The Significance Of The Triple-Double

Eric Rodas
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What is the significance of the triple-double stat? The significance of this stat varies as the evolution of the game has created different circumstances that surround and impact the meaning of each individual category. Although this stat line is still a very impressive feat, can we question the authenticity of its nature according to the standards that are being set by today’s generation? In this piece, Let’s describe the impact of the triple double by category, the metamorphosis of its significance during different eras, and clarify its nature.

The triple-double is a stat line that consists of scoring, rebounding, and playmaking. In its most basic concept, accumulating 10 or more units in each of these three statistical categories were a measure of how involved you were in the game. This becomes even more impressive when you factor in positions and their predetermined responsibilities.

Scoring and playmaking are expected from the guard position but rebounding would indicate an above and beyond effort. For a forward, the essentials would be scoring and rebounding, playmaking would imply high knowledge of the game. The fact that you have had a hand in what appears to be the three top statistical categories of the game, let alone reached double digit figures in any of them, implies that you have had a significant impact on your team’s victory. But how true is that implication?

Different eras of basketball have brought different challenges and circumstances to players. As the game began to speed up, certain statistical categories embarked an inflation of numbers due to the number of possessions per game. This was the Oscar Robertson era. The revolution had begun.

Then came the merger between the NBA and the ABA and the game sped up even more now that the transition game was now considered real basketball. The 80’s were the amalgamation of these two different styles and laid the foundation for unorthodox responsibilities per position. The 90’s were more physical but the dominant team relied on fundamentals and guard dominant philosophies. The new millennia gave way to point forwards and a renewed importance of the triple-double as a measure of the impact of certain players no longer defined by their traditional position. Modern day basketball has cleared out the lane and become more dependent on the three point shot. Decreasing the level of physical play allowed has also given guards and open invitation into the lane. The game has evolved.

The nature of the triple-double has always been, and still is, the measure of versatility within the basketball community, but what is its relevance towards winning? Robertson’s feats have been largely forgotten for two reasons. First, the triple-double stat wasn’t being kept at that time. Secondly, because he did not win any championships during this period, most of his efforts have gone unnoticed making him one of the most underrated players in NBA history.

In the 80’s, the resurgence of this renown category was based on the way that Larry Bird and Magic Johnson played. With both icons considered ultimate winners, it was believed that the triple-double stat was the most accurate gauge of their performances. This was widely accepted because the bulk of their stats seem to come in the fourth quarter, what each player called winning time. The Jason Kidd and Grant Hill era ushered in the triple-double as a measure of how they were attempting to carry their teams to the playoffs. They were both ball dominant and if either would miss 20 games in a course of a season, both teams would go 0-20.

Today’s game attempts to put the same emphasis on this contentious stat line, the difference being is circumstances that existed in past eras, which would make this achievement difficult to attain, have now evolved and become nonexistent. The battle for rebounds has been abated due to spread out offenses that rarely have any pivot play and long range shooting which allows for wider range rebounding areas. Assists have receded into simple drive and hand off in the lane or drive and kick for a perimeter shot.

The biggest change is the fact that your best playmaker, by position, has now become your most conscientious scorer and willed by his own virtue resort to being the only deciding factor of a game. He no longer searches for the winning shot, he has now deemed himself the game winning shooter. That seems like a lot of responsibility for one player during an 82 game season in what is supposed to be a team sport. A triple-double is your badge of honor demonstrating the effort you have put forth into winning the game. It’s hard to believe that you are really trying to win the game and not just collecting personal accolades when your statistical out-put has been nonexistent when you are needed the most. Stay up my people…

Eric Rodas

Los Angeles, California

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