What is a triple double in basketball

Once extremely rare, the triple-double has become commonplace in the current NBA. But what does this term, which appeared in the 1980s, really mean?

The “triple-double” Anglicism really appeared in the 1980s thanks to Harvey Pollack and Bruce Jolesch, respectively statisticians for the Sixers and press officers for the Lakers. It is made up of the terms “triple” for three and “double” for two digits.

Triple-Double Meaning

A triple-double is the term used in basketball to express the individual performance of a player.

Consisting of recording ten or more units in three statistical categories (points, assists, rebounds, steals, or blocks) during a game.

triple double in basketball

What is a Triple Double in Basketball

By definition, a triple-double is therefore successful when a player compiles at least 10 units in three different statistical categories (points, rebounds, assists, steals, or blocks). The most common is the points, rebounds, and assists format.

The triple-double
record in the NBA

The Top 10 NBA players
with the most triple doubles are as follows (active players in bold):

  1.  Oscar Robertson, 181
  2. Magic Johnson, 168
  3. Russell Westbrook 160
  4. Lebron James 123
  5. Jason Kidd, 107
  6. Wilt Chamberlain, 87
  7.  Larry Bird, 69
  8. James Harden, 51
  9. Nikola Jokic, 51
  10. Fat Lever 46

We see that neither Michael Jordan nor Kobe Bryant, two of the best basketball
players of all time, are in the TOP 10, and they are not even close. Air Jordan
achieved 30 triple doubles throughout his career (2 of them in the play-offs
and 28 in the regular phase), while the ill-fated Kobe managed to enter such
statistics a total of 21 times.

Only three Spaniards
have achieved triple doubles in NBA history. 

And it is Pau Gasol who leads the
list with 11 triple doubles, one of them in the playoffs. He is followed by
Ricky Rubio with 7, his brother Marc Gasol behind him with 5, and finally José
Manuel Calderón with two triple doubles. Some data that should serve to follow
the sports forecasts for Marc’s performance this
year, participating in the new Los Lakers project,

Another important
record is the one that occurred at dawn from March 13 to 14, 2021, with five
players from the NBA Day capable of adding a triple double. 

Antetokounmpo and
Westbrook managed to do it in the same game that pitted the Bucks against the
Wizards, while the other three leads were Dopmantas Sabonis, Jamers Harden, and
Julius Ran.

Read also: How long is a basketball game

The triple-double and its derivatives

Be careful all the same not to omit a reality: interceptions and counterattacks were not counted before the 1973–74 season. Which means that some monsters of the 1960s, like Chamberlain but also Bill Russell, Nate Thurmond, or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, have many more triple-doubles than we think.

Perhaps even quadruple-doubles (10 units in four statistical categories) or even quintuple-doubles (10 units in five statistical categories) were made in the 1960s, but they are impossible to verify!

Finally, by extension to the triple-double, it is possible to score a double-triple-double. It’s about compiling at least 20 units in three different statistical categories, something that has only been done twice since the birth of the NBA, by the famous Wilt Chamberlain (1968) and Russell Westbrook (2019).

As for the quadruple-double, only four players have officially achieved it: Nate Thurmond (1974), Alvin Robertson (1986), Hakeem Olajuwon (1990), and David Robinson (1994).


Bringing the game to life through words. As a passionate basketball lover and expert reviewer, I share insights, analysis, and captivating stories that celebrate the beauty of the game. Join me courtside as we dive into the world of hoops together. Game on!

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