Oscar Robertson is the only player in NBA history to average a triple-double. He also holds the next three and four of the five next-closest seasons, with Magic Johnson sneaking in the other.
But LeBron James doesn’t loom too far behind this season.
Here’s each each year with points-rebounds-assists:
- 1961-62 Oscar Robertson: 30.8-12.5-11.4
- 1963-64 Oscar Robertson: 31.4-9.9-11.0
- 1960-61 Oscar Robertson: 30.5-10.1-9.7
- 1962-63 Oscar Robertson: 28.3-10.4-9.5
- 1981-82 Magic Johnson: 18.6-9.6-9.5
- 1964-65 Oscar Robertson: 30.4-9.0-11.5
- 2016-17 LeBron James: 22.8-8.8-10.7
Could LeBron average a triple-double this season?
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue and LeBron, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:
“I think he could if he wanted to,” Lue added.
“I can do whatever I put my mind to,” James concluded. “It’s just my mind ain’t on it.”
This is generally correct. If LeBron’s primary goal were averaging a triple-double, he could – though he’s not unique in that regard, and of course that would never be his primary goal.
The Cavs care more about winning now and especially in the playoffs, not LeBron averaging a triple-double. Otherwise, he’d play every minute. Every shot would come by LeBron or off one of his passes. Teammates would stay clear of the glass to leave rebounds for LeBron.
It’d be a disaster, and it’s obviously unrealistic.
LeBron probably can’t average a triple-double in the course of regular play, which is far more relevant. I expect him to regress to the mean and fall further short this season than he stands now. His minutes per game, 36.3, will likely fall. And the league just plays too slowly (relative to Robertson’s and Johnson’s times) and shoots too well (relative to Robertson’s time) to provide sufficient rebound and assist opportunities.
But that LeBron is coming so close in this environment is special. We don’t need to dress it up more than that.