The 7 NBA seasons with highest triple-double totals (league-wide, all players)

The 2016-17 NBA season was a banner season for triple doubles. That NBA season has seen the most triple doubles in NBA history (and as of this post, it’s not even finished). With at least 22 players contributing at least one triple double, it may also be the most diverse triple double season we’ve seen also.

The Seven NBA Seasons with Most Triple-Doubles
Season Triple Doubles Leader # % of Total
2016-17 114 Russell Westbrook 42 36.8%
1988-89 78 Magic Johnson 17 21.8%
2015-16 68 Russell Westbrook 18 26.5%
1961-62 65 Oscar Robertson 41 63%
1986-87 62 Lafayette Lever 16 25.8%
1989-90 61 Magic Johnson 11 18%
1967-68 56 Wilt Chamberlain 31 55.3%

Triple doubles are like a circus act or a street musician playing multiple instruments all at once. It’s a one man show dominating in three major statistical categories. In this post, we’re taking a deeper look into each season in the top five and a list of players that contributed the most triple doubles for that specific league-wide total.

1. 2016-17 with 114 Total Triple Doubles (updated)

The 2016-17 season past up the previous season with more than a month left in the season. The season of course is in large part because of Russell Westbrook’s 40 triple doubles as of mid-March. It’s also in no small part to James Harden’s 20 triple doubles for the Houston Rockets. Both are serious contenders for league MVP.

Other players that have put in work this season include LeBron James, Draymond Green (including his triple double without points) and the Denver Nugget’s Nikola Jokic.

2016-17 NBA Season
Season Player Triple Doubles % of Total
2016-17 Russell Westbrook 42 37.2%
2016-17 James Harden 21 19.6%
2016-17 LeBron James 13 9.8%
2016-17 Nikola Jokic 6 5.87%
2016-17 Elfrid Payton 5 4.61%
2016-17 Draymond Green 5 4.4%

Not only that, but the 2016-17 season has seen a couple newcomers to the triple-double threat club in young Serbian big man Jokic and Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle. LeBron has always been a nightly threat for a triple double; he just never seems to get to those double-digit milestones. The 2016-17 season has seen a resurgence in The King hitting those numbers.

The 2016-17 season is the first time in NBA history when three players have recorded 10 (or more) triple doubles in the same season. Follow the triple double season total for 2016-17 and find out when the league-wide total hits 100.

2. 1988-89 with 78 Triple Doubles League-Wide

With 78 triple doubles across all 82 games x 30 teams, the 1988-89 season comes in second place and the season with the most “parity” on this list. Magic Johnson led the league with a career-high 17 triple doubles during this season. Not to be outdone (by too much), this was also the season that Michael Jordan moved to the point guard position and posted 10 triple doubles in 11 games and would finish the season behind Magic with 15 total triple doubles.

1988-89 NBA Season
Season Player Triple Doubles % of Total
1988-89 Magic Johnson 17 21.8%
1988-89 Michael Jordan 15 19.2%
1988-89 Fat Lever 9 11.5%
1988-89 Clyde Drexler 4 5.1%

Magic and Jordan would eventually duel in the NBA Finals in the early 1990s once Jordan found his way past Isiah Thomas and the Detroit Pistons. The two Mount Rushmore players each contributed approximately a fifth of the league’s triple double total in 1988-89. Clyde Drexler messed around and added four triple doubles to this season’s totals. It’s worth noting that Larry Bird missed almost the entire season and had Larry Legend been healthy, the 2016-17 season would have had to wait a week or two before claiming the league record.

3. 2015-16 with 68 Triple Doubles All Players

Draymond Green (left) and Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James

At ten fewer than the 1988-89 season, the 2015-16 season tallied 68 triple doubles thanks to the usual suspects in Westbrook, Draymond leading the pack. Harden and Lebron were lower on this list; with a few each with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Rajon Rondo and John Wall contributing a 4-5 to the league total.

2015-16 NBA Season
Season Player Triple Doubles % of Total
2015-16 Russell Westbrook 18 26.5%
2015-16 Draymond Green 13 19.1%
2015-16 Rajon Rondo 6 8.8%
2015-16 Giannis Antetokounmpo 5 7.35%
2015-16 John Wall 4 5.9%

Between Westbrook and Green, the two combined for 45% of the league total (31/68) which help to usher in this “triple double” era. Antetokounmpo and Rondo each contributed 5 to the overall total.

4. 1961-62 with 65 Triple Doubles Total

No other season has one player pulling the most weight than the 1961-62 season. This season makes the “most triple double totals” list only because of Oscar Robertson‘s record 41 triple doubles in one season. That’s a whopping 63% of the 65 triple doubles accomplished that season.

1961-62 NBA Season
Season Player Triple Doubles % of Total
1961-62 Oscar Robertson 41 63%

I’m not sure who had the second-most triples doubles during the 1961-62 season, but I’m willing to bet that Wilt Chamberlain had a handful with his big hands.

5. 1986-87 with 62 Triple Doubles (League)

With 62 triple doubles, the 1986-87 season was led by the active and underrated Denver Nuggets’ all-star guard Lafayette Lever. Lever hit the triple double mark 16 times that season.

1986-87 NBA Season
Season Player Triple Doubles % of Total
1986-87 Lafayette Lever 16 25.8%
1986-87 Magic Johnson 11 17.7%
1986-87 Larry Bird 5 8.1%
1986-87 Clyde Drexler 3 4.8%

The 1986-87 season was the season in which Larry Bird pulled off a triple double by halftime.

6. 1989-90 with 61 Triple Doubles (All players)

The 1989-90 season was one triple double short of the 1986-87 season’s total of 62 triple doubles right above it. This season was unique in that the Washington Bullets’ Darrell Walker came out of nowhere to join Magic, Bird and Fat Lever as one of the triple-double league leaders for the season. His career season saw Walker finish with 9 triple doubles that season; more than double Walker’s total in any other season and that more than push this season into one of the more notable ones when it comes to triple doubles.

1989-90 NBA Season
Season Player Triple Doubles % of Total
1989-90 Magic Johnson 11 18.0%
1989-90 Larry Bird 10 16.39%
1989-90 Darrell Walker 9 14.75%
1989-90 Lafayette Lever 5 8.19%
1989-90 Hakeem Olajuwon 4 6.55%

The current NBA era (2015-) may be setting new records for triple doubles and seeing a resurgence of players that can stuff the statsheet, but it’ll need to maintain it a few more years in order for it to surpass the late 1980s as the golden era of triple doubles.

With 1988-89, 1986-87, and the 1989-90 seasons as three of top six entries when it comes to league-wide triple doubles, it’s clear that Magic and Bird’s (and Lever’s) prime years set the pace for this multifaceted stat. Can Westbrook, Harden and LeBron continue clocking in triple doubles?

Can’t get enough of triple doubles? Here’s the NBA players with the most in one season. How about triple doubles off the bench? Let’s have some with quadruple doubles and the history of quintuple doubles.

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