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What is a triple double in basketball? (Definition and NBA records)

The triple-double.

If you’ve been following NBA basketball at all over the last few years, you’ve probably heard that term has been thrown around a lot.

This is one of the most impressive things a player can achieve in a single game, and we’re seeing more of it than ever before.

I want to dedicate this post to the triple-double phenomenon, what it is exactly, and who are the NBA record holders of all time when it comes to one of the hottest statlines in basketball.

What is a Triple-Double?

There are five important statistics in basketball:

  • Marks
  • Assists
  • Rebounds
  • Steal
  • Blocks

In all the scores, these five statistics are displayed for each player in the match.

A triple double is achieved if a player has double-digit stats (at least 10) in any three of these five main stats categories.

Example: 10 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds.

Note that I did not steal and mention blocks in the example above …

Even if our imaginary player had no blocks and no steal, this line would still be a triple double because three categories meet the requirement of 10.

By far the most common triple double combination of points, assists and rebounds.

Other types of triple doubles are certainly possible – for example points + rebounds + blocks – but these are very rare.

Other terms you need to know?

Double-double – If a player scores at least 10 in TWO statistical categories.

Quadruple Double – If a player scores at least ten in FOUR statistical categories.

Russell Westbrook

Why is triple doubles more common now?

A triple double used to be a rare sight in the NBA.

These days, it feels like at least one player is drawing this stat line every day.

“What’s the reason for this sudden rise?”

Many people have dropped it to the increased pace (the measure of the average number of possessions a team uses per game) of the modern NBA.

The reasoning is simple and it makes sense …

The average league pace for the past three seasons is the highest in the last 30 years. More possessions = more opportunities to compile statistics.

Sure, the league pace is high … but it’s far from the historical records.

That’s why i do not consider tempo as the only cause of the increase in triple doubles.

The bigger reason for what we see has to do with the way the game is played.

The modern NBA is positionless and it makes it much easier for players to compile statistics that are not usually associated with their position.

In the nineties you had two large sizes in the paint that would get the majority of the rebounds.

These days, you see a lot of teams playing five-out and shooting more three-pointers, which means the setbacks are much more accessible to the smaller players.

With five shooters in the team and a lot of ball and player movement, it is also much easier to find open shots and give help.

NBA Triple-Double Leaders

Triple play with the most careers?

Oscar Robertson.

Former NBA point guard Oscar Robertson has already been considered the undisputed king of dropping his jaw with 181 a triple career.

Robertson was drafting several times in college and if he could play like that in the NBA, he would be special.

It turns out he could.

He wasted no time establishing himself as a force in the NBA as he scored nearly a triple-double in his first NBA season.

Just one year later, in the 1961/62 NBA season, Robertson became the first player in NBA history to score a triple-double over the course of a season with an insane 30.8 points, 12, 5 rebounds and 11.4 assists per game.

Most seasons with a triple double?

Russell Westbrook.

For a long time, it looked like Oscar Robertson would remain the only player in NBA history to score a triple-double over the course of a season.

Going to be Russell Westbrook.

When Kevin Durant left OKC in the summer of 2016, Westbrook was left behind as the only superstar in a team that wrote off a lot.

Westbrook had an absolute tear the following season, averaging 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game.

It was only natural to see Westbrook honor MVP this season as he became the second player in NBA history to score a triple-double.

He was far from finished …

Westbrook sustained this unreal level of play longer than anyone might have thought, as he averaged a triple-double double three times in a row.

Youngest player to place a triple double?


If you place extremely talented young players in an environment that is ripe to set up a triple double game, you will probably see them draw insane numbers sooner rather than later.

The record for the youngest player to set a triple-double has been broken several times over the past few years.

The former first overall pick, Markelle Fultz, started the party when he became the first teenager to get a triple-double double in an NBA game.

Slovenian superstar Luka Dončić became the second one, just ten days older than Fultz.

Their records were shattered when Hornets’ Rookie LaMelo Ball gave up 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in a win over the Hawks.

On that day, Ball was 177 days younger than Fultz, so it would be very difficult for anyone to take Ball’s place soon.

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