triple-double

[ trip-uhl-duhb-uhl ]
/ ˈtrɪp əlˈdʌb əl /

noun

a score in a basketball game of at least ten points, ten rebounds, and ten assists by a single player.

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VOCAB BUILDER

What does triple-double mean?

A triple-double is a basketball statistic for a player who, in one game, reaches double digits in three of these five areas:

  • points
  • rebounds
  • assists
  • steals
  • blocks

The most common form of triple-double is made up of points, rebounds, and assists.

Where does triple-double come from?

Although basketball was invented in 1891, triple-doubles were not recorded until around 1980. Both Harvey Pollack, a statistician for the Philadelphia 76ers, and Bruce Jolesch, the public relations director for the Los Angeles Lakers, have been credited with coining the term triple-double.

In the years since, the triple-double stat became well known to basketball fans and more familiar to the general public. The 1983 Spectator’s Guide to Basketball explained the triple-double alongside other basketball terms. In 1986, The New Yorker and a book on Magic Johnson and Larry Bird both described the term for readers. The following year, a book titled 101 Greatest Athletes of the Century noted that 1960s NBA player Oscar Robertson would, retroactively, hold the all-time triple-double record.

From starting out as a somewhat obscure stat, the triple-double became known as a “benchmark of virtuoso versatility” by The Economist and a “common measuring stick” by The Denver Post. The number of triple-doubles achieved in a season has sharply increased in contemporary basketball. Sports Illustrated notes that from 1990–2011 there were around 30 per year. In 2018, there were 108. This led sports news website SBNation to declare that we are “living in the golden age of triple doubles,” but others have criticized the triple-double as an overrated measure of talent and performance.

How is triple-double used in real life?

Although a triple-double is typically made up of points, assists, and rebounds, some have also been recorded that include blocks or steals in lieu of other categories.

In addition to the triple-double, double-doubles (double digits in two categories) and quadruple-doubles (double digits in four categories) are also recorded. So far, only four quadruple-doubles have been recorded in the NBA.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Wilt Chamberlain may have achieved a quintuple-double before such stats were recorded. No quintuple-double has ever been officially recorded in the NBA. Two have been recorded in high-school basketball, one by Tamika Catchings and another by Alex Montgomery, both of whom went to play in the WNBA.

More examples of triple-double:

“NBA Champ and 6x NBA All-Star, @Klow7, was all over the floor for the @Raptors as he posted his 15th career triple-double with 20 PTS, 10 REB, and 10 AST!”
—@NBA_Philippines, May 2020

“Dallas Mavericks sensation Luka Doncic has been a triple-double machine since entering the league last season, which has put him in the record books multiple times over—he’s the second-youngest player to ever record one, and is the only teenager to have a 30-point triple-double, just to name a few.”
—Jack Maloney, CBS Sports, February 2020

Note

This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.