The "25-5-5" ClubA triple double is considered to be a benchmark for measuring a player’s versatility. According to the Full Court section at BasketballReference.com, in the past five seasons there have been 171 regular season triple doubles in the NBA. Most of these triple doubles were compiled by stars but that list also contains the names Charlie Bell, Kenny Thomas, John Salmons, Earl Watson and Bob Sura (twice!); no disrespect intended toward those fine NBA veterans but it is clear that you do not have to be an all-time great to reach double figures in three categories in an NBA game. However, the list of players who have averaged at least 25 ppg, five rpg and five apg for an entire season (with the standard NBA minimum requirement of 70 games or 1400 points scored) is much smaller and more exclusive than the triple double list: in 62 years of NBA history and nine years of ABA history this feat has only been accomplished a total of 66 times by 24 different players, each of whom made the NBA or ABA All-Star team at least four times.
Many members of the “25-5-5 Club” are “midsize” players (i.e., small forward/shooting guard types) who at some point in their careers vied for the subjective title of best all-around player in the game, a lineage that could be said to run from Oscar Robertson and Jerry West in the 1960s to John Havlicek (late 1960s-early 1970s) to Rick Barry (mid 1970s) to Julius Erving (mid 1970s) to Larry Bird (1980s) to Michael Jordan (late 1980s-mid 1990s) to Grant Hill (late 1990s) to Tracy McGrady (early 2000s) to the current contenders for that crown, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.
Elgin Baylor and Oscar Robertson founded the “25-5-5 Club” in 1960-61. Baylor averaged 34.8 ppg, 19.8 rpg and 5.1 apg that season. At that time, league leaders were ranked by totals, not averages, and he finished second in scoring, fourth in rebounding and ninth in assists. Baylor never had another 25-5-5 season, though he narrowly missed the mark in 1962-63 (34.0-14.3-4.8) and 1968-69 (24.8-10.6-5.4).
Robertson ranked third in scoring and first in assists in 1960-61 but did not crack the top ten in rebounding. He holds the all-time record with nine 25-5-5 seasons and he is also the only player to begin his career with eight straight 25-5-5 seasons; of course, in his second year (1961-62) Robertson averaged a triple double (30.8-12.5-11.4), something that no other player has ever done—and Robertson actually averaged a triple double overall for the first five seasons of his career! In six of Robertson’s 25-5-5 seasons he averaged at least 30 ppg and in five of them he averaged at least 10 apg, so it could be said that his 25-5-5 numbers were “larger” than anyone else’s, with the exception of Baylor’s lone effort and Wilt Chamberlain’s two 25-5-5 seasons. Robertson, Rick Barry, John Havlicek, Alex English and Larry Bird are the only players to have at least one 25-5-5 season after the age of 30.
Chamberlain averaged at least 33.5 ppg and 22.3 rpg in each of his first seven seasons but he did not reach the 5.0 apg mark until his fifth campaign (1963-64), when he averaged 36.9 ppg, 22.3 rpg and 5.0 apg. He ranked first in scoring, second in rebounding and fifth in assists that season. Chamberlain’s assists dropped in 1964-65 but in 1965-66 he averaged 33.5 ppg, 24.6 rpg and 5.2 apg, ranking first, first and seventh respectively in those categories. He never had another 25-5-5 season but his production in 1966-67 and 1967-68 is worth mentioning anyway: 24.1-24.2-7.8 (ranking third, first and third respectively) and 24.3-23.8-8.6 (ranking third, first and first, the closest anyone has come to leading the league in all three departments in the same season).
Jerry West had the first of his five 25-5-5 seasons in 1961-62, averaging 30.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg and 5.4 apg. Only Robertson, Michael Jordan (seven) and Kobe Bryant (six) have had more 25-5-5 seasons than West did and West was on track for a sixth one in 1967-68 but injuries limited him to 51 games.
Rick Barry is the only player to win scoring titles in the NCAA, ABA and NBA and he is also the only player to have a 25-5-5 season in the ABA and the NBA. Barry had a total of three 25-5-5 seasons, including his wonderful 1974-75 season (30.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 6.2 apg) when he led the Golden State Warriors to a 4-0 sweep of the Washington Bullets in the NBA Finals.
Julius Erving holds the ABA record with three 25-5-5 seasons, 1974-76, and he led the New York Nets to championships in two of those seasons (1974 and 1976). Erving won the scoring title in both of those championship years, finished second in scoring in 1975 and he ranked no lower than eighth in either of the other two categories during those three years. The closest Erving came to having a 25-5-5 season in the NBA happened in 1979-80, when he averaged 26.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg and 4.6 apg.
Larry Bird had four straight 25-5-5 seasons, winning his second and third MVPs the first two times (1985-86) he reached those numbers and then finishing third and second in the voting the next two times. Bird missed the mark in his first MVP season (1984) because he averaged 24.2 ppg. Bird averaged at least 5 rpg and 5 apg in 10 of his 11 full seasons.
Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson and Charlie Scott are the only players to average 25-5-5 in their rookie seasons; Scott did it as a Virginia Squire in the ABA in 1970-71 (27.1-5.2-5.6) and after narrowly missing the mark in his second season he never came close again. Jordan did not reach the 25-5-5 level for a couple seasons--injury shortened his second year and in his third season he averaged 37.1 ppg but only 4.6 apg—before having six straight 25-5-5 campaigns, the longest streak other than Robertson’s. In 1988-89, Jordan joined Robertson and Chamberlain as the only players to average at least 25-8-8; he led the league in scoring (32.5 ppg) while also averaging exactly 8.0 rpg and 8.0 apg. Jordan’s first retirement in 1992-93 marked the end of his 25-5-5 days, though he did reach those numbers in his 17 game cameo appearance in 1994-95.
Just before a series of ankle injuries short-circuited Grant Hill’s career, he had his lone 25-5-5 season, averaging 25.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg and 5.2 apg in 1999-00, his sixth and final season with Detroit. Hill reached the 5-5 levels in each of his first five seasons, so if he had stayed healthy and continued to develop as a scorer he may have put up several more 25-5-5 seasons. Hill has literally spent half of his career battling injuries and many people may have forgotten just how good he really was in his prime.
Tracy McGrady had four straight 25-5-5 seasons, spanning three years in Orlando and his first season with Houston. The albatross hanging around McGrady’s neck is that his teams have never won a playoff series but that is hardly his fault: his teams have never been good enough to advance and he has put up great numbers in both the regular season and the playoffs. At his best McGrady did many of the same things that Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are doing now and McGrady still plays that way during short stretches but, like Hill, his body often betrays him as injuries prevent him from consistently being an elite level player now.
In 2000-01, a 22 year old Kobe Bryant tied Robertson and Scott as the second youngest players to have a 25-5-5 season (McGrady joined that group in 2001-02); Jordan had his first such season at age 21 and in 2004-05 James broke that record by doing so at age 20. As noted above, Bryant has had six 25-5-5 seasons, the third most all-time behind Robertson (nine) and Jordan (seven). James (one), Bryant (one), McGrady (two), Jordan (six), Pete Maravich (one), Erving (two), George McGinnis (one) and Chamberlain (one) are the only players who won a scoring title while also averaging 25-5-5.
Hill’s misfortunes illustrate the hazards of trying to predict the future but James certainly seems to be on track to break many records, including Robertson’s mark for most 25-5-5 seasons; James has done this four times in his first five seasons. Robertson said years ago that James is the one player he thinks could match his feat of averaging a triple double for an entire season. I don’t think that anybody is going to do that but barring injury or a drastic restructuring of the Cavaliers (i.e., the acquisition of a dominant rebounder or a point guard who would cut into James’ rebounding or assists numbers respectively) it certainly looks like James will be putting up 25-5-5 (and then some) for many years to come. No one who is older than 31 has had a 25-5-5 season; Bryant would be 32 by the time he would have a chance to match Robertson’s nine 25-5-5 seasons but if James keeps up his pace until he is 32 then he will have amassed 13 such seasons (and possibly be making a run at Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record as well).
A player who can get a triple double is nice to have around but a player who can average 25-5-5 for a season can carry a team.
posted by David Friedman @ 6:24 PM