When you start following any sport, there are many things to learn. The first things that will come to find are the rules. You need to know the basic rules to understand everything happening on the court, field, or play area. Understanding the basic rules of any sport is not overly challenging.
However, other things pop up when you are watching that are not as easy to pick up on. When it comes to basketball, understanding foul rules can be confusing. That said, we are going to focus on something different today.
When you watch a sport such as a basketball, the TV broadcast has announcers calling the game. As a result, you will hear a lot of terminologies you might not understand. We cannot cover every term you come across today, but we can look at one in-depth. Today we will be explaining what a double-double is, and everything you need to know about its history.
- What Is a Double-Double in Basketball?
- Getting a Double Double
- How Difficult Is It to Earn Double Digits in Each Statistical Category?
- Things Players Need to Achieve a Double Double
- How Common Are Double-Doubles in the NBA?
- How Common Are Triple Doubles in the NBA?
- Has Anyone Ever Achieved a Quadruple Double?
- Final Thoughts
What Is a Double-Double in Basketball?
A double-double is a statistical achievement a player can achieve in any game. It is when a single basketball player reaches double-digit figures in two of the five major statistical categories. The five significant statistical categories in basketball are points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blacks. Getting 10 or more in two of those categories is a double-double.
Double doubles have been an indicator of a strong game for a long time. However, in the modern NBA, they are much more common than 50 years ago. Today, announcers do not reference double-doubles as often. Instead, players look to achieve triple-doubles.
Getting a Double Double
Being a single-faceted player might work in high school, and it could even pass in college, but it is not enough in the NBA. NBA players need to be able to contribute in multiple areas of the game.
Good shooters should be able to make effective passes. Strong rebounders should learn to score and pass in transition. Additionally, players that excel defensively should be able to block and steal the ball efficiently.
Players do not need to be elite in every area of the game to be effective, but being a one-dimensional player will not get you a lot of playtimes unless you are truly exceptional. Achieving a double-double effectively shows you are a versatile player that can be relied upon in many situations.
How Difficult Is It to Earn Double Digits in Each Statistical Category?
Getting a double-double is very difficult. However, getting to double-digits in some statistical categories is more challenging than in others. Here we will break down the difficulty of achieving a double-digit stat line in each statistical category.
If a player is going to achieve a double-double, it will probably include points. There are some exceptions, but almost all double-doubles require a player to get double-digit points. Getting double-digit points is the easiest thing to do out of the five statistical categories in basketball.
Basketball is the most offensive game in the world, with both teams getting over 100 points in most games. As a result, one player getting 10 points is not uncommon. Most teams have several players who score more than 10 points every game. The highest scorer is usually in points in the high 20s or low 30s.
One thing that makes getting more points easier than other statistical categories is that each basket is worth two points. If you score five baskets, you already have 10 points. Players that are good three-point shooters can get to double digits in only four shots. Players can also record points at the free-throw line.
Ten points is an extremely common stat line for even average NBA players. Elite players can sometimes get 10 points or more in one quarter.
Getting 10 rebounds in a game is easy for tall players. You can get rebounds on the offensive and defensive ends of the court. Any time a player takes a shot that hits the backboard or rim but does not go in, the player that recovers the ball gets credit for a rebound. As a result, tall players usually have the most rebounds.
The interesting thing about rebounds is it’s the easiest category to stat pad. Stat padding is when someone goes out of their way to boost their stats in one or more categories instead of making the best play for their team. Stat padding is a common situation in the NBA, especially in blowout games.
Rebounds are easy to stat pad when there is no contest on a defensive rebound. When there is no contest on a defensive rebound, teammates of a player close to a double-double will often let that player get the rebound to improve their stat line.
Usually, the point guard has the most assists in a game for each team. The point guard is the player that spends the most time with the ball in their hands on their team. They are essentially the quarterback of the offense.
Point guards do not score as many points as other positions because it is their job to make the best play to get a scoring opportunity for their team. Usually, that means passing the ball to another player.
A player gets an assist when they pass the ball to a teammate, and that player goes on to score. Unlike hockey, only one player can get credit for an assist on each basket.
Double-doubles with assists are common in point guards. Although they do not score as many points as small forwards, they can usually get 10 or more points. As a result, a great passing game will propel them to a double-double.
Most double-doubles are achieved by getting to double digits in two of the three statistical categories above. However, there are two other categories you can get double digits in that will contribute to a double double. The first of those categories we will look at is steals.
A steal is when a defensive player takes the ball from an offensive player without committing a foul. In doing so, they create a turnover, ending an offensive possession for the opposing team and getting one for their team.
Unfortunately, recording 10 steals in a single game is one of the hardest things to do in the NBA. It happens every once in a while, but it is extremely uncommon.
Notably, the Memphis Grizzlies averaged the most steals per game in the 2021-22 season with 9.7. There was not a single team to average 10 steals per game, with every player contributing. So, you can see how difficult it is to get 10 steals as a single player.
Paul George had the most steals in a game for a single player in the 2021-22 season with eight. He achieved this feat versus the Portland Trail Blazers on October 25th, 2021.
Mikal Bridges and Chris Paul had games with seven steals early in the season. No one else in the league had seven or more steals in a game in the 2021-22 season.
As you can see, getting 10 steals in a game is almost impossible. However, if a player gets to 10, they will almost certainly have a double-double.
The last player to get 10 steals in a game was T.J. McConnell on March 3rd, 2021. The most steals achieved in a single game is 11, which has been reached twice. It was once in 1999 and once in 1976.
Blocks are even more challenging to achieve than steals. Part of the reason for that is there are fewer players capable of blocking the ball in most scenarios. Only tall players can effectively block balls on most close-range shots. As a result, it is less likely for a player to achieve 10 blocks in a game.
In the 2021-22 season, the team with the highest average blocks per game was the Memphis Grizzlies with 6.4. A few more players got close to 10 blocks to a game last season, but no one got there.
Mitchell Robinson and Daniel Gafford each had a game with eight blocks last season. Robinson did it against the Memphis Grizzlies on February 2nd, 2022. Gafford got eight blocks against the Oklahoma City Thunder on November 26th, 2021.
Hassan Whiteside and Robert Williams each had games with seven blocks in the 2021-22 season. There were no other players with seven or more blocks last season.
As you can see, getting 10 blocks in a game is just as challenging as it is to achieve 10 steals. So, if a player gets to 10, they will probably have a double-double.
Players get 10 or more blocks more often than steals, but not by much. The record is 17 by Elmore Smith in 1973. Clint Capela was the most recent player to crack double digits on January 22nd, 2021.
Things Players Need to Achieve a Double Double
Reading the title of this section, you probably wonder what we are talking about. After all, we just looked at the statistical categories a player can use to achieve a double-double. However, we want to discuss less tangible things players need to achieve a double-double.
While we are talking about less tangible things, we want to start with something that can be tracked to the second. A player needs a lot of playing time to achieve a double-double.
Players can get double-doubles without much playing time, but it is uncommon. If a player plays well enough to achieve a double-double, their coach will likely play them more.
However, it is more likely for a player to get a double-double because of their extra playing time rather than the other way around.
It is unlikely for a player to achieve a double double without a strong work ethic. You might be able to get more than 10 points purely on talent, but you will not do the same with assists and rebounds. You certainly will not be able to get there with steals or blocks without working hard.
Assists require a player to pay attention to the movements of each member of their team and the opposing team. It requires a lot of mental fortitude, so players cannot take a break physically or mentally.
Finally, rebounds require a lot of brute force, especially on the offensive side of the court. Players who do not work do not get as many rebounds.
The last thing players need to achieve a double-double is a high basketball IQ. To get to double digits in multiple statistical categories, a player needs a strong understanding of the game and needs to use that understanding to make intelligent decisions on the floor.
Players with a high basketball IQ know when to shoot, drive, pass, and fight for rebounds. As a result, they are more likely to achieve double-doubles.
How Common Are Double-Doubles in the NBA?
Double-doubles are extremely common in the NBA. Almost every game has a player with a double-double stat line, and most of them have several players to achieve the feat.
During the 2021-22 season, there were 2150 double-doubles across the NBA – 21 players had 30 or more, 11 had 40 or more, three had 50 or more, and one NBA player had more than 60 double-doubles.
Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets won the NBA MVP award for the second year in a row, and he did so with 66 double-doubles –19 of those games were also triple-doubles. Of the 47 other games, 46 of his double-doubles were achieved with points and rebounds. The final double-double was achieved with rebounds and assists.
How Common Are Triple Doubles in the NBA?
While double-doubles are incredibly common in the modern NBA, triple-doubles remain challenging to achieve. However, they also have become more common in recent years.
Russell Westbrook famously won the MVP in 2017 after becoming the first player to average a triple-double across an entire season. He achieved the feat three more times in his career in 2018, 2019, and 2021.
In the 2021-22 season, there were 130 triple-doubles. That is a steep drop-off from the 2150 double-doubles. To put it in perspective, players that achieved a double-double were only able to get to a triple-double 6% of the time last season.
Five players achieved 10 or more triple-doubles last season. Luka Doncic and Russell Westbrook each had 10. James Harden got to 11, and Dejounte Murray had 13. Nikola Jokic was the leader in triple-doubles, having 19 of them in the 2021-22 season.
Has Anyone Ever Achieved a Quadruple Double?
Double-doubles are challenging but very common in the modern NBA. A player will achieve one in almost every NBA game. Triple-doubles are more challenging but very common in the modern NBA. A few players have even averaged a triple-double across an entire season. As a result, they have become less impressive than they were in the past.
However, other statistical achievements elude NBA players. We mentioned above that basketball has five major statistical categories: points, assists, rebounds, steals, and blocks. We also discussed how uncommon it is for a player to get 10 or more steals or blocks in a game.
With that in mind, it would be very impressive for a player to achieve a quadruple double in a basketball game. Not only would they need to have one of the greatest rebounding or stealing games of all time, but they would need to have a great scoring, passing, and rebounding game. So, has any player recorded a quadruple-double?
No NBA player has officially recorded a quadruple-double in NBA history. However, most people believe Wilt Chamberlain was able to record at least one before steals and blocks were officially recorded by the NBA.
Statistician Harvey Pollack spectated a game in 1968 where he says Wilt Chamberlain had a stat line of 53 points, 14 assists, 32 rebounds, 11 steals, and 24 blocks. That does not just make it a quadruple-double, it makes it a quintuple-double.
Unfortunately, it does not officially count because the NBA did not officially record the steals and blocks stat lines. Pollack also stated that he believes Chamberlain recorded at least one quadruple-double.
Basketball is a fantastic game for people that love to watch offense. There is plenty of scoring, excitement, and drama. However, there are other statistics to pay attention to you than points.
If you want to see the signs of a truly great player, you should look at the players that consistently achieve double-doubles in the NBA. Those players are versatile and can contribute in several areas of the game.