№18: The Top 15 All-Time NBA Triple-Double Leaders

May 12, 2021

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For the second week in a row, I decided to introduce a new Spotlight section that I’ll be calling Stats Spotlight (For those keeping score at home, there are now four Spotlight categories: Player, Team, Hobby, and the aforementioned Stats Spotlight). With the Washington Wizards Russell Westbrook shattering Oscar Robertson’s all-time career triple-double mark (181), I felt that this week’s newsletter would be the best time to not only unveil this newly minted category but to also honor “The Big O” and the longevity of his career triple-double record—a distinction that he has held for the last 47 years. For more, scroll down to the Stats Spotlight section below.

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Welcome to Stats Spotlight! Inspired by the writings of the late Zander Hollander (Sportswriter, archivist, and author of the ever informative The Complete Handbook of Pro Basketball), I decided to put my 30 years of basketball knowledge to some use and come up with a short, free flowing, and non-linear/viewpoint narrative on the featured player, team, hobby, or statistical insight.

The Top 15 All-Time NBA Triple-Double Leaders

Legend:

  • - Denotes active player.

  • ⍿ - Denotes Member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

  • ↑ - Has moved up the all-time list during the 2020-2021 NBA Regular Season.

1) Russell Westbrook ⦁ - (2008-2009 Press Pass Certified Authentics Power Pick #PP-RW [196/199] | Red Signature) - [184] ↑ Had 38 triple-doubles for the 2020-2021 NBA season

On May 11, 2021, Russell Westbrook (28 points, 13 rebounds, and 21 assists) firmly planted his proverbial flag on top of triple-double mountain with his 182 career triple-double. Over his last 32 games en route to eclipsing Oscar Robertson’s 47-year-old record, Westbrook had put together a staggering 25 triple-doubles. A total that he may eventually add to with the 32-37 Washington Wizards still having three regular season games remaining on their schedule.

“The Brodie” surpassed the triple-double total of Robertson in exactly 100 fewer games. He also holds the record for the most triple-doubles in a calendar month (14).

Here are Russell’s year-by-year triple-double totals: 1 in 2008-2009, 1 in 2009-2010, 3 in 2010-2011, 1 in 2012-2013, 2 in 2013-2014, 11 in 2014-2015, 18 in 2015-2016, 42 in 2016-2017, 25 in 2017-2018, 34 in 2018-2019, 8 in 2019-2020, and 36 in 2020-2021. There are no recorded triple-doubles during his fourth NBA season with the Oklahoma City Thunder (2011-2012).

Solely looking at his triple-double progression, the pace at which Westbrook started accumulating triple-doubles is nothing short of legendary. Prior to the 2014-2015 season, Russell Westbrook “only” had 8 triple-doubles in his six-year career. From 2014-2015 to 2020-2021, he recorded 174 triple-double performances—include 42 in 2016-2017.

2) Oscar Robertson ⍿ - (1999 - 2000 Upper Deck Legendary Signatures #OR) - [181]

In a recent 2021 interview, Oscar Robertson shared that he only became aware of the concept of triple-doubles many years after he had retired. As he put it, the NBA retroactively reviewed his career statistics once they had started recognizing triple-doubles.

So Robertson had held the all-time triple-double mark since 1961-62, a record that he didn’t know he possessed until after his playing days were over.

One can only wonder what kind of numbers “The Big O” would have put up during his prime if he knew back then what he knows now?

During the last Milwaukee Bucks home game for the season (May 16, 2021), analyst Jon McGlocklin was asked by outgoing play-by-play broadcaster Jim Paschke about a conversation that he with Oscar Robertson on the subject of triple-doubles.

Robertson said, “Jon, if I had known that it would have been this important, I would have averaged a triple-double every year.”

3) Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Jr. ⍿ - (1996-1997 Upper Deck SPx #24 [Los Angeles Lakers] | BGS 10) - [138]

With the premature retirement of Earvin Johnson prior to the 1991-1992 NBA season, we will never truly know how high he could have climbed on the all-time career triple-double ladder. But for the time that he did have on the hardwood, he was, well…magical.

In his 13-year career, Johnson was able to register at least one triple-double (with a high of 18 triple-doubles during the 1981-1982 campaign) every season. He also led the league in that category in 10 of those 13 years.

Magic also holds the distinction of being the all-time leader in NBA Playoff triple-doubles with 30.

4) Jason Frederick Kidd ⍿ - [107]

The 2nd overall pick in the 1994 NBA Draft, the 6’4” rookie point guard out of California was certainly exciting to watch and seemed destined to be among the all-time triple-double leaders by the time he retired.

Kidd didn’t have the overwhelming annual triple-double totals of Russell Westbrook but he did lead the NBA in triple-doubles in 11 of his 19 seasons. He also managed to record at least one triple-double during his first 17 seasons in the league.

Here are Kidd’s year-by-year triple-double totals: 4 in 1994-1995, 9 in 1995-1996, 2 in 1996-1997, 4 in 1997-1998, 7 in 1998-1999, 5 in 1999-2000, 7 in 2000-2001, 8 in 2001-2002, 4 in 2002-2003, 9 in 2003-2004, 8 in 2004-2005, 8 in 2005-2006, 12 in 2006-2007, a career high 13 in 2007-2008, 3 in 2008-2009, 2 in 2009-2010, and 2 in 2010-2011. There are no recorded triple-doubles during his last two seasons: 2011-2012 (Dallas Mavericks) and New York Knicks (2012-2013).

5) LeBron James, Sr. ⦁ - [99] Had 5 triple-doubles for the 2020-2021 NBA season.

Prior to redefining how we see player free agency today, LeBron James was the teenage basketball prodigy who played for his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. During those first seven seasons with the Cavaliers, he led the NBA in triple-doubles twice and finished second in two other seasons. Over his first 548 career games, LBJ accumulated a staggering 28 triple doubles.

Since then, James has recorded 9 more with the Miami Heat (2010-2011 to 2013-2014), another 36 (2014-2015 to 2017-2018) during his second stint with the Cavaliers, and 26 with the Los Angeles Lakers (2018-2019 to present).

Here are LBJ’s year-by-year triple-double totals: 4 in 2004-2005, 5 in 2005-2006, 1 in 2006-2007, 7 in 2007-2008, 7 in 2008-2009, 4 in 2009-2010, 4 in 2010-2011, 4 in 2012-2013, 1 in 2013-2014, 2 in 2014-2015, 3 in 2015-2016, 13 in 2016-2017, a career-high 18 in 2017-2018, 8 in 2018-2019, 13 in 2019-2020, and 5 in 2020-2021. There are no recorded triple-doubles during his rookie year (2003-2004) and his second season with the Miami Heat (2011-2012).

Among NBA Playoff triple-double leaders, James ranks second with 28 career postseason triple-doubles.

6) Wilt Chamberlain (†) ⍿ - [78]

As surprising as this may sound, it was only during Wilt Chamberlain’s fourth season (1962-1963) with the recently relocated San Francisco Warriors that he would register his first three career triple-doubles. The 1959-1960 MVP and Rookie of the Year, would go on to increase that total to 8 by the end of the the following season (1963-1964).

Known primarily for his dominant scoring and rebounding, Chamberlain—now a member of the Philadelphia 76ers—orchestrated three consecutive MVP seasons (1965-1966, 1966-1967, and 1967-1968) anchored in part to his commitment to passing. Wilt would lead the NBA in assists (8.6) during the 1967-1968 season—the only center ever to do so. During that same three-year span, Chamberlain would also recorded the bulk of his career triple-doubles (62)—31 of which coming in his last MVP season (1967-1968).

Wilt Chamberlain would record another 8 triple-doubles before retiring at the end of the 1972-1973 season.

7) Larry Joe Bird ⍿ - (2015-2016 Panini Luxe Red [02/25]) - [59]

Larry Bird did everything for the Boston Celtics during his 13-year career (Click here for my player retrospective) and with the exception of the lost 1988-1989 season (Bird only played 6 games that year due to surgery on both of his feet), he was able to record at least one triple-double in each season of his career.

During his rookie year (1979-1980) he registered 1 triple-double, 5 in 1980-1981, 3 in 1981-1982, 4 in 1982-1983, 7 in 1983-1984, 8 in 1984-1985, a career-tying 10 in 1985-1986, 5 in 1986-1987, 2 in 1987-1988, 10 in 1989-1990, 3 in 1990-1991, and 1 during his final season (1991-1992).

True to his commitment to winning, Larry Bird played the game of basketball to win and not chase stats. He has said on record that during his playing days, there would be occasions wherein he would be a rebound or assist away from recording a triple-double. But if he saw that his club already had the game in hand, he would decline to check back into the game.

Had this not been his mindset, I’m sure that Bird could have probably ranked higher on this list.

8) James Harden ⦁ - [58] Had 12 triple-doubles for the 2020-2021 NBA season.

Like Wilt Chamberlain, James Harden, Jr. did not record his first triple double until his fourth NBA season, his first with the Houston Rockets. Harden has notched at least one triple-double every season since with a career high 22 triple-doubles coming during the 2016-2017 season.

9) Nikola Jokić ⦁ - (2019-2020 Panini Encased Basketball | Scripted Signatures #SC-NJK [49/49]) - [57] Had 16 triple-doubles for the 2020-2021 NBA season.

The statistical favorite to win the 2020-2021 NBA Most Valuable Player Award this season, Nikola Jokić has (as of the writing) played all of his team’s 71 games enroute to a career high 15 triple-doubles this season.

Jokić is the ninth player in NBA history to reach the 50 triple-double plateau and the third youngest (416 games | Only Robertson and Johnson reached that milestone faster). “The Joker” also holds the distinction of being one of only two centers (Chamberlain) on this prestigious list.

In his five-year career with the Denver Nuggets, Nikola Jokić only recorded his first triple-double during his second season in 2016-2017 (he finished with 6). In the ensuring years, he finished with 10 in 2017-2018, 12 in 2018-2019, 13 in 2019-2020, and the aforementioned 16 triple-doubles this season.

On February 15, 2018, Nikola Jokić recorded the fastest triple-double in NBA history when he racked up 16 points, 11 rebounds, and 12 assists in 14:33 first-half minutes against the Milwaukee Bucks. The previous record was held by Syracuse Nationals forward Jim Tucker. During an away game against the New York Knicks on February 20, 1955, Tucker came off the bench for the Nationals and posted an impressive stat line of 12 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists in only 17 minutes of action.

10) Lafayette "FatLever - (2007-08 Press Pass Legends Saturday Signatures | Red Signature) - [43]

After playing his first two NBA seasons with the Portland Trailblazers, Lafayette Lever flourished when he was traded to the Denver Nuggets. In his six-year stint with the Nuggets, Fat was named a two-time All-Star. He also recorded his first two triple-doubles during the 1984-1985 and 1985-1986 NBA seasons.

In his third season with Denver (1986-1987), Lever averaged 18.9 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 8 assists over 82 games and in the process racked up 16 triple doubles. In the ensuring seasons he recorded 11 triple doubles in 1987-1988, 9 in 1988-1989, and 5 in 1989-1990.

At 6’3”, he is the shortest player in the Top 10.

11) Luka Dončić ⦁ - (2018-2019 Panini Court Kings Basketball | Fresh Paint #FP-LDC [062/199]) - [36] Had 11 triple-doubles for the 2020-2021 NBA season.

Looking back at his first game with the 2018-2019 Dallas Mavericks, there were already signs that the 19-year-old Luka Dončić was going to be special for a very long time. From a rookie season wherein he finished 4th overall in triple-doubles (8), Luka Magic turned up the volume in 2019-2020 and finished first (17) in the same category.

Now in his third season, Dončić—the youngest member on this list—has added another 10 triple-doubles to his career total and currently sits 11th all-time.

12) Bob Cousy ⍿ - (Personal Check Dated April 20, 1997) - [33]

A triple-double leader in 5 of his 14 NBA campaigns, “Cooz” would go on to register at least one triple-double in all but two seasons in his Hall of Fame career: 1956-1957 and his 7-game comeback season with the Cincinnati Royals (1969-1970).

13) Rajon Rondo ⦁ - (2006 Press Pass Certified Authentics | Red Signature) - [32]

After winning the 2007-2008 NBA Championship as the Boston Celtics new lead guard, Rajon Rondo notched his first two career triple-doubles during the 2008-2009 season.

Here are Rondo’s year-by-year triple-double totals: 2 in 2008-2009, 2 in 2009-2010, 3 in 2010-2011, a career high 6 in 2011-2012, 5 in 2012-2013, 1 in 2013-2014, 3 in 2014-2015, 6 for 2015-2016, 1 in 2016-2017, 2 in 2017-2018, and 1 in 2018-2019. There are no recorded triple-doubles during his rookie year (2006-2007), 2007-2008, 2019-2020, and 2020-2021 season.

Of his ten post-season career triple-doubles (tied for 4th all-time along with Larry Joe Bird, Draymond Green, and Russell Westbrook), Rajon’s 29 points, 18 rebounds, and 13 assists performance during Game 4 of the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals (versus the Cleveland Cavaliers) stands out and one of the best I have ever seen.

- ) Ben Simmons ⦁ - [32] had 4 triple-doubles for the 2020-2021 NBA season.

Drafted 1st overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2016 NBA Draft, Simmons suffered a season-ending foot injury that derailed (what would have been) his rookie campaign (2016-2017). Upon returning the following season (2017-2018), he put concerns regarding his durability to rest after capturing the Rookie of the Year award along with 17 triple-doubles (3rd overall among active players that season).

Here are Ben Simmons’ year-by-year triple-double totals: 17 in 2017-2018, 10 in 2018-2019, 6 in 2019-2020, and currently 4 for 2020-2021.

15) John Havlicek (†) ⍿ - (1999 - 2000 Upper Deck Legendary Signatures #JH) - [31]

After a Hall of Fame 16-year career, John Havlicek left Boston as their all-time leader in several categories—including triple-doubles. However, Hondo only registered his first two career triple-double during his sixth NBA season.

Havlicek would go on to record the bulk of his career triple-doubles (24) during a three-year span (1969-1970 to 1971-1972)—getting 8 triple-doubles each season.

Honorable mention (Players with at least 20 career triple-doubles.)

16) Draymond Green ⦁ - (2012-2013 Panini Momentum Momentous Rookies #80) - [30] ↑ Had 7 triple-doubles for the 2020-2021 NBA season.

- ) Grant Henry Hill ⍿ - [29]

18 ) Michael Jeffrey Jordan ⍿ - [28]

19) Elgin Baylor (†) ⍿ - (1999 - 2000 Upper Deck Legendary Signatures #EB) - [26]

20) Giannis Antetokounmpo ⦁ - [25] ↑ Had 7 triple-doubles for the 2020-2021 NBA season.

- ) Clyde “The Glide” Drexler ⍿ - (2002-2003 Upper Deck Generations Signature Classics #CD-S) - [25]

22) Walt Frazier ⍿ - (1999 - 2000 Upper Deck Legendary Signatures #WF) - [23]

23) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ⍿ - (2002-2003 Upper Deck Generations Signature Classics #KA-S) - [21]

- ) Kobe Bean Bryant (†) ⍿ - (1996 Score Board Autographed Card [247/325]) - [21]

- ) Michael Ray Richardson - (2005-2006 Fleer Greats of the Game #GG-MR) - [21]

- ) Chris Webber - [21]

27) Charles Barkley ⍿ - [20]

- ) Tom Gola (†) ⍿ - [20]


About

Tedi Gustilo Villasor, Ph.D. is a former columnist for Baby Magazine (Philippines) as well as a past contributor to NBA.com/Philippines. His other works include the indie comic books Lindol and OBIsessions.

Click here for more information on his work as a psychologist.

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