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Friday, September 14, 2012

Wilt Chamberlain's "Big" Triple Doubles

Julius Erving posted a 26 point, 20 rebound, 15 assist triple double as a rookie in just the fifth game of his playoff career. I called Erving's stat line "a triple double of Wilt Chamberlain/Oscar Robertson proportions" because Chamberlain and Robertson are perhaps the only other players in pro basketball history capable of putting up a triple double as "big" as Erving's; I would define a "big" triple double as one that consists of at least 25 points plus more than 10 rebounds and more than 10 assists and/or one that consists of at least a total of 20 in two different categories--in other words, the player did not just barely attain triple double status (perhaps grabbing an otherwise meaningless rebound late in a blowout) but instead he dominated across the board and had a major scoring impact in addition to playing an excellent floor game. Robertson averaged a cumulative 30-10-10 in the first five seasons of his career (including the 1961-62 campaign when he became the only player to average a triple double for an entire season: 30.8 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 11.4 apg) and Chamberlain averaged 30.1 ppg and 22.9 rpg for his entire career, so both players clearly accumulated many "big" triple doubles.

There is no indication that any other player, let alone a rookie, had a playoff triple double matching or exceeding Erving's 26-20-15 line in all three departments but Matthew Shuh--a contributor to the statistical website www.nbastats.prv.pl--pointed out to me that Chamberlain had two such triple doubles in the regular season. Chamberlain had 31 points, 21 rebounds and 15 assists in Philadelphia's March 3, 1968 134-103 win versus San Diego and Chamberlain had 35 points, 24 rebounds and 15 assists in Philadelphia's February 14, 1968 149-125 win versus Seattle. Chamberlain shot 15-18 from the field in the Seattle game but just 5-12 from the free throw line, so that game represented a microcosm of both his overall dominance and his one skill set weakness.

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posted by David Friedman @ 12:09 PM

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