We’re in the era of the triple double, the once rare achievement is now happening often enough that we’ve now had a few consecutive seasons where triple doubles seem to be happening every other night in the regular season. The 2015-16 NBA season was record-setting until the 2016-17 season when Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Nikola Jokic, LeBron James and Draymond Green messed around and got lot of triple doubles — so many that the season ended up being the most triples doubles in one season in all of NBA history.
Interbasket has gone through the data and have listed the 20 times when NBA players had recorded the most triple doubles in one season.
The all-time leader in triple doubles in a single season was Oscar Robinson who achieved an amazing 41 triple doubles in the 1961-62 NBA season. Over forty years later, Westbrook would break that record with 42 triple doubles in his signature non-stop approach to the game.
Has Multiple 10+ Triple Doubles Happened in an NBA Season?
It’s a funny question to ask now that triple doubles are easier to accomplish, but it wasn’t until the 2015-16 NBA season that it happened in over 15 years. That season was the first since the 1989-90 season where we have had two players record 10 or more triple doubles. The 1989-90 season was the first time that two players league wide had ten or more – it’s no surprise that it was Magic Johnson with 11 triple doubles and Larry Bird with 10 who led the way. In the 2015-16 season, it was Westbrook’s 18 triple doubles along with Green‘s 13 triple doubles.
In that same 2015-16 season, Green raised the bar; establishing a new triple double record for a power forward that was previously held by Charles Barkley and Kevin Garnett, both of whom held the previous record with 7 triple doubles. Draymond was able to break that record halfway through the regular season. Green was also the 15th player in NBA history to get three triple doubles in a row. Since then, the 2016-17 season added to this list and was the first season ever to feature three players with 10 or more triple doubles (Westbrook, Harden and LeBron).
Players with the Most Triple-Doubles in One Season
The triple double used to be an individual feat that rarely came around. Most all NBA players will go an entire career without ever recording a triple double. So when some players come close to the personal statistical achievement, it’s no surprise that they’ll go out of their way to put it on their resume.
When a player becomes aware of how close they are to pulling off the triple-double, some of them will go to extraordinary (and often embarrassing) lengths to get that last point, rebound or assist. For every Anthony Bowie, Rickey Davis, Javale McGee or Bob Sura, there were players like Oscar Robertson, Magic, Bird, and Jason Kidd who pulled off triple-doubles in the normal course of the game without disrespecting the integrity of the game.
Nowadays, players like Westbrook, Harden, LeBron and Green are making it more of a common accomplishment. That begs the question, which players have had the most triple doubles in one NBA season? We’ll take a look at that. To keep things fair, we’re only counting triple doubles during the regular season here — not playoffs triple doubles.
Here are the players that have recorded the most triple doubles in one season.
In non-stop Westbrook fashion, the 6-3 guard amazed everyone when he not only pulled off a triple double more than half of the season, but averaged a triple-double with 31.7 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 10.7 assists, the first time a player averaged a triple-double since the Big O did it (a little more on that in second). Though Oklahoma City Thunder far from being one of the best teams in the league record-wise, Westbrook was clearly on another level; leading the league in scoring while willing his team to a 43-39 record and named league MVP.
The Big O continues to hold the NBA single season record for triple doubles with 41. During the 1961-62 NBA season, Robertson average a triple double for the year with a 30.8 ppg, 12.5 rpg, and 11.4 apg average.
He is the only NBA player to ever achieve this feat, and during the 79 games that he played during the regular season, he achieved a triple double in more than half of the games. He is also the all-time leader in the NBA for triple-doubles with 181 over the course of his career. During the 1961-62 season, Oscar provided 63% of all the triple doubles league-wide. UPDATE: The following hasn’t been updated for 2016-17, see an updated list further down the article.
Wilt Chamberlain still has the record for the second-most triple doubles in a NBA season with 31. He achieved this feat during the 1967-68 regular season, and he also set the record for the most consecutive triple doubles with nine during the season. Of note, prior to the 1973-74 season, the NBA did not count steals or blocks as an official statistic, or Chamberlain would have had a number of more triple doubles both during the 67-68 season as well as during his career.
Oscar Robertson recorded 26 triple doubles in a season twice: once in 1960-61 and once in 1963-64. Of note, the 60-61 season was Robertson’s rookie year in the NBA.
Eventually we’ll get to someone besides the Big O or Wilt the Stilt on this all-time triple double list. Until then, here’s Oscar and Wilt again. During the 1964-65 season, Robertson was able to achieve 22 triple doubles during the regular season.
In the year prior to achieving his high-point of 31 triple doubles in a season, Chamberlain pulled off 22 during the 1966-67 NBA regular season. Prior to the 65-66 season, he did not earn that many triple doubles since blocks were not counted, and he was not expected to pass the ball much. Starting in this timeframe, he started passing significantly more and the triple doubles started to accumulate for the NBA star.
Ok, we lied. Here’s Oscar Robertson again. During the 1962-63 NBA regular season, Oscar Robertson recorded 20 triple doubles in regular season game play, good for 7th all-time.
Finally, a player not named Oscar or Wilt*. Fittingly, it’s Magic Johnson. The Lakers point guard accomplished 18 triple doubles in 1981-82 and 17 triple doubles during the 1988-89. Throughout his career, Magic had a total of 138 triple doubles, and these two seasons represent the highest marks of his career for this feat.
Oklahoma City Thunder point guard, Russell Westbrook had a monster season during the 2015-16 NBA regular season. Westbrook recorded his 18 triple doubles, his last one against the Los Angeles Lakers and he did it in just 17 minutes. He has also had a total of 50 double-doubles during the regular season while averaging 23.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg, and 10.4 apg. And the Thunder benefited from Westbrook’s all-around play, notching wins in all of the games he’s completed this feat.
Magic’s 17 triple doubles in 1988-89, along with Jordan’s 15 TDs (we’ll get to that in a minute), contributed to the highest triple double total of any season in NBA history with 78 occurrences league-wide*.
*the 2016-17 NBA season has since surpassed that.
In the 1987 NBA season, the hugely-underrated and undersized (just 6-3) Fat Lever pulled in 16 triple doubles. His 16 triple doubles led the 1986-87 season in total triple doubles. When considering all players, there were 62 league-wide triple doubles in 1986-87 and that’s the fifth most in NBA history. Throughout his career, Lever would total 43 triple doubles.
During the 1988-89 NBA basketball season, Michael Jordan moved to the point guard position to see how the Bulls respond — though Chicago would respond. Jordan did quite well with the position change — tallying an amazing 10 triple doubles in 11 games, including seven straight games with at least 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists. The Bulls? They didn’t fare quite as well; going just 5-6 in that eleven game stretch. For the season, Jordan recorded 15 of his 28 triple doubles in his career.
Jason Kidd and Grant Hill came into the league the same year and shared Rookie of the Year honors” width=”599″ height=”421″ />
Magic technically had 17 triple doubles in the 1990-91 season, but four of those were in the playoffs. Since we’re only counting the regular season here, we’re counting just his 14 triple doubles in the 79 games he played during the season.
Grant Hill came into the league celebrated for his all-around game and he didn’t disappoint. In his third NBA season, he averaged 21.4, 9 rebounds and 7.3 assists over 80 games. During that dominate 96-97 season, Hill would have a career high in triple doubles with 13.
During Jason Kidd’s career, his name was synonymous with triple doubles. Despite “regularly” triple-doubling in his career, Kidd didn’t make the top-ten the list above. His best season was “just” 13 triple doubles in one season. However, Kidd holds the record for most consecutive seasons with at least one triple double — an unbelievable 17 straight seasons.
Draymond Green has just been a beast during the 2015-16 NBA regular season. Green has smashed the record for total number of triple doubles by a power forward, and he still has several games to play this season. Although he probably will not tie MJ, it definitely sets the stage for the postseason and next year’s NBA regular season to see what Green’s true limits are.
Other Notable NBA Player Triple Doubles (Single Season)
Bird is another triple-double legend that didn’t make the list. Larry Legend’s high was 10 triple doubles in the 1985-86 regular season, but itt bears mentioning that he recorded three more triple doubles in the playoffs.
Of all of Bird’s triple doubles, his most impressive was the night he tallied 17 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists by halftime against the Washington Bullets during the 1986-87 season.
Though LeBron James is one of the players that seems to regularly pull off the triple double, a lot of fans do not realize that Lebron James has never gotten more than eight triple doubles in a season. He leads all active players in the NBA with a total of 42 career triple doubles; however, and we all know that if Lebron was to start chasing stats that he could easily find himself in the top ten. Until then, we’ll just have to watch and see what kind of magic he will continue to make in Cleveland.
I know we broke up post by player, and people love looking at full lists as they’re easier to digest, so here you go (updated 03/13/2017):
Other NBA Triple Double Records
The following are some of the interesting triple double records in the NBA that you will want to note. From the youngest to oldest, there are a number of famous players you will find on this list.
Triple-Doubles with Most Points
|James Harden||60 points||2017-18|
|Russell Westbrook||57 points||2016-17|
|Wilt Chamberlain||53 points||1967-68|
|James Harden||53 points||2016-17|
|Elgin Baylor||52 points||1961-62|
|Russell Westbrook||51 points||2015-16|
|James Harden||51 points||2016-17|
For a more-detailed list of the highest-scoring triple doubles in NBA history (with stats, date, etc.), check out this post for our take on the best triple doubles.
The Youngest NBA Players to get a Triple-Double
|LeBron James||20 years||20 days||01/19/2005|
|LeBron James||20 years||23 days||01/22/2005|
|Lamar Odom||20 years||54 days||12/30/1999|
|John Wall||20 years||65 days||11/10/2010|
Most NBA Seasons with at least One Triple-Double
|Jason Kidd||17 seasons||1994-95 to 2010-11|
|Magic Johnson||13 seasons||1979-80 to 1995-96|
The Oldest NBA Players to Record a Triple-Double
|Karl Malone||40 years||127 days||11/28/2003||San Antonio Spurs|
|Elvin Hayes||38 years||148 days||04/13/1984||San Antonio Spurs|
|Jason Kidd||37 years||343 days||03/01/2011||Philadelphia 76ers|
*Full box scores were regularly unavailable during Oscar Robertson’s and Wilt Chamberlain’s era (not to mention steals or blocks) so it’s very likely that both players would have many more entries on this list of triple doubles.
Triple Doubles are cute. No offense to Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, Jason Kidd and Russell Westbrook, but you’re probably less of a player until you get a triple double coming off the bench or even better, give us the 5th quadruple-double in NBA history. Don’t call me until you do. (ITS SARCASM FOLKS)