A triple-double occurs when a player records double digit (10 or more) stats in three different statistical categories in the same basketball game. The categories are points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. To record a triple-double, a player has to be able to do at least three things in a game really well.
NBA players with most triple-doubles in a season
1. Oscar Robertson - 41
Oscar Robertson holds the NBA record for most triple-doubles in a season with 41. The Big O accomplished the feat during the 1961-62 season, when he actually averaged a triple-double (30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, 11.4 assists per game) on the year. Oscar Robertson is the only player to average a triple-double for a season in NBA history.
During the 1961-62 season, Oscar Robertson played in 79 games, so he recorded a triple-double in over half the games in which he played. Oscar Robertson is the all-time leader in triple-doubles with 181.
2. Wilt Chamberlain - 31
Wilt Chamberlain had the second most triple-doubles in a NBA season with 31. Wilt had 31 triple-doubles during the 1967-68 season. During that season, Wilt Chamberlain also set the record for most consecutive triple-doubles in NBA history with nine.
It has to be noted that the NBA did not start counting steals and blocks as stats until the 1973-74 season. By most accounts, Wilt Chamberlain was a prolific shot blocker, and blocked 10 or more shots in a game many times. NBA historian Harvey Pollock claimed that he once saw Wilt block 25 shots in a playoff game.
In all likelihood, had the NBA kept blocked shots stats, Wilt Chamberlain would have had many more triple-double games in his career. The same is probably true of Oscar Robertson with steals, but to a lesser extent.
T-3. Oscar Robertson - 26
Oscar Robertson recorded 26 triple-doubles during his rookie season in 1960-61.
T-3. Oscar Robertson - 26
Oscar Robertson recorded 26 triple-doubles during the 1963-64 season.
T-5. Wilt Chamberlain - 22
Wilt Chamberlain had 22 triple-doubles during the 1966-67 season. Wilt did not get that many triple-doubles in his career prior to the 1965-66 season, when he started passing the ball a lot more.
As already stated, had the NBA counted blocked shots during Wilt's career, he would likely have logged many more triple-doubles.
T-5. Oscar Robertson - 22
The Big O racked up 22 triple-doubles during the 1964-65 season.
7. Oscar Robertson - 20
Oscar Robertson had 20 triple-doubles during the 1962-63 season.
8. Magic Johnson - 17
Magic Johnson had 17 triple-doubles during the 1988-89 NBA season. It's possible that Magic actually exceeded 17 triple-doubles in a season prior to the 1985-86 season. From stats on basketball-reference.com, I know Magic Johnson had 68 triple-doubles from 1986 to the end of his career.
Magic Johnson had 138 triple-doubles in his career, so he recorded 70 triple-doubles from 1980 through 1985. Whether he exceeded 17 in a year over that time frame is unknown.
ESPN usually lists a player's triple-doubles under their stats, but they list virtually nothing for Magic under triple-doubles. So they don't have the breakdown either.
9. Fat Lever - 16
Fat Lever recorded 16 of his career 43 triple-doubles during the 1987 season.
10. Michael Jordan - 15
Michael Jordan recorded 15 of his career 28 triple-doubles during the 1989 season. As mentioned above, Magic Johnson could easily have had 15 or 16 or more triple-doubles in a season from 1980 to 1985.
For those curious about it, the most triple-doubles LeBron James has had in a season is seven, which he accomplished in both 2008 and 2009.