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What is a triple-double in basketball?

what is a triple double in basketball

A triple-double is one of the most impressive statistical feats a player can achieve during a single game. It occurs when a player accumulates double-digit numbers in three different statistical categories. While points, assists, and rebounds are the most common trio, a player can achieve a triple-double through steals or blocks.

Historical Significance and Player Milestones:

The first recorded triple-double in the National Basketball Association (NBA) was by Dolph Schayes in 1951 when the Syracuse Nationals faced off against the Fort Wayne Pistons. However, the triple-double became a hallmark statistic with Oscar Robertson’s legendary performance throughout the 1961-62 season, where he averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 11.4 assists per game. This record established “The Big O” as a quintessential all-around player and underlined the triple-double as a benchmark for versatility on the court.

With his extraordinary passing abilities and rebounding as a guard, Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers achieved career triple-doubles 138 times, elevating the concept further into the realm of renowned basketball achievements. His performance helped etch the triple-double into the consciousness of the basketball community as a signifier of a player’s multi-faceted contribution to their team’s efforts.

More recently, Russell Westbrook has become synonymous with the triple-double, as he made headlines by averaging this feat over the entire 2016-17 season and then astonishingly repeating it in two subsequent seasons. This heightened focus on triple-doubles has increased attention to players’ all-around game.

Player Examples:

The triple-double echelon includes other distinguished names such as:

LeBron James

Known for his outstanding all-around play, he has regularly compiled triple-doubles, showcasing his diversified skill set and pivotal role in every team he’s been part of.

Ben Simmons

 With his impressive versatility as a guard-forward hybrid, he has recorded multiple triple-doubles early in his career, proving his proficiency in various facets of the game.

Wilt Chamberlain

While his scoring often steals the shimmer, Chamberlain’s ability to pull down rebounds and assist teammates also led him to compile his share of triple-doubles.

Oscar Robertson

Renowned for his well-rounded game, Robertson set the early standard for future generations, showcasing that a player can excel across different aspects of the game.

Magic Johnson

With his larger-than-life persona and on-court brilliance, the effervescent Magic has left an indelible mark on how the point guard position is played, thanks to his ability to influence every part of the game.

Russell Westbrook

Westbrook’s record-breaking spree has redefined the expectations placed on modern guards, with his exceptional athleticism and tireless motor on display every night.

In-Game and Career Impact:

Achieving a triple-double is a significant moment within a game, often changing the course of the event and demonstrating a player’s dominance across different aspects of basketball. From a career standpoint, accumulating triple-doubles can solidify a player’s legacy as a proficient all-around athlete and can often parallel a team’s winning percentage and success.

Statistical Categories for a Triple-Double:

To sum up, the primary categories often involved in a triple-double are:

  • Points
  • Assists
  • Rebounds
  • (Alternatively, Steals or Blocks)

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is a triple-double in basketball?

   – A triple-double in basketball is when a player records double-digit figures in three statistical categories during a game.

2. Which statistical categories are involved in a triple-double?

   – The typical categories for a triple-double are points, rebounds, and assists.

3. How rare is it for a player to achieve a triple-double?

   – Triple-doubles are rare and impressive in basketball, requiring well-rounded skills and consistent performance.

4. Who holds the record for the most career triple-doubles in the history of the NBA?

   – Oscar Robertson holds the record for most career triple-doubles with 181 over his illustrious career.

5. Can a player achieve a triple-double by recording blocks or steals instead of traditional categories?

   – Yes, players can also achieve a triple-double by recording double digits in blocks or steals along with points, rebounds, and assists.

6. Has any player ever achieved a quadruple-double (double digits in four statistical categories) in NBA history?

   – Yes, there have been four instances of players achieving a quadruple-double in NBA history, with Hakeem Olajuwon being the most recent one in 1990.

7. Are variations of the term triple-double used in other basketball leagues worldwide?

   – While triple-double is primarily associated with the NBA, similar concepts exist in other basketball leagues globally where players aim to reach certain statistical milestones.

8. How has the significance of triple-doubles evolved in basketball culture?

   – Triple-doubles have become increasingly valued and admired in modern basketball culture as they showcase versatile and impactful play on both ends of the court.


The triple-double remains a problematic accomplishment, a noteworthy benchmark in a player’s career, and an exciting highlight within any basketball game, showcasing the extraordinary talent and hard work required to excel in multiple facets of the sport.