Typically, I do not believe that a person can judge an athlete or a performance in a game based on just stats. Games are much more complicated than what mere numbers can reveal, and no one can deny that.
Besides, it’s the stories and the nuance of the games that makes them great—not the numbers.
However, if there is one statistic that fascinates me is the triple-double. After all, the triple-double, often, is the pinnacle of all basketball accomplishments. To get double-digits in points, assists and rebounds, or even blocks or steals, is the mark that a ballplayer had a really good game.
Besides, only a certain type of player can notch a triple-double. For instance, Karl Malone was not going to get a triple-double. The same goes for Kobe Bryant, though Kobe certainly has a few under his belt. Some players don’t like to pass the ball, while others don’t pass the ball well.
Regardless, a triple-double is a true indicator of the all-around player. Typically, players don’t get them by accident. In other words, all of a sudden a player isn’t going to “get hot” and mess around to get a triple-double.
If it could be labeled as such, the triple-double is the most organic of all statistical phenomenons, yet they never sneak up on anyone. If someone is an assist or a rebound or two away from a triple-double, everyone in the gym knows it and they keep track. A triple-double is like a hand grenade in that when it is about to blow, it makes some noise. That's the way it seemed when Larry Bird and Magic Johnson used to get them.
Nevertheless, if there ever was a quiet triple-double that quietly slipped by a few folks, it happened on Tuesday night at the Center. That’s where Jason Kidd—Mr. Triple-Double himself—notched another one on the final shot and rebound of the game. Truth is there were a handful of folks sitting on press row who had to look at the stat sheet twice after the game before asking, “Wait… Jason Kidd had a triple-double?”
Call Kidd the triple-double ninja.
Kidd had 13 points with 13 assists and 10 rebounds in the Mavericks’ 101-93 victory over the 76ers despite sitting on the bench for a chunk of the second half. Closing in on his 38th birthday, Mavs’ coach Rick Carlisle smartly allows Kidd to pace himself because even though he might not be as spry as he once was, he still is a threat when the game is on the line. A savvy point guard is one thing, but a point guard like Kidd who is experienced, smart and able to notch a triple-double without much notice is something else altogether.
“When I used to announce, I said I always felt he played with a rear view mirror,” Sixers’ coach Doug Collins said about Kidd. “He not only saw what was going on in front of him, he also saw what was going on behind him. He’s not afraid to make a mistake with the ball. He reminds me a bit of Brett Favre. He’ll throw it in there. Sometimes he’ll turn it over, but he’s not afraid to do that.”
Against the Sixers, Kidd had those 13 assists against zero turnovers. He had eight assists in the first quarter and 12 of them after three quarters. Kidd went into double-digits in scoring during the final quarter, too, but piled on in the scoring column with a clutch three-pointer with 2:59 left in the game, followed by a couple of foul shots with 40 seconds remaining to help salt the game away. When Andre Iguodala missed a long jumper in the waning seconds, Kidd was right on the spot for an easy rebound.
It just might have been the stealthiest triple-double of his career. Either that or he just has a knack for filling out the stat sheet.
Now in his 18th season in the league, Kidd has 107 career triple-doubles. Heading into this season that averaged out to a little more than 6.1 of them per year, which doesn’t include the playoffs, where he has notched 11. He only has two triple-doubles this season (the seventh of his career against the Sixers), which leads one to believe that Kidd will finish his career with the third-most of all time, ranking behind Oscar Robertson (181) and Magic Johnson (138). Amongst active players, Lebron James is behind Kidd with 31. Johnson, of course, was one of the greatest two-way guards ever. At 6-foot-9, Magic ran the point and posted up on the low block, where smaller guards had no hope of stopping him.
Robertson, meanwhile, averaged a triple-double during the 1961-62 season for the Cincinnati Royals before folks even knew what it was he was doing. That season Robertson averaged 30.8 points, 11.4 assists and 12.5 rebounds per game, making him the only player ever to pull off the feat. He almost did it during his rookie season, too, going for 30.5 points, 10.1 boards and 9.7 assists per game in 1960-61 and again in 1962-63 when The Big O came seven rebounds away from the triple-double average.
Magic came 29 rebounds and 37 assists away from doing it in 1981-82 and 107 rebounds away from pulling it off in 1982-83.
The closest Kidd ever came to pulling off an Oscar Robertson was 2007-08 when he got 10.8 points, 10.1 assists and 7.5 assists. Those were pretty good numbers, but nowhere near what Robertson and Magic did. However, Kidd, Magic and Wilt Chamberlain are the only players in history to average a triple-double throughout multiple playoff series when he did it during the 2007 postseason.
Meanwhile, after getting his latest triple-double, Kidd just kind of shrugged it off.
“Just trying to help my guys. I just tried to come back and help rebound the ball,” he said.
You know, another triple-double. Ho hum.
As far as records go, Kidd is not the oldest player to get a triple-double. Though he turns 38 in three weeks, Karl Malone, strangely, did it when he was 40 and playing for the Lakers.
Maybe that’s something for Kidd to stick around for?