What is a double double in basketball? When a player reaches double figures (10 or more) in two of the five main statistical categories – points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks – they have achieved a double-double.
The most common double-doubles combinations are points and rebounds for big men and points and assists for guards. Reaching double figures in steals or blocks is extremely rare.
When a player reaches double figures in three of the five categories, they have achieved a triple-double. Nearly all triple-doubles consists of points, rebounds and assists.
Achieving a Double-Double
In today’s game of basketball, being a single-facet player simply isn’t going to cut it. As your opponents become more skilled, the importance of having multiple-facets to your game only increases.
If you’re a good shooter, start learning how to dribble and pass. If you’re a good rebounder, start learning how to score. If you’re good at blocking the ball, start learning how to strip the ball.
At the end of the day, having skill in one area might earn you some playing time, but being versatile is what’s going to keep you off the bench. Coaches want players that can do different things when on the court.
When it comes to basketball, coaches want versatile players who can do it all. Earning a double-double is a great way to show your coach that you have skills in multiple areas, and it shows your coach and teammates that they can rely on you.
As we mentioned above, a double-double is achieved when you earn double digits in two of the following statistical categories during the a game — points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.
Let’s take a closer look at these categories:
Points – scoring double figures in points in a game is likely the easiest achievement for a player and will often be the first category players achieve in a game. When you think about it, all you need is five baskets and maybe less if you shoot three-pointers. It’s not uncommon for players to score 10 points in the first half or even the first quarter.
Rebounds – recording 10 rebounds in a single game is much easier for the big men (power forward and center) on the floor since they’ll be positioned under the basket the majority of the time. Depending on playing style, centers will likely get more rebound opportunities than power forwards.
Assists – recording 10 assists in a single game is much easier for the ball handlers on the floor, which are generally the point guard and small forward. For most players, it will be difficult to score a lot of points when passing the ball so much, but the best players will get it done.
Steals – recording 10 steals in a game is extremely difficult to do in today’s game. There wasn’t a single NBA team that averaged more than 10 steals per game as a team (not just one player) during the entire 2018-2019 season.
Blocks – recording 10 blocks is going to be just as difficult as recording 10 steals in a single game. During the NBA’s 2018-2019 season, the team (not player) that averaged the most blocks per game was the Warriors and they only averaged 6.2 blocks per game.
The double-double isn’t the highest achievement when playing basketball and won’t be as prized as the triple-double, but the only way a triple-double is possible is if you achieve a double-double first.
It’s the first step in the process.
The way I see it, achieving a double-double takes much more than the skill to either pass, rebound, score, steal or block the ball.
You can be the most talented player in the world, but I wouldn’t expect anyone to achieve a double-double unless they also had the following three things:
Playing Time – double-doubles aren’t easy to achieve and you’ll need enough playing time to achieve them. Although possible, it’s going to be hard to record a double-double when you’re riding the bench.
Work Ethic – no player is going to achieve a double-double without working hard. You have to be determined if you want to earn a double-double and you have to stay that way for all four quarters.
Basketball IQ – when you play smart and make the right decisions on the court, you’ll put yourself in a much better position to score a double-double. Play to your and your teammates’ strengths, and things will come your way.
With those three things, achieving a double-double will be much more obtainable. Even if you don’t get the playing time right now, having the other two things will eventually give you your shot.
At that point, it’s more of a matter of making the most of your opportunities to incentivize your coach into giving you more playing time.
How Common Are Double-Doubles?
Double-doubles have always been rather common in the NBA, though they are much more common now than they were. They’re still pretty common in college basketball, but not so much in high school or middle school basketball.
As you might imagine, double-doubles that involve steals or blocks are much less common than any of the other combinations.
Only 17 players have ever recorded more than 10 steals in a game and only two of those players are currently playing in the league — Draymond Green and Lou Williams.
Blocks are a little more common with players achieving 10+ blocks in a single game more than 150 times in history. Still, the most common double-doubles come from a combination of points, assists, and rebounds.
Breaking those down further, a double-double containing points and rebounds happens far more than any other double-double — which is why many people call it the “conventional double-double.”
These are generally saved for centers and forwards, but make up more than 90% of all double-doubles.
Points and assists is the second-most common. These are normally reserved for guards and will make up a much smaller percentage of double-doubles.
Overall, double-doubles are common. You’ll likely see at least one every NBA game, but there’s a good chance you see more than that.
The 2018-2019 season saw over 200 players achieve a double-double — with more than 70 players achieving more than 10 double-doubles on the season.
As the double-double becomes more common, players are more inclined to fight to score 20 points instead of 10. The 20-10 double-double has become somewhat of a new-age double-double in basketball.
Which Players Record the Most Double-Doubles?
We’ve briefly mentioned how a majority of double-doubles contain points and rebounds, with the rest of the majority containing points and assists.
With that being said, forwards and centers are among the most probable players to achieve a double-double in basketball, with guards only making up a small percentage.
Over the years, we’ve seen plenty of players earn double-doubles at a high rate. In the 2018-2019 season, the NBA saw over 2,000 double-doubles occur and nearly half of those came from just 20 different players — only three of those players were guards.
During the 2018-2019 season, three different players achieved 60+ double-doubles despite only playing around 80 games. Andre Drummond (center) led the league with 69, Rudy Gobert (center) came in second with 66, and Nikola Vucevic (center) came in third with 60.
If we’re looking at the history of the NBA, here are five of the most consistent double-double getters in the league:
- Tim Duncan – achieved 841 point-rebound double-doubles in his career
- Karl Malone – achieved 811 point-rebound double-doubles in his career
- Hakeem Olajuwon – achieved 774 point-rebound double-doubles in his career
- Kevin Garnett – achieved 741 point-rebound double-doubles in his career
- Shaquille O’Neal – achieved 727 point-rebound double-doubles in his career
The five players listed above were each a double-double machine! They were all centers or power forwards, but are now retired.
Greatest Double-Double Performances of All-Time
While there have been plenty of players that have consistently achieved double-doubles throughout their careers, there are some double-double performances that are worth mentioning.
As we mentioned, a double-double is achieving two of the following — 10+ points, rebounds, assists, steals, or blocks. Although ten is the minimum, there’s no maximum to how many points, rebounds, assists, steals, or blocks you can get for it to count as a double-double.
With that being said, some players have recorded some amazing double-doubles, including the following:
- Scott Skiles – scored 22 points and dished 30 assists in a 155-116 victory over the Denver Nuggets in 1990
- Wilt Chamberlain – scored 34 points and grabbed 55 rebounds in a victory over Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics
- Wilt Chamberlain – scored 100 points and grabbed 25 rebounds against the Knicks in 1962
- Elgin Baylor – scored 63 points and grabbed 31 rebounds against Wilt Chamberlain in 1961
- Michael Jordan – scored 69 points and grabbed 18 rebounds against the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1990
In addition to those five performances, there have been some other memorable double-doubles. Wilt Chamberlain, from 1964-1967, achieved a double-double in 227 consecutive games.
Since 1976, Kevin Love has had the longest streak at 51 straight games, with Karl Malone holding the second-longest streak at 51.
The oldest player to ever record a double-double in basketball was Dikembe Mutombo, who achieved it at 42 years old, and the youngest player to record one was Tracy McGrady, who achieved it at just 18 years old.
While the double-double in basketball might not receive as much praise as it used to, it’s still a tremendous feat for any basketball player and is something to be proud of. In today’s game, however, coaches expect it to come consistently.
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