Sports Reference Blog

We Have Details on 99% of Triple-Doubles in NBA History

Posted by Mike Lynch on November 27, 2019

As we continue to make efforts to flesh out as many historical NBA box scores as possible, one of the benefits is being able to capture many of the most outstanding individual efforts in NBA history. A prior example is that we have shooting numbers for all but one 50-point game in NBA history. Recently, we were curious to see how robust our coverage of NBA triple-doubles is. We're happy to report that we believe we have details on 99% of the triple-doubles in NBA history (well, technically it's only 98.6%, but we'll round up).

Through the November 26, 2019, it is our belief, based on research, that there have been 2,613 regular season triple-doubles and 231 postseason triple-doubles in NBA history. We have the particulars on 2,574 of the regular season ones and all 231 of the playoff ones. That means that out of 2,844 triple-doubles, we're missing details on 39 of them. The main culprit here is Bob Cousy, for whom we're missing details on 15 of his 33 career triple-doubles. Here's a list of the players for whom we're missing at least one triple-double:

The vast majority of the "missing" triple-doubles are from the 50s and 60s. The most recent one missing is a Billy Cunningham triple-double from the 1974-75 season. The only others missing from the 70s are John Havlicek (1969-70), Norm Van Lier (1970-71) and Wes Unseld (1970-71).

We're confident that our triple-double coverage is 100% complete back to the 1975-76 season. One of the reasons that some of the earlier ones are missing is because not even teams themselves tracked triple-doubles before Magic Johnson made them a phenomenon in 1979-80. Even though Oscar Robertson is the all-time leader in triple-doubles, the term "triple-double" didn't even exist during his career. Consequently, many team media guides will print "since 1979-80" when they list their triple-doubles.

If you have any information on triple-doubles we seem to be missing, please let us know, so that we can add the details to the appropriate box score.

3 Responses to “We Have Details on 99% of Triple-Doubles in NBA History”

  1. MCJ Says:

    It appears that you have 99% coverage of all point/rebound/assist triple-doubles.  Unfortunately, because they weren’t tracked, we’ll likely never know anything about block or steal iterations of the triple double that occurred prior to the early 70’s.

    Good work with the data available though!

  2. garret Says:

    I thinks it very interesting that you took the time to look at the stats in that much detail, really shows you love your job keep up the hard work!

  3. karikadaiboy Says:

    Unrelated to this post but a task for stats-nerds.

    Current Lakers team has 3 overall no 1 draft picks in their roster: LeBron, Dwight & Unibrow.

    I remember the 86-87 Lakers had 4 overall no 1 draft picks after they traded for Klay's dad in the mid-season: KAJ, Magic, Big Game James & obviously Klay's dad.

    So my question is: How many teams in NBA history have had 2, 3, 4 or more overall no 1 draft picks in their roster?