Who got the first triple-double in NBA history?
One of the most impressive stats a player can get in the modern NBA is the triple-double. A triple-double is defined as a player getting ten or more of any of the five statistical categories of points, rebounds, assists, steals or blocks.
But who got the first triple-double and when was it? That question is hard to answer as in the early days of the NBA and BAA stat keeping was not well kept. Many of the early box scores have gone missing or are incomplete. Add to that the NBA did not keep track of blocks and steals until 1973. The NBA also did not accurately record rebounds until after the 1950 season.
Triple-Doubles were not even well tracked or a thing until the 1980s, despite Oscar Robertson averaging one for the 1961-62 season. Fans became obsessed with the triple-double after Los Angeles Media began coining the term in the 1980s to describe the feats of Magic Johnson.
Harvey Pollack, the long-time Philadelphia score keeper, is once quoted as saying that the first triple-double occurred on February 8, 1951, when Syracuse Nationals bigman Dolph Schayes racked up 18 points, 22 boards, and 13 assists.
With blocks, rebounds and steals not being recorded prior to the 1950-51 season it is going to be impossible to accurately state who got the first triple-double. The ABL and NBL did record rebounds, and the merger of the BAA and NBL is one reason why the NBA began recording rebounds.
But there is evidence that Philadelphia Warriors Andy Phillips may be the true first player to accomplish this feat. On December 14, 1950, Phillips is recorded to have had a stat line of 17 points and 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Phillips had 2 more games of similar numbers, including one on February 8, 1951, the same day as Schayes' triple-double, and Boston's Ed Macauley is also said to have had one in January 1951.
Andy Phillips is a good candidate to be the first player to have had the first true-triple double. Phillips averaged 11 points, 7 blocks and 6 assists for the 1950-51 season. He also came up 2 assists shy of getting a triple-double in the 1951 all-star game.
The NBL did not keep very good records, but some have survived. It is reported by the Oskosh Press that LeRoy "Cowboy" Edwards had a game against Akron where he scored 14 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, assisted on 10 shots, and deflected 12 shots. The deflections could refer to blocks, and if true would not only be the first recorded triple-double, but also the first recorded quadruple-double. Though, the deflections are more likely a mix of what we would call blocks, steals, and deflected passes in todays game.
College basketball has a similar disability to the NBA in that it did not record assists until 1979. The first triple-double in college basketball post-season play occurred 1987 when Gary Grant of Michigan had 24 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists vs North Carolina. The first regular season triple-double may be by Youngstown States Danielle Carson in 1981. Carson is recorded to have had 6 triple-doubles. For the men it would likely be Brian Shaw sometime in 1983.
In conclusion, the first true triple-double is likely lost to time. But the first recorded triple-double in the NBA belongs to Andy Phillips of the Philadelphia Warriors from his game on December 14, 1950.
What a long way we have come for such a meaningful stat nowadays. From something nobody recorded which had no fanfare, to being quite possible the most celebrated accomplishment in modern basketball.