Triple-double history lesson — THT on TNT — Play-in seeding

Wednesday, May 12th, 2021

  The Opening Tip

  • Oscar Robertson couldn’t dream of the celebration Russell Westbrook is receiving this week.
  • L.A.’s Talen Horton-Tucker hit a game-winner over his childhood idol last night. 
  • There’s some serious star power in the play-in tournament.

Tonight's best matchups

1. How was Oscar Robertson’s triple-double season covered?

When Russell Westbrook collected his 182nd career triple-double on Monday, passing Oscar Robertson’s 181 for most all-time, the basketball world erupted with congratulations.

  • Four years after averaging a triple-double in a season, which once seemed unobtainable, Westbrook broke the record Jason Kidd once said “will never be touched,” too. 

  • Robertson, 82, said a bunch of classy things about Westbrook and Westbrook did the same in return. 

It was a nice moment deserving of the hoopla … but any bit of observance would have been more than what Robertson received when he was pioneering the 10-plus point, 10-plus rebound, 10-plus assist game in the 1960s.

First of all … the word ‘triple-double’ wasn’t established until the 1980s, when either Lakers PR guy Bruce Jolesch or 76ers PR guy Harvey Pollack came up with it. (There is PR guy beef about who was first.) When Robertson had his triple-double season in 1961-62, the exploit didn’t have a name or a niche in the sport.
 

“During my entire playing career, I wasn’t even aware that there was a triple-double statistic, because the term wasn’t in use,” wrote Robertson in 2017. “It wasn’t until (Magic) Johnson was anointed as the all-time triple-double leader that someone said, wait a minute, we had better go back and check the records. And that’s when the records showed that I had set single-season and career records while also being the first player to average a triple-double for an entire season.”

On newspapers.com, the first reference we can find stringing together “Oscar Robertson” and “triple-double” came on Jan. 17, 1982 from -- guess who? -- Bob Ryan:

 
“Larry Bird has everybody thinking about so-called “triple-doubles,” or whatever it is you wish to label those games,” he wrote before citing Robertson as the leader in “so-called” games.

Other than that, we can find no previous reference to Robertson’s exploits using any pre-’80s phrase that might signify the accomplishment.

Mostly, there are a lot of this type of note: “What’s more, (Robertson) had 15 rebounds and 12 assists.” (Bill Reddy, Syracuse Post-Standard, March 22, 1963)

On March 15, 1962, the morning after Robertson’s final game of a season in which he averaged 30.8-12.5-11.4, there is zero evidence of any acknowledgement of what would later become the gold standard of all all-around basketball seasons -- just a few dry game stories and wire stories on him finishing third in MVP voting behind Wilt and Bill Russell.

As far as we can tell, there was no celebration, no ceremony, no tip of the hat.

It was another of many more moments of underappreciation of poor Oscar. Westbrook drove that point home recently:
 

“Oscar’s somebody that did more for the game, played in an era where it was tough being an African-American athlete in our game. He understood that and sacrificed so many things to play the game. I understand that.”

2. Daily GIF: Fourth-place Knicks lose to play-in team

The Knicks and an anonymous play-in team played a classic overtime game last night, which was decided by an off-the-dribble 3-pointer by Talen Horton-Tucker, GIF’d above, who stuck the shot over Derrick Rose.

That’s cool, because …

  • THT had his pocket picked by Rose on the previous possession. 
  • THT went to the same high school as Rose (Simeon in Chicago) and grew up admiring him. Here’s an old picture of the two.  

The Knicks had a chance to tie or take the lead after the 3-pointer, but instead opted to do this.

3. Trivia time

When LeBron James gets his next triple-double, he’ll join a group of five players with 100 or more triple-doubles for their career. Who are they?

Answers at the bottom.

4. Checking in on the play-in standings

The first ever four-team postseason play-in tournament starts in six days.

Quick format reminder: 

  • The seven and eight seeds will play each other once. The winner of that game earns the seven seed. 
  • The nine and 10 seeds will play each other once. The loser goes home, while the winner of that game will play the loser of the seven-eight matchup for the eight seed. 

Here are the East standings as of Wednesday afternoon:

  • No. 7: Boston, 35-33
  • No. 8 Charlotte, 33-36
  • No. 9: Indiana, 33-36
  • No. 10: Washington, 32-37 

TBH, the East is way less interesting than the West. The Celtics are three games behind Miami, Atlanta and New York, which are all tied for the six seed, and the Wizards are three games ahead of 11th-seeded Chicago.

And the West: 

  • No. 5: Portland, 40-29
  • No. 6: Dallas, 40-29

  • No. 7: Lakers, 39-30
  • No. 8: Golden State, 37-33
  • No. 9: Memphis, 36-33
  • No. 10: San Antonio, 33-35

So … unless the Lakers win out and the Blazers and Mavs both go 1-2 or worse, L.A. will be in the play-in game, because the Mavs and Blazers both hold tie-breakers over the Lakers. 

That means a Warriors-Lakers play-in matchup is likely, which would feature four future Hall of Famers.

5. 05/12/2019: 🎶 This magic moment 🎶

Kawhi Leonard hit his four-bounce buzzer-beater two years ago today.

Forgive our nostalgia, but the 2019 NBA Playoffs were the best in a long time.

They featured …

  • Crowds. Remember?
  • Kawhi’s buzzer-beater to beat the 76ers.
  • Kawhi turning into Michael Jordan in general. 
  • Damian Lillard’s buzzer-beater to beat OKC. 
  • The Nuggets-Blazers four OT game. 
  • Giannis’ breakout postseason run. 
  • Rockets-Warriors for the second year in a row. 

Oh, and … the damn Toronto Raptors won the NBA Finals.

[READ: The bounces on Kawhi Leonard’s game-winner, ranked]

6.  Quick hits

  • 92-year-old Bob Cousy was on hand for the opening of the new ballpark in Worcester yesterday: “My name is Bob Cousy. If that name is vaguely familiar to you, you’ve been receiving a Social Security check for about 20 years.”
  • Shaq on the 2020-21 Knicks: “Zach Randolph is playing MVP caliber basketball.” 
  • D’Angelo Russell sat on a sign thinking it was a chair yesterday.
  • The 2021 Celtics are the 2020 Sixers who are the 2019 Celtics
  • Whoever runs the Rockets’ Twitter account is pushing the limits.
  • Andrew Wiggins, who occasionally remembers he’s good at basketball, scored 38 points on 24 shots last night in a big win over the Suns. 

7.  Reads and podcast pick

Trivia answer:  Russell Westbrook (182), Oscar Robertson (181), Magic Johnson (138), Jason Kidd (107), LeBron (99).


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