What Is Triple Double In Basketball? (Ultimate Guide)

What Is Triple Double In Basketball? 
Photo Credit: All-Pro Reels is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

When it comes to basketball, What Is Triple Double In Basketball? Does it qualify as an impressive feat or just a milestone in statistics? 

Here we unlock the secrets of the triple double in basketball. Join us as we delve into the world of basketball statistics and unravel the significance and controversies surrounding the elusive triple double!

What is the Triple Double?

In basketball, a triple-double refers to a statistical achievement when a player accumulates double-digit numbers in three of the five major statistical categories in a single game. The five categories are points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. 

Typically, a player achieves a triple-double by recording at least 10 or more in three of these categories. For example, a player might have 10 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists in a game, or 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists. The specific combination can vary, as long as the player reaches double digits in three categories.

Triple-doubles are considered a significant accomplishment because they reflect a player’s versatility and ability to contribute across multiple aspects of the game. They often require a well-rounded skill set and the ability to impact the game in various ways. 

What Is Triple Double In Basketball? 

Where Did the Term “Triple Double” Come From?

The term “triple-double” originated in basketball and has its roots in the sport’s statistical tracking system. The exact origins of the term are not entirely clear, but it is believed to have emerged in the 1960s.

The early forms of the triple-double were tracked by newspapers and statisticians who kept records of player performances. In those days, only points and rebounds were commonly recorded. It was a significant achievement for a player to reach double digits in both of these categories during a game.

As the game evolved, the tracking of assists became more prevalent, and it became apparent that achieving double-digit assists, in addition to points and rebounds, was a remarkable feat. This led to the expansion of the term “double-double” to include assists, resulting in the birth of the “triple-double” concept.

The exact moment when the term “triple-double” was first used is difficult to pinpoint. However, it gained broader recognition and popularity in the 1980s with the emergence of players like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Their ability to consistently achieve triple-doubles drew attention and solidified the term in basketball parlance.

What Does It Take To Achieve A Triple-Double? 

Achieving a triple-double requires reaching double-digit figures in three statistical categories during a single game. 

The most common categories for a triple-double are points, rebounds, and assists. However, other categories such as steals and blocks can also be included. 

To achieve a triple-double, a player typically needs to accumulate at least 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists (or 10 or more in any three statistical categories) during the game.

Here’s a breakdown of the main statistical categories:

1. Points: A player needs to score at least 10 points in the game. Points are earned by successfully shooting the ball through the hoop or making free throws.

2. Rebounds: A player must grab at least 10 rebounds. Rebounds are obtained when a player gains possession of a missed shot by their team or a missed free throw by the opposing team.

3. Assists: A player must make at least 10 assists. An assist is credited when a player passes the ball to a teammate, resulting in a made basket.

4. Steals: While not always required, accumulating at least 10 steals is another way to achieve a triple-double. A steal occurs when a player legally takes the ball away from an opposing player.

5. Blocks: Similarly, accumulating at least 10 blocks can also contribute to a triple-double. A block happens when a defensive player deflects or stops a shot attempted by an opponent.

It is worth noting that achieving a triple-double requires not only individual skill but also active participation in the game and teamwork. Players need to be involved in various aspects of the game, contributing both offensively and defensively.

The Triple Double and Its Significance and Rarity 

Achieving a triple-double in sports, particularly in basketball, is a significant accomplishment that demonstrates exceptional skill and versatility on the court. The significance of achieving a triple-double lies in its rarity and the elite company it puts the player in. 

A triple-double showcases the player’s ability to impact the game across multiple facets and contribute in various ways. It requires not only scoring points but also actively participating in rebounding and playmaking for their teammates.

Triple-doubles are relatively rare because they require a high level of performance and consistency in multiple areas of the game. It demonstrates that the player is not only an offensive threat but also contributes to the team’s defensive efforts and overall success.

Which Players are Known for Triple-Doubles?

Several players in NBA history have been known for achieving triple-doubles on a regular basis. Here are some notable players known for their triple-double prowess:

What Is Triple Double In Basketball? 

1. Oscar Robertson: Known as “The Big O,” Robertson is considered one of the greatest all-around players in NBA history. He averaged a triple-double for an entire season in 1961-1962 and recorded a total of 181 career triple-doubles.

2. Magic Johnson: As a point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, Magic Johnson had excellent court vision and passing skills. He accumulated 138 career triple-doubles and played a significant role in the Lakers’ success during the 1980s.

What Is Triple Double In Basketball? 

3. Russell Westbrook: Westbrook is a dynamic point guard known for his athleticism and intensity. He holds the NBA record for the most triple-doubles in a single season with 42 during the 2016-2017 season. As of September 2021, Westbrook has recorded over 180 career triple-doubles.

4. Jason Kidd: Kidd was a highly skilled point guard known for his basketball IQ and playmaking abilities. He recorded 107 career triple-doubles, which places him third on the all-time list.

What Is Triple Double In Basketball? 

5. LeBron James: While primarily known for his scoring ability, LeBron James has also showcased his all-around skills with numerous triple-doubles throughout his career. As of September 2021, he had recorded over 100 triple-doubles.

6. Wilt Chamberlain: A dominant force in NBA history, Chamberlain was known for his scoring and rebounding prowess. He recorded 78 triple-doubles during his career, often achieving them with points, rebounds, and assists.

7. Larry Bird: Bird was a versatile forward known for his scoring touch and basketball IQ. He recorded 59 career triple-doubles during his time with the Boston Celtics.

What Is Triple Double In Basketball? 

8. James Harden: Harden, known for his scoring ability and offensive skills, has become a triple-double threat in recent years. As of September 2021, he had recorded over 60 career triple-doubles.

These are just a few examples of players known for their triple-double achievements. However, many other players have also had notable triple-double performances throughout NBA history.

What Games Have Been Won by Triple-Doubles?

Triple-doubles can have a significant impact on a game, and there have been numerous instances where teams have won games with the help of a player’s triple-double performance. Here are a few notable examples:

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles LakersApril 2, 2019Russell Westbrook20 points, 20 rebounds, and 21 assistsHelped lead the Thunder to a 119-103 victory
Denver Nuggets vs. Minnesota TimberwolvesMarch 9, 2019Nikola Jokic13 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assistsPlayed a crucial role in the Nuggets’ 133-107 win
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. New Orleans PelicansFebruary 10, 2017Russell Westbrook41 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assistsPropelled the Thunder to a 118-110 victory
Houston Rockets vs. Atlanta HawksNovember 5, 2016James Harden28 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assistsHelped the Rockets secure a 122-97 win
New York Knicks vs. Sacramento KingsFebruary 15, 2012Jeremy Lin10 points, 13 assists, and 10 reboundsContributed to the Knicks’ 100-85 victory

Here’s an example of a Nikola Jokić’s assist:

What Is Triple Double In Basketball? 

Nikola Jokić center pass

Here’s a clip of Russell Westbrook sinking a 3-pointer:

What Is Triple Double In Basketball? 

Russell Westbrook 3-pointer

These are just a few games where a player’s triple-double has played a significant role in their team’s success. Triple-doubles often demonstrate a player’s ability to impact the game in multiple ways, including scoring, rebounding, and playmaking, making them valuable contributions to a team’s victory.

Challenges and Criticism of Triple-Doubles

While achieving a triple-double in basketball is often celebrated, there have been some challenges and criticisms associated with this statistical achievement. Here are a few common challenges and criticisms:

1. Statistical padding: Some critics argue that players may prioritize achieving triple-doubles over team success, leading to potential stat-padding. They claim that players might focus on accumulating rebounds or assists instead of making the best basketball play. Critics suggest that this pursuit of individual statistics can be detrimental to team dynamics and strategic decision-making.

2. Reliance on volume: Achieving a triple-double often requires a significant amount of playing time and involvement in the game. Critics argue that players who dominate the ball and have a high usage rate are more likely to achieve triple-doubles. This criticism suggests that the achievement may not always be indicative of a player’s efficiency or overall impact on the game.

3. Inflation of statistics: The modern game of basketball has seen an increase in the pace of play, leading to more possessions and opportunities for statistics. Some critics argue that this inflation of statistics makes achieving a triple-double more common and diminishes its significance compared to earlier eras.

4. Statistic emphasis: Critics argue that the focus on triple-doubles can overshadow other important aspects of a player’s performance. It places a disproportionate emphasis on specific statistical categories like rebounds and assists, potentially undervaluing other contributions such as defense, leadership, or scoring efficiency.

5. Teammates’ contributions: Critics argue that a player’s teammates play a significant role in their ability to achieve a triple-double. For example, teammates need to convert shots for assists to be recorded, and their box-out efforts can create rebounding opportunities for a player. This criticism suggests that the achievement may not solely reflect an individual player’s skills and efforts.

It’s important to note that these challenges and criticisms are not applicable to all instances of triple-doubles, and many players have achieved them while making significant contributions to team success. However, these points highlight some of the debates and discussions surrounding the significance and interpretation of triple-doubles in basketball.

Basketball shoes play a crucial role in a player’s performance on the court, including their pursuit of the coveted triple-double. The best basketball shoes are designed to provide the necessary support, traction, and comfort for the fast-paced and high-impact nature of basketball. 

Of course, a player’s footwear choice can significantly impact their agility, speed, and ability to make quick movements required to score points, secure rebounds, and distribute assists. The right pair of basketball shoes can enhance a player’s performance, allowing them to make explosive drives to the basket, outmaneuver opponents, and showcase their versatility in pursuit of the triple-double. 

From cushioning for impact absorption to ankle support for stability, these basketball shoes have served as crucial tools for players aiming to achieve the statistical milestone while maintaining optimal performance and reducing the risk of injury.

There isn’t a specific brand or model of basketball shoes that are exclusively associated with recording triple-doubles. The choice of basketball shoes for players pursuing triple-doubles varies based on personal preference, comfort, and performance needs. 

However, some popular basketball shoe brands and models known for their performance capabilities and worn by players who have achieved triple-doubles. These include:

1. Nike LeBron series: LeBron James, known for his triple-double performances, has frequently worn various models from his signature Nike LeBron line. These shoes are designed to provide support, responsiveness, and cushioning.

2. Adidas Harden Vol. series: James Harden, a player with numerous triple-doubles to his name, has endorsed his signature line of Adidas shoes. The Harden Vol. series offers a balance of stability, traction, and comfort.

3. Under Armour Curry series: Stephen Curry, an accomplished triple-double achiever, has collaborated with Under Armour to create his own line of basketball shoes. The Curry series is known for its lightweight construction, stability, and grip.

4. Jordan Brand: Several players who have recorded triple-doubles, such as Russell Westbrook and Michael Jordan himself, have worn various models from the Jordan Brand. These shoes are known for their style, performance, and versatility.

5. Kobe Bryant’s Nike signature line: While Kobe Bryant was not necessarily known for triple-doubles, his Nike signature line, particularly the Kobe series, is popular among many players who have achieved triple-doubles. These shoes are recognized for their lightweight design, traction, and responsiveness.

Westbrook’s and Harden’s Sneakers and Triple Doubles 

You might find it interesting to note that Westbrook was wearing a specific colorway of his Jordan 30.5 PE when he achieved his 42nd triple-double of the regular season. It was then that he surpassed Oscar Robertson’s record of 41 from the 1961-1962 season.

Take a look at this chart to see the sneakers that Westbrook and Harden excelled in, focusing on key offensive statistics such as points, assists, rebounds, and triple-doubles. You’ll also see the data point indicating how frequently they wore their top-performing colorway:

What Is Triple Double In Basketball? 
Photo Credit: Stockx

It’s important to remember that the choice of basketball shoes is highly subjective, and different players have different preferences. Ultimately, the most important factor for achieving a triple-double is the player’s skill, versatility, and basketball IQ, rather than the specific shoes they wear.


The triple-double remains a significant achievement in basketball, symbolizing a player’s exceptional skill, versatility, and impact on the game. However, the concept of triple-doubles is not without its challenges and criticisms. 

Some argue that players may prioritize individual statistics over team success or that the achievement can be influenced by factors like playing time and teammates’ contributions. Additionally, the modern pace of play and statistical inflation have made triple-doubles more common compared to earlier eras.

Despite these debates, the triple-double remains an impressive milestone that captures the attention of fans and adds to the legacy of players. Whether celebrated or critiqued, the triple-double continues to be an intriguing statistical accomplishment that highlights the diverse talents of basketball’s greatest players.


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

In May 2021, Russell Westbrook, the point guard for the Washington Wizards, solidified his position as the undisputed king of triple doubles. In a thrilling 125-124 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Westbrook achieved his record-breaking 182nd triple double. 

Who was the first player to average a triple-double for an entire NBA season?

Oscar Robertson, a legendary player from the 1960s, was the first player to average a triple-double for an entire NBA season during the 1961-1962 season.
Prior to Westbrook’s record-breaking performance, Robertson held the triple double record in the NBA since March 1974. Robertson amassed an impressive 181 triple doubles throughout his playing career. His record stood for nearly half a century before being surpassed by Westbrook.

Can a player achieve a triple-double in other basketball leagues outside the NBA?

Yes, a triple-double can be achieved in other professional basketball leagues around the world, although the specific statistical categories may vary slightly depending on the league’s rules and tracking methods.

Are triple-doubles more common in today’s NBA compared to the past?

In recent years, triple-doubles have become more common due to factors like increased pace of play and statistical inflation. However, the frequency of triple-doubles can still vary depending on the individual player’s skills and playing style.

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