What is a triple-double in basketball?

Oscar Robertson (left), Russell Westbrook (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
Oscar Robertson (left), Russell Westbrook (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images) /

Basketball can be a stat-based sport, but it’s not just points, rebounds and assists. It’s shooting percentages, offensive rating, defensive rating, assist-to-turnover ratio and usage rate, among others.

Not all stats are made equal, though – there’s a reason points, rebounds and assists are the most well-known numbers. But what happens if a player has a massive game that includes all three?

What is a triple-double in basketball?

Say a player scores 10 points in a game and grabs 10 rebounds in the same game. That would be a double-double: double-digit numbers in two different stats.

Say that same player scores 10 points and grabs 10 rebounds in the next game, but also collects 10 assists: that’s your triple-double. Double-digit numbers in three different categories.

Points, assists and rebounds; points, rebounds and steals; rebounds, steals and blocks; it doesn’t matter. As long as a player hits double digits in any three categories, it’s a triple-double.

Triple-doubles across NBA history

The NBA didn’t officially count triple-doubles until the 1979-80 season, but the stats can be tracked back to the 1950-51 season.

Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson was the only player to average a triple-double for an entire season –  until Russell Westbrook did the same thing and won the NBA MVP Award in 2016-17. He also broke Robertson’s record of 41 triple-doubles in a season.

Westbrook now has the most triple-double games in NBA history and averaged a triple-double for four out of five seasons.

Magic Johnson, LeBron James, Jason Kidd and Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic are the only other players in NBA history with 100 triple-doubles.

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