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What is a triple double in basketball? Explaining the rare stat and all-time NBA leaders

With the rise of Denver Nuggets superstar Nikola Jokic, many NBA fans are consistently asking What is a triple double in basketball? Well, look no further as this space will be your source to explain what this unique statistic is and what players have been the best at achieving it.

Like other sports, basketball includes many different statistics that monitor a player’s effectiveness and performance during a game. There are many who excel in certain categories like points, rebounds, or assists. However, there are far fewer that can excel on a night-in and night-out basis in two, let alone three statistical categories.

Also Read: We rank the 20 best NBA players of all time

With that in mind, let’s take a look at one of the hardest levels to reach in basketball and the athletes that have been able to achieve the rare feat with regularity.

What is a triple double?

What is a triple double in basketball
Credit: Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Network.

Figuring out what is a triple double in basketball is fairly simple. When looking at the main stats for a player in a given game — points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals — identify which of them are 10 or more for the night. If there are three of those categories where a player posted 10 more then that is a triple-double.

For example, if Los Angeles Lakers superstar Lebron James had 24 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists in a game then he had a triple-double for the night.

Why is it called a triple-double?

A double-double in basketball is fairly common and is a stat achieved by many athletes. With double-digit points and rebounds, specifically, being a nightly occurrence for many stars. However, triple-double earned its name by being that same feat, but with a third category of 10 or more. Hence the name triple-double.

What is an example of a triple-double?

What is a triple double in basketball
Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

While there are only five specific categories that can be used to post a triple-double in basketball, there is a wide variety of ways where it can be done. For example, Nikola Jokic and Lebron James often add to their triple-double career numbers by posting double-digits in points, rebounds, and assists.

However, Golden State Warriors legend Draymond Green once had the trifecta of double-digit numbers in rebounds, assists, and steals. Reigning NBA MVP, and Philadelphia 76ers superstar Joel Embiid has also achieved the rare feat, but he instead did it with 10 or more in points, rebounds, and blocks.

Is a triple-double rare?

There is no better proof of how uncommon getting a triple-double is, than the fact that despite the NBA being in existence for nearly 80 years, only a couple hundred players have actually reached the rare state in the league’s history. Meaning thousands of athletes that have played in the league have never had a triple-double.

Who has the highest triple-double in basketball?

What is a triple double in basketball
Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Despite Jokic getting a lot of attention for posting triple-doubles with ridiculous consistency over the last few years, he is not the all-time NBA leader for the stat. None other than Oklahoma City Thunder great, and one-time league MVP Russell Westbrook has the most triple-doubles ever with 198.

The man that averaged a triple-double during his MVP season is followed on the all-time list by Hall-of-Famers Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson, and then current NBA scoring king Lebron James. Below you can find the top 20 for the most triple-doubles in NBA history.

  • 1. Russell Westbrook – 198
  • 2. Oscar Robertson – 181
  • 3. Magic Johnson – 138
  • 4. LeBron James – 107
  • 5. Jason Kidd – 107
  • 6. Nikola Jokić – 105
  • 7. Wilt Chamberlain – 78
  • 8. James Harden – 74
  • 9. Larry Bird – 59
  • 10. Luka Dončić – 56
  • 11. Fat Lever – 43
  • 12. Giannis Antetokounmpo – 35
  • 13. Bob Cousy – 33
  • 14. Ben Simmons – 33
  • 15. Rajon Rondo – 32
  • 16. Domantas Sabonis – 32
  • 17. Draymond Green – 31
  • 18. John Havlicek – 31
  • 19. Grant Hill – 29
  • 20. Michael Jordan – 28

Can you get a quadruple-double?

Many of the fans who wonder what is a triple-double in basketball are also curious about quadruple-doubles and if they have been achieved in the NBA. Well, a quadruple-double is similar to a triple but instead is four stat categories with 10 or more in one game.

Only four players have had quadruple-doubles in the NBA, and league legends Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain are just two of the individuals that have attained that uncanny accomplishment.

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