The disparity between Russell Westbrook and Nikola Jokic is diminishing. On November 12, 2023, Jokic led the Nuggets to triumph over the Pelicans with an impressive performance of 35 points, 14 rebounds, and 12 assists. This marked his third triple-double of the 2023-24 season and the 108th in his career, propelling him into fourth place on the NBA's all-time triple-double leaderboard. Previously tied with Jason Kidd and LeBron James, Jokic surpassed them with this achievement. He now trails only Westbrook, Oscar Robertson, and Magic Johnson, the top triple-double performers in NBA history. Adding to his tally, Jokic is gradually closing in on the all-time leaders.
So, what exactly is a triple-double? A triple-double refers to a player accumulating 10 or more points, rebounds, and assists in a single game, excluding turnovers. For instance, in Game 1 of the 2023 NBA Finals, Jokic steered the Nuggets to victory by contributing 27 points, 14 assists, and 10 rebounds, securing a triple-double. It's crucial to note that if Jokic had obtained nine rebounds instead of 10, he would have missed out on achieving a triple-double. The most common form of triple-double includes double-digit figures in points, rebounds, and assists. It has occurred several times, although it is rare for players to record a triple-double with double-digit blocks or steals.
As it stands, Russell Westbrook holds the record for the most regular-season triple-doubles in NBA history with an impressive 198. The closest player behind him is Oscar Robertson, who achieved 181 triple-doubles throughout his legendary career. Magic Johnson (138), Nikola Jokic (109), LeBron James (108), and Jason Kidd (107) join Westbrook and Robertson in the exclusive club of players with 100 or more triple-doubles. Among the active players in the top 10, James Harden (74) and Luka Doncic (58) also showcase their triple-double skills. At only 24 years old, Doncic has the potential to break into the top five in the future with his impressive performances.
Throughout NBA history, there have been five instances where a player has averaged a triple-double for an entire season. Oscar Robertson was the first to accomplish this feat during the 1961-62 season with averages of 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 11.4 assists per game. Over 50 years later, Russell Westbrook joined Robertson in this elite group when he averaged 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists per game in the 2016-17 season. In that same season, Westbrook remarkablely recorded 42 triple-doubles, surpassing Robertson's previous record for most in a single season. Westbrook has since achieved this extraordinary feat three more times, making him the only player in NBA history to average a triple-double in multiple seasons.
During the 2022-23 season, Nikola Jokic came close to averaging a triple-double, posting impressive averages of 24.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 9.8 assists per game. Magic Johnson is the only other player besides Jokic and Robertson to come close to achieving a season-long triple-double. The remarkable performances of these players continue to solidify their place among the greatest in NBA history.