Wednesday, February 2, 2011

This Day in Black Sports History: February 2, 1968

In National Basketball Association nomenclature, a double-double is the accumulation of double-digit number totals in two of five statistical categories–points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocked shots–in a game. The most common double-double combination is points-rebounds, followed by points-assists.

A triple-double is the accumulation of double-digit number totals in three of the five categories in a game. The most common way for a player to notch a triple-double is through points, rebounds, and assists.

Special double-doubles are extremely rare. One such double-double is called double-double-double, also referred to as a 20-20 or Double-20. It occurs when a player accumulates 20 or more in two different statistical categories in a game.

Another rare double-double is called a triple-double-double, also referred to as a 30-30 or Triple-30.

Throughout NBA history, there have been over 9,000 double-doubles, over 800 triple-doubles, only four quadruple-doubles and no quintuple-doubles, as well as several double-double-doubles and triple-double-doubles.

But in the league’s 64 years of existence, only one player has accomplished the feat of registering a double-triple-double, which is defined as totaling at least 20 in three of the five categories in a game.

On February 2, 1968, Philadelphia 76ers center Wilt Chamberlain compiled 22 points, 25 rebounds, and 21 assists in a 131-121 victory over the Detroit Pistons, a statistical anomaly that no other player has been able to duplicate.

Harvey Pollack, the director of statistical information for the 76ers, claimed that Chamberlain’s 20-20-20 performance was the greatest thing he ever saw at the old Philadelphia Spectrum.

"Nobody's ever even come close to it," Pollack told "Anybody gets a triple-double today and it's a big deal. When it was over, (the players) all knew what he had done.” Pollack is also the only individual still working for the NBA since its inaugural 1946-47 season.

Chamberlain, who averaged an astounding 30.1 points, 22.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game for his career, ranks fourth in triple-doubles on the NBA’s all-time list, behind only Oscar Robertson, Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Jason Kidd.

In fact, Chamberlain, a seven-time NBA scoring champion, is the only center ranked in the top 15 of the league’s all-time triple-double leaders. More impressively though, Chamberlain, who also won 11 NBA rebounding titles, holds the record for the most consecutive triple-doubles.

In 1968, the same season in which he recorded the aforementioned double-triple-double, Chamberlain posted a triple-double in nine straight games, from March 8 to March 20. The second longest streak is held by Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan, both of whom recorded a triple-double in seven consecutive games.

It can only be imagined how much more Chamberlain’s numbers would have dwarfed his predecessors, contemporaries and successors if steals and blocked shots had been recorded during his playing days.

Nevertheless, at 7’1”, the late Chamberlain, affectionately known as "The Big Dipper" and "Wilt the Stilt", remains one of the most dominant and extraordinary players in basketball history.

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