that. 

There is much more you need to learn about triple-double and these facts will surely blow your mind. Let us talk about some facts and the history of triple-doubles in the NBA.

Triple-Double History and Facts

The triple-double became an officially recorded statistics in the NBA during the 1979-1980 season. In that season, there were 32 recorded triple-doubles. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were the two players who became the reason made the triple-double term became official. 

There are many claims where the term triple-double started. Some said that the Lakers public relations officer came up with the term and some claim that it was the statistician of the Philadelphia 76ers who invented the term triple-double. But the truth is, it was the 80s players who made the term triple-double official and famous. 

Many claims that there were many triple-doubles committed before the 80s. They were not tracked down because steals and blocked shots were not recorded in the past. They say that Wilt Chamberlain made more triple-doubles than any other players from his era until in today’s era. 

The first triple-double that has been logged was last December 4, 1950, it was Andy Philip from the Philadelphia 76ers. Andy Philip and the 76ers were against the Fort Wayne Pistons, he has managed to have 17 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists. 

Oscar Robertson is the all-time leader in the NBA for most career triple-doubles Robertson has a total of 181 triple-doubles. Robertson was a player in the 1960s and early 1970s, and the only player in his era to receive that astounding achievement. 

When Magic Johnson and Larry Bird retired, the number of recorded triple-doubles sunk in the 90s. Only a few players managed to have a triple-double in one game and these players are Grant Hill, Charles Barkley, Jason Kidd, and David Robinson.

As we enter the 21st century, many NBA players have recorded triple-doubles. From 2000-2009 it was Jason Kidd who led for most triple-doubles recorded. In the next decade, starting in 2010, the number of triple-double leaders was raised. Players like Lebron James, Russell Westbrook, Lance Stephenson, and many more have managed to record triple-doubles. 

Last 2015, Russell Westbrook shocked the whole world with his amazing performance in that season. In 2016, Westbrook increased his number of triple-doubles with 18, and then last 2017 Westbrook recorded 42 triple-doubles beating Oscar Robertson’s previous record of 41 sets of triple-doubles in the 1961-62 NBA season. Then Westbrook continued to add more triple-doubles in his career, in 2018 he had 25, and then in 2019, he had 34.

Russell Westbrook did not only beat Oscar Robertson’s record for most triple-doubles in one season but he also averaged many triple-doubles for the 2017-2019 seasons. It was a great achievement for Russell Westbrook to beat Oscar Robertson’s record, and sooner or later he may beat Robertson’s record for most triple-doubles in a single career. 

These are the list of the top 10 all-time triple-double leaders in the NBA:

  1. Oscar Robertson 
  2. Russell Westbrook
  3. Magic Johnson 
  4. Jason Kidd 
  5. Lebron James 
  6. Wilt Chamberlain 
  7. Larry Bird
  8. James Harden
  9. Fat Lever
  10. Nikola Jokic

Remember that there are still players actively playing today, which means that their numbers will continue to increase. Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain played in an era where blocked shots and steals were not counted, so it means that their numbers are most likely higher than what is written in NBA history. 

If you wanted to see the triple-double statistics in every season, you can check out the official NBA website. You can also find the player stats on the ESPN website. For more information regarding triple-doubles, just go to this link.


If you are a real basketball lover and player, then you probably hear and see many players that recorded triple-doubles. I am sure that the league where you play has many players that have a triple-double record.  

Triple-double is used to measure one’s basketball player ability and performance. Some use these statistics to show who the real GOATS are. But to be honest with you, many factors can affect the decision of each person on who the GOAT is. On the other hand, I hope Russell Westbrook beat Oscar Robertson’s record for most triple-doubles in a single career. 

Now that you know when and how the term triple-double started, please don’t forget to share this awesome article with your friends. Until next time real hooper!

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