The triple-double has become commonplace in today’s NBA, thanks to the league’s higher pace of play and focus on three-point shooting, giving greater opportunity to active players such as James Harden and Russell Westbrook to pull down impressive rebounding numbers for their size or rack up insane assist totals in any given game.
There were an NBA record 115 triple-doubles this season alone among 23 players, with Westbrook, Harden and LeBron James accounting for 77 of them. By comparison, there were only 32 triple-doubles recorded 10 years ago in the 2006-07 season.
As you can tell, triple-doubles were extremely rare only going back a few years, and it was a major accomplishment for a player to grab that 10th rebound or 10th assist. Sometimes, players who very seldom stuffed the stat sheet would have a chance to grab a triple-double on the rare occasion and would go to insane lengths just for double-digit assists or rebounds.
These are five of the worst examples.
5. Anthony Bowie
The date was March 19, 1996. The Orlando Magic were facing off against the Detroit Pistons, with the Magic holding a 20-point lead with the game winding down.
The Magic shooting guard currently had accumilated 20 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists, just shy of his first career triple-double.
With a lead as big as 20 points, the kindest thing to do in the NBA is dribble out the clock and not try to run up the score on your opponents. But all unwritten rules go out the window when personal glory is at stake.
With a Pistons player at the free throw line, Bowie grabbed the miss, giving him 10 rebounds, and promptly called a timeout with 5 seconds to spare. The Pistons’ bench was disgusted with this act, and rightly so. Then-Detroit coach Doug Collins told his players to not even bother playing anymore and stormed off the court. Bowie got his 10th assist on an unguarded dunk with 0.8 seconds left, and immediately went over to Collins to apologize, but Collins was having none of it.
4. Bob Sura
Bob Sura was onto something special in 2004.
A relatively unknown player, Sura was on track to be the first player in 7 years to collect 3 straight tiple-doubles. In the third game against New Jersey, Sura was a rebound shy of the impressive feat with the game easily over.
Sura didn’t give up hope however, and after a three-point make from Ron Mercer, Bob received the ball at the other end of the court and intentionally missed his shot to grab an offensive board and secured his third straight triple-double.
The following day however, the NBA reviewed the tape, and rescinded Sura’s field goal attempt, also removing his 10th rebound in the process.
3. Ricky Davis
This debacle is one of the more well-known incidences on our list, but only comes in at number 3.
It was a mid-March game between the Cavaliers and Jazz in 2003, a year before LeBron James would be drafted into the league. Ricky Davis was arguably the best player on Cleveland’s roster at the time, and the Cavs had managed to take a commanding 120-95 lead over Utah with the game almost over.
Davis was sitting on 26 points, 12 assists and 9 rebounds with 6 seconds remaining and Cavs possession. A teammate inbounded the ball to Davis, who proceeded to attempt a shot at his own basket, gobbling up the uncontested rebound for his 10th of the night, handing him the triple-double he so desperately wanted. Too bad shots at your own net don’t count as field goal attempts, as his rebound was rendered worthless by the league.
Utah guard DeShawn Stevenson immediately took exception and fouled Ricky Davis hard.
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan had this to say about Davis:
“DeShaun fouled him. I would’ve fouled him too, I would’ve knocked him on his ass.”
2. JaVale McGee
Ah JaVale McGee. Who would’ve thought the Shaqtin’ MVP would make an appearance on this list?
To be fair though, McGee has really matured with his role on the Golden State Warriors, but his earlier years definitely deserved some of the criticism he caught from Shaq and Co.
The then-Wizards center was on track for a very impressive triple-double consisting of 12 rebounds, 12 blocks (!), but only 9 points with 3 minutes to spare against the Bulls.
McGee was at the line, but bricked the free throw, keeping him at 9 points.
For the next 3 excruciating minutes, Washington ran multiple post plays for JaVale to get him to score, but he seemed incapable of putting the ball through the hoop, missing on every single attempt.
Then, with 19 seconds remaining, JaVale got a dunk right under the hoop, giving him 11 points and the triple-double. In his excitement however, McGee pulled up on the hoop, something the officials took offense to, and called him for excessive celebration, putting the cherry on top of the 19-point loss to the Bulls.
But hey, McGee got his triple-double right, so who cares?
1. Andray Blatche
Damn, it appears the Wizards definitely have a reputation for attracting stat-chasers.
Only a year before Blatche‘s teammate JaVale would be chasing a triple-double, Andray would be chasing one of his own in an early-April game against the Nets at home.
Blatche was sitting on a statline of 20 points, 13 assists and 9 rebounds with less than 30 seconds to spare. Washington had the game locked up already, so the game wasn’t in jeopardy thankfully.
Chris Douglas-Roberts fires up a three, which misses everything, and Blatche’s teammate Cartier Martin grabs the board, unknowingly robbing Andray of his triple-double.
Despite this, JaVale McGee gets fouled on the other end with 8 seconds to spare, gifting Blatche one last opportunity at greatness.
Andray wanted this rebound so bad, when lining up on the block, he pleaded with Nets big man Yi Jianlian to let him grab the board if McGee missed.
Unfortunately for Blatche, McGee would make the free throw, and Andray would never come close to a triple-double in his career again.