The Art of the Triple-Double
Posted Apr 9 2002 3:01PM
Examining the magnitude of Oscar Robertson's season through Jason Kidd
For all the talk of how today's players are bigger, stronger and more athletic, there are statistical achievements from "way back when" that are untouchable now and could easily stay that way well into the future.
Forty years after Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double (30.8 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 11.4 apg) for the entire 1961-62 season, his closest current counterpart, Nets guard Jason Kidd, thinks the legend stands secure in the record books.
"It's hard. Everything has to go your way," Kidd says. "Your teammates have to knock down shots, you have to knock down shots and then you have to go battle with the trees – the big guys – for rebounds. Sometimes people think it's easier than it is. Everything has to go your way that night and so for Oscar to average one for a whole season is just unbelievable."
To start off with, you have to be an "assist guy" and that, in itself, is a rarity in a league dominated by scorers. For this reason, point guards have a better chance at achieving triple-doubles than players in other positions. Since his rookie season, Kidd has had a reputation for being unselfish, someone who would pass first and shoot second. This gives him not only much-desired teammate status, but also a leg-up on the triple-double. Celtics forward Antoine Walker, for example, has 28 double-doubles this season, but only two triple-doubles. And just three times in those double-doubles was Walker within two assists of reaching the third double.
However, Kidd's got the assists in the bag and so he says, the rebounds, something that you'd think might be difficult for a 6-4 point guard. The toughest part, he believes oddly enough, is in the third category.
"It's more, probably for me, the scoring," Kidd says with a wry chuckle. "I've probably come up short because of the scoring a lot of times on the triple-double. The rebounding part isn't as hard, just because I come back and try to help the big guys a lot. I don't know. Scoring or rebounding, it's either one on any given night. Because sometimes my big men don't want to give me any rebounds. It depends though. Most of the time I've fallen short not because of assists, but because of rebounds and points."
In all fairness to Kidd's shooting confidence, he's only missed a triple-double on account of scoring three times this season. But, given the rarity of the achievement, adding three triple-doubles would increase his season total by almost 50 percent. And certainly the Nets aren't going to argue with him becoming more of a scoring threat as they enter the playoffs. So fire away, Jason.
The only numbers Kidd keeps track of during a game are the points on the scoreboard. He'll take a win over a triple-double any day. But his teammates don't let him stay completely oblivious, especially when he's getting close to the magic number.
"One of my teammates will say, 'You need an assist; you need a rebound; can you please give me two points?'" Kidd says. "When they say 'give me two points,' it's kind of funny because most of the time that's not the one stat people are worried about. That's how I find out. Or I have a sense that I'm involved, but sometimes you think you have more assists than you do. The big thing is going out there and playing and not so much worrying about the triple-double because that will take care of itself."
Just as Robertson's triple-double season gave him the moniker as one of the game's most complete players, Kidd takes pride in his own accomplishments because a triple-double lets him know that he was very much involved in all aspects of the night's game. It also usually means a win. The Nets are 7-1 this season when Kidd has logged a triple-double.
As impressive as Kidd's proficiency for a triple-double is, it still pales in comparison to that of Robertson. Kidd has a whopping 135 triple-doubles to go before catching Robertson's career mark. With a week left in the season, the Nets guard will wind up falling about two and a half rebounds per game short of averaging a triple-double, although this will be the closest he's come in his nine-year career. So Kidd might very well be the one most impressed with Robertson's 1961-62 season.
"Huge," he says of Robertson's triple-double average. "I think it ranks up there with the home run chase. Everyone said it wouldn't be broken and I think this record won't be broken. Averaging a triple-double, everything has to go your way almost every night. He did it quite well, so that one will stand for a long time."