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What is the most triple doubles in a season?

In the 2016-17 Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook beat Oscar Robertson’s 1961-62 single season triple double record of 41, when he recorded 42 triple doubles. Westbrook played 81 of the 82 available games and finished the season averaging 31.6 points, 10.6 rebounds and 10.4 assists claiming the MVP title. Westbrook also became only the 2nd person to average a triple double across a whole NBA season. Robertsons 1961-62 campaign being the other.

Oscar Robertson and Russell Westbrook are by far the most dominant triple double snatchers in NBA history. In May 2021, Westbrook passed Roberton’s career triple double record of 181 that had stood for almost 50 years.

Westbrook finished the 2022-23 season on 198 Triple doubles and is still active in the NBA. Oscar Robertson retired in 1974 with a career total of 181 triple doubles. Between his retirement and players like Jason Kidd and Lebron James entering the league only Magic Johnson had even put up 100 career Triple Doubles. Magic currently sits in 3rd place all time with 138 career triple doubles. Below we take a look at what makes some players more likely to grab triple doubles on a regular basis and review some of the stories behind the biggest single season triple double tallies in NBA history.

NBA Triple Double single season leader board

Below we have listed the top 25 triple double seasons of all time:

RankPlayerTeamSeasonGamesTriple Doubles
1Russell WestbrookOKC2016-178142
2Oscar RobertsonCIN1961-627941
3Russell WestbrookWAS2020-216538
4Russell WestbrookOKC2018-197334
5Wilt ChamberlainPHI1967-688231
6Nikola JokicDEN2022-236929
7Oscar RobertsonCIN1963-647926
8Oscar RobertsonCIN1960-617126
9Russell WestbrookOKC2017-188025
10Oscar RobertsonCIN1964-657522
11Wilt ChamberlainPHI1966-678122
12James HardenHOU2016-178122
13Oscar RobertsonCIN1962-638020
14Nikola JokicDEN2021-227419
15Russell WestbrookOKC2015-168018
16Magic JohnsonLAL1981-827818
17LeBron JamesCLE2017-188218
18Magic JohnsonLAL1988-897717
19Luka DoncicDAL2019-206117
20Magic JohnsonLAL1982-837916
21Nikola JokicDEN2020-217216
22Fat LeverDEN1986-878216
23Michael JordanCHI1988-898115
24Domantas SabonisSAC2022-237914
25Dejounte MurraySAS2021-226813
Top 25 NBA Seasons: Total Triple Doubles

When quickly scanning the data you can see some names appear more frequently in the top 25 triple double season than others. Westbrook appears 5 times, Robertson 5, Magic & Jokic 3 times each and Wilt Chamberlain Twice. Straight off the bat you can pick out some obvious similarities between these 5 players. They have positional size and are all known for their elite passing skills. (don’t worry we’ll get to Wilt later!)

NBA Triple Doubles and the Jumbo Point Guards

Robertson, Westbrook and Magic Johnson were all point guards. Known for their size, strength and athleticism. The Big O was 6ft5, 205 lbs, Westbrook 6ft4, 200 lbs, Magic was a whopping 6ft9 215 lbs. All big and athletic for point guards, traditionally the shortest position on the court. This allowed them to grab extra rebounds, finish at the rim with ease and see over opponents to grab those extra assists. This concept of jump point guards being triple double machines is backed up by the presence of Jason Kidd (6ft4 205 lbs) and Lebron James (6ft9 250 lbs) as the only 2 players not listed above to record over 100 career Triple Doubles.

NBA Triple Doubles and the passing centers

Nikola Jokic and Wilt Chamberlain are both centers. Anyone familiar with the modern NBA will be aware that Jokic operates more as a point guard than any center in history. His passing skill is unmatched and so it is no surprise that he has racked up over 100 career triple doubles already.

Wilt Chamberlain may seem like an anomaly to the rule that positional size and passing skill makes you a triple double magnet. The exception that proves the rule maybe? Wilt was known throughout his career as a scorer. He was huge, athletic and possessed a speed and mobility that few humans of his size will ever master. He scored over 100 points in a single game and averaged over 50 points a game for the whole 1961-62 season. He didn’t even record 100 career triple doubles, finishing on “just” 78 (7th all time). So how is it that he had 2 seasons in the top 25 for triple doubles?

The answer is very Wilt. We broke down the career assist leaders in our triple article linked here. The below is an extract about Wilts decision to chase assists in 1966.

“Of his 78 career triple doubles, 53 came in just 2 seasons. 1966-67 and 1967-68 when he decided he wanted to win the assist title. His PPG average dropped by 9 points per game, under 30 for the first time in his career and his assists ticked up. His field goal attempts changed from 25 per game to just 14! He averaged 7.6 assists the first season, losing the assist title to Guy Rodgers. He pushed harder in the second season, dishing out 8.6 assist a game and winning his prize the 1967-68 assist title. He also won MVP for both the season preceding his assist experiment and the two seasons he was focusing on assists. In short, if Wilt Chamberlain had wanted to get a triple double every game, he probably could have.”

So while Wilt may not have displayed exceptional passing skills for the majority of his career, it was only because he didn’t need or want to. When focusing on passing he was just as exceptional at that as he was at everything else.

Luka Doncic: The NBA’s new triple double king?

Luka Doncic finished the 2022-23 season on 56 career triple doubles. Impressive for a player after only 5 seasons in the NBA. His rate of a triple double every 5.8 games is beaten only by Westbrook (5.6), Jokic (5.6) and Oscar Robertson (5.7). Despite this Doncic only has 1 season in the top 25 for triple doubles. His success is in his consistency.

SeasonGamesTriple DoublesGames per TD
Luka Doncic Triple Doubles by NBA season

Outside of his Rookie year low and second year peak where he grabbed a whopping 17 triple doubles in just 61 games, Doncic has been remarkably consistent, grabbing around 10 triple doubles a season. He is on pace so far in the 2023-24 season for 12 triple doubles. If he can maintain his career average of 11 triple doubles a season he would comfortably finish ahead of Magic Johnson’s career 138 and potentially push Oscar Robertson and Westbrook for top spot.

His single season high of 17 triple doubles set in 2019-20 ranks only 19th all time and is only of Westbrooks 3rd highest season of 34! Despite all this Doncic is built for the long game. Entering the league young and with a playing style that will age well. Deployed by the Dallas Mavericks as a Point Guard, Doncic is 6ft7 and 230 lbs. His talent isn’t based on speed or athletic jumping ability. Like Jokic he is highly skilled and finds his success beating teams with his mind. Despite that, he is still an oversized point guard who finds rebounds and assists easy to come by. We are betting that his career single season triple double record will be a lot higher than 17 by the time he retires. A few 30+ triple double seasons would see him pass Oscar Robertson and give even Westbrook a run for the all time top spot. If luka wanted to he could even take a run at the single season triple double record and look to top Westbrooks 42.

However, even if Doncic pushes his triple double numbers higher, it may not be enough to take top spot. While Westbrook is declining and likely to finish on around 215 career triple doubles. The new Triple Double King may be someone else from Eastern Europe

This graph below shows Serbian Nicola Jokic’s triple doubles by season.

After a very slow start to his NBA career Jokic triple doubles have risen sharply season by season, culminating in his most recent tally of 29 in his title winning 2022-23 season. 

Jokic is 2 seasons further into his NBA career than Doncic, however he is almost 4 years older than Luka. That said, if Jokic continues to increase his season by season triple doubles, he could potentially top 50 in a season and shatter both the single season and career triple double records before Luka even gets close.

Oscar Robertson may be the OG Triple Double King, Magic Johnson may have been the reason the term was invented, Westbrook is the current title holder. I’m not betting against both Luka and Jokic pulverizing all NBA triple double records in the next 5 years.