A triple-double in the NBA certainly isn’t as rare as it used to be. It used to be that double-doubles were more the norm, with big men like Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell easily throwing up double-digit numbers in points and rebounds. It’s sometimes a tad more difficult to get to 10 assists or even average 10 assists per game.
But then Oscar Robertson came along. Not only would the “Big O” consistently put up triple-doubles, logging double-digit totals in three of the five major statistical categories (points, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals). He also became the first to average a triple-double over the course of an entire season (more on that later), a feat few thought would or could ever be duplicated.
Over the years, a few players here and there would pick up a triple-double, but it still wasn’t as normal as it is today. For instance, Michael Jordan had just 28 over the course of his career, 15 of those coming in one season alone. Even just a few years ago, in 2014, the league leader for the season was Lance Stephenson with five. Seven players beat that mark in the 2018-2019 season. The all-time list is going to have a very different look in the next 10 years, but let’s take a look at what the top five currently looks like.
5. LeBron James
While his count continues to rise, LeBron James currently sits in fifth place on the all-time triple-doubles list with 94. Before the 2019-2020 season ends, that number will certainly be higher. On November 19, 2019, James made history by becoming the only player in NBA history to record a triple-double against all 30 NBA teams, posting 25 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists in a 112-107 Lakers win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
4. Jason Kidd
Over the course of 19 seasons, Jason Kidd put together one of the greatest careers an NBA point guard could. He won an NBA Championship, led the league in assists five times, was a 10-time All-Star, and finished his career with the second-most assists and steals in NBA history. Kidd was also never one to shy away from getting in the paint and grabbing rebounds. That tenacity allowed him to put himself into the top five on the all-time triple-doubles list with 107. He added an additional 11 in the postseason.
3. Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson was the man who brought the term “triple-double” into the new generation of the NBA. Not since the days of Oscar Robertson had anyone filled up the stat sheet like Magic did for the Lakers in the 1980s. At one point, he passed Robertson as the all-time assists leader, a title he would later give up to John Stockton. At 6’9″, Magic was able to do so many things on a basketball court. The tallest point guard in NBA history, Magic could easily see over smaller defenders, allowing him to find his teammates. He could also get in with the big boys on the boards and racked up 138 triple-doubles in his career.
2. Russell Westbrook
Like LeBron James, the career triple-doubles total for Russell Westbrook will continue to rise. Westbrook passed Magic Johnson on October 26, 2019, with his 139th career triple-double and currently sits at 144. His triple-double numbers are down in playing with James Harden and the Houston Rockets, but Westbrook made history when he was still with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
In 2016-2017, Westbrook became the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple-double over the course of an entire season, posting a league-leading 31.6 points per game to go along with 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists. He won the NBA MVP that year and also set the single-season triple-double record with 42. Incredibly, Westbrook averaged a triple-double the next two seasons as well, making him the first player in NBA history to achieve the feat in three consecutive years.
1. Oscar Robertson
Oscar Robertson changed the game of basketball. Not only did he lead the reform of free agency and draft rules when he was the president of the NBA Players’ Association, he was the most versatile player of his generation. He was the all-time leader in assists for many years until he was passed by Magic Johnson. He was also an underrated scorer, averaging more than 30 points per game in six different seasons, and that was without a three-point line.
The “Big O” also had no problem mixing it up in the paint. He averaged 7.5 rebounds in his career, hitting the double-digit mark in each of his first three seasons. In the 1961-1962 season, Robertson, in just his second year in the NBA, became the first player in history to average a triple-double for an entire year, posting 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 11.4 assists. He also set the single-season record (which Westbrook later broke) with 41 triple-doubles.
He came up just short in his rookie year, falling short in only assists at 9.7. He nearly hit the mark again in 1962-1963, again falling short in assists at 9.5. He came heartbreakingly close to the feat the following year, putting up 31.4 points, 11 assists, and 9.9 rebounds. Oscar Robertson finished his career with 181 triple-doubles.