Basketball Assists, Basketball Basics

What does a “double-double” mean in basketball terms? With examples from the NBA

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.

Double Double Examples from 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

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.

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