Gone are the days when a player’s performance is judged organically by watching the game unfold. In today’s NBA, we know that just because a player scores 25 points it doesn’t always equate to having a positive effect on the game’s outcome. Yes, it’s more than likely that scoring 25 is a good thing for that player’s team, but there’s so much more that goes into the formula of winning.
Over the past decade or so, the NBA has undergone somewhat of a data revolution. The rise of advanced metrics and in-depth statistics has created new categories that teams monitor in order to optimize player performance that ultimately increases the team’s chance of winning. Not unlike how sportsbooks and new online casinos calculate their odds.
But despite the evolution of the game of basketball, some statistical categories remain a straightforward metric for understanding a player’s positive impact on the court. Past simple points scored, rebounds grabbed, and assists passed, one measure of impact is the double-double.
What is a double-double anyways?
So what does a double-double mean in basketball? Commonly, a double double is recording double-digits in points and rebounds or points and assists. According to the Jr. NBA website, it’s technically defined as:
When a player reaches double figures (10 or more) in two of the five main statistical categories – they have achieved a double-double.
To break down the definition of a double-double even further, we first need to acknowledge the five main statistical categories in the game of basketball. These five statistical categories are points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocked shots. So double doubles can happen with steals and blocks, too, but as we’ll see those are rare.
Examples of double doubles
So when you hear that a player got a double-double, if we’re going by the definition above, it’s always a positive connotation. But what does a double-double look like?
So to achieved a double-double a player has to accumulate a double-digit total across two of the five statistical categories mentioned above. Here’s a very long list of a very small random sampling of double doubles that were recorded in the NBA.
|Date||Player||Stat 1||Stat 2||Game Info|
|04/18/2022||Joel Embiid||31 points||11 rebounds||summary|
|04/05/2022||Nikola Jokic||41 points||17 rebounds||boxscore|
|12/26/2021||Josh Giddey||10 rebounds||10 assists||tweet|
|10/24/2021||Mitchell Robinson||10 points||10 rebounds||summary|
|04/03/2019||Bam Adebayo||12 points||12 rebounds||MIA-BOS|
|04/03/2019||Aron Baynes||10 points||10 rebounds||MIA-BOS|
|04/03/2019||Hassan Whiteside||18 points||15 rebounds||MIA-BOS|
|12/08/2017||Giannis Antetokounmpo||27 points||11 rebounds||gamelog|
|11/15/2016||LeBron James||28 points||15 assists||TOR-CLE|
|11/15/2016||Tristan Thompson||15 points||11 rebounds||TOR-CLE|
|11/15/2016||Kevin Love||19 points||13 rebounds||TOR-CLE|
|12/29/2014||Tim Duncan||17 points||12 rebounds||boxscore|
|12/15/2007||Chris Paul||21 points||10 assists||boxscore|
|11/15/2003||Tyson Chandler||15 points||11 rebounds||N/A|
|01/07/2001||Kevin Willis||16 points||13 rebounds||SEA-TOR|
|01/07/2001||Charles Oakley||12 points||10 rebounds||SEA-TOR|
|01/05/1995||Charles Barkley||23 points||11 rebounds||UTA-PHX|
|01/05/1995||John Stockton||17 points||14 assists||UTA-PHX|
|01/05/1995||A.C. Green||19 points||12 rebounds||UTA-PHX|
|02/26/1994||David Robinson||32 points||11 rebounds||SAN-POR|
|02/26/1994||Buck Williams||10 points||10 rebounds||SAN-POR|
|02/17/1989||Kevin McHale||23 points||10 rebounds||BOS-PHX|
|02/17/1989||Robert Parish||20 points||12 rebounds||BOS-PHX|
|02/17/1989||Tom Chambers||40 points||12 rebounds||BOS-PHX|
|03/26/1987||Manute Bol||17 rebounds||12 blocks||tweet|
|11/22/1986||Alvin Robertson||30 points||10 steals||wikipedia|
|03/18/1983||Isiah Thomas||24 points||14 assists||boxscore|
|11/15/1978||Kareem Abdul-Jabbar||26 points||13 rebounds||DET-LAL|
|11/15/1978||Norm Nixon||18 points||11 assists||DET-LAL|
|11/15/1978||Kevin Porter||12 points||20 assists||DET-LAL|
|11/15/1978||Jamaal Wilkes||27 points||17 rebounds||DET-LAL|
|11/15/1978||Otis Howard||16 points||11 rebounds||DET-LAL|
|11/15/1978||Ben Poquette||28 points||10 rebounds||DET-LAL|
|02/01/1975||Bob Lanier||39 points||20 rebounds||gamelog|
|01/05/1971||Norm Van Lier||13 assists||11 rebounds||tweet|
|03/07/1969||Wilt Chamberlain||12 points||42 rebounds||tweet|
📅 On this day in 1969, the @Lakers Wilt Chamberlain grabbed a team-record 42 rebounds in a 105-99 win over the Celtics.
Chamberlain played for three different teams (Warriors, Sixers, and Lakers) and holds the single-game rebounding mark for each of them. pic.twitter.com/iGHPpW4mtM
— Justin Kubatko (@jkubatko) March 7, 2021
It’s worth mentioning that there’s no limit to how many players that can have double doubles in one game. Multiple double doubles can happen in one game, as you can see from the above list. Two or three players from one team can achieve a double-double and multiple players on the other team can post double doubles, too.
Though it’s very rare to have more three players (or more) from the same team with a double-double, it’s happened multiple times in the vast history of the NBA — see the game above between the Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Lakers in 1978.
What is the most common double double?
So when Dwight Howard scores 26 points and grabs 13 rebounds, then he would have recorded a double-double, That’s because Howard officially scored 10 or more points and pulled down 10 or more rebounds. And the points-rebound combination? That’s the most-common double-double by far.
Scoring is obviously the most straightforward way of impacting a game, but rebounding is the second “easiest” stat to achieve double-digits, especially for frontcourt players. Pulling down defensive rebounds mean allowing fewer second-chance points to your opponent while grabbing offensive rebounds means increasing your team’s chances at second-chance points. Rebounds can go anywhere so a handful of those can be recorded by being at the right place at the right time.
The second most common form of the double-double is the combination of points and assists. Playmakers and point guards usually accumulate this form of a double-double. You can look at any season statistics and find that many more players average 10 or more rebounds than there are players that average 10 or more assists. For example, only Chris Paul and James Harden averaged more than 10 assists per game during the 2022 season while 12 players averaged 10 rebounds or more.
Getting double-doubles with ten or more steals or ten or more blocks is a different story. Steals are one of the hardest categories to acquire double digits in and double digit blocks are similarly difficult – though anecdotally, recording 10 blocks or more seems to happen in games more often than having 10 steals.
Having said that, the NBA has witnessed some crazy statistical combinations throughout its 75-year history.
Above is a video detailing Steph Curry recorded his 18th double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds in the 2022 NBA Playoffs.
Medium achievement, big impact
The double-double is a one of many ways of assessing a player’s positive influence on that particular game or their impact on the season (if they’re averaging a double-double).
Considering the impact of this feat, It’s very common for NBA contracts to have monetary incentives for players if they average a double-double throughout the entire season. For the double-doubles’ bigger siblings, read more about the triple double, quadruple double and quintuple double.