“I got a triple-double,” McGee said. “Who can say they got a triple-double?”
So asked JaVale McGee in Mike Lee's blog post about criticism of McGee’s efforts to get a points-rebounds-blocks triple-double at the end of a desultory loss to the Bulls.
Unlike some, I have no problem with McGee going for the stat in a blowout loss. Just like it didn’t bother me when he tried that in-game free throw line dunk at the end of a blowout loss. When else is he going to get a chance to try it in game action? When the team is up two with 30 seconds to play? I sure hope not.
The problem was not the attempt to get the points, but rather McGee’s embarrassing offensive repertoire and his preening, perspectiveless, immature celebration. Getting a triple-double is something to be proud of, but at the end of yet another brutal loss, it was worth a grin and a high-five, not a swing-on-the-rim tech.
But, let’s put that aside and look at the feat itself. Who can say they got a triple-double? Looking specifically at McGee’s 3x2 (points, rebounds, blocks), it’s been done 48 times since the 1986-87 season (which is when Basketball Reference's box score database begins). So, about twice per season.
The list includes all-time greats, but also a few players who had less stellar careers. Here’s the list and how many times they accomplished the feat:
• Dikembe Mutombo -- 10
• Hakeem Olajuwon -- 9
• David Robinson -- 9
• Shawn Bradley -- 6
• Marcus Camby -- 3
• Ben Wallace -- 2
• Benoit Benjamin -- 1
• Manute Bol -- 1
• Mark Eaton -- 1
• Dwight Howard -- 1
• Andrei Kirilenko -- 1
• Javale McGee -- 1
• Larry Nance -- 1
• Jermaine O’Neal -- 1
• Shaquille O’Neal -- 1
In contrast, the “standard” points/rebounds/assists 3x2 is fairly common -- accomplished 931 times since 86-87. That’s about 39 times per season, not counting playoffs.
Rarest of all is the 3x2 involving steals. A points, rebounds, steals 3x2 has been done only twice (about once every 12 seasons) -- by Clyde Drexler and Kendall Gill.
A points, assists, steals 3x2 has also been done just twice -- by Kevin Johnson and Mookie Blaylock.
If you want to get into dubious distinctions, a points, assists, turnovers 3x2 has been done 15 times; a points, rebounds, turnovers 3x2 33 times.
What McGee did against Chicago was rare and impressive -- especially the blocked shots. A player has blocked 12 or more shots only 15 times in the past 24 seasons, and as Flip Saunders pointed out, McGee earned every one of those blocks.
But, that accomplishment was overshadowed by the debaculous offensive skills he displayed and the silly celebration. So, if I had McGee’s ear, I’d tell him to focus on accomplishing something and let others worry about singing his praises. And oh yeah, I’d tell him to get to work on his post-up game.