A triple-double is recorded by a player when he records double digit (10 or more) stats in three of five categories in the same basketball game. The five categories are points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals. This is a list of players with the most official triple-doubles in NBA history in regular season games.
I say official because blocks and steals were not officially counted as a stat in the NBA until the 1973-74 season. So all triple-doubles prior to to the 1973-74 season consisted of just double digits in points, rebounds, and assists. Logically, players on this list of all-time leaders in triple-doubles who played in the NBA prior to 1973-74 probably had more triple-doubles than officially listed.
Some people like to knock triple-doubles as a stat. To me, it's a great accomplishment when a player records a triple-double. Only great players can record double digit stats in three different categories in the same game many different times.
Players with the most triple-doubles in NBA history (regular season)
1. Oscar Robertson - 181
Not only does Oscar Robertson hold the official record for the most triple-doubles in NBA history with 181, he is the only player to average a triple-double for a season. In 1961-62, Oscar Robertson averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 11.4 assists per game in his second season in the NBA.
2. Magic Johnson - 138
Magic Johnson recorded the second most triple-doubles in NBA history with 138. Magic is the all-time leader in triple-doubles in the playoffs with 30.
3. Jason Kidd - 107
Jason Kidd currently has the third most triple-doubles in NBA history, and the most by an active player, with 107. Jason Kidd and Vince Carter (New Jersey Nets) are one of only two sets of teammates to ever record triple-doubles in the same game (Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen are the other two teammates).
Only six times in NBA history have two players from opposing teams recorded triple-doubles in the same regular season game. Jason Kidd had triple-doubles in four of those games. So only eight times in NBA history have two players had triple-doubles in the same game, and Jason Kidd had triple-doubles in five of those games.
4. Wilt Chamberlain - 78
Wilt Chamberlain has the fourth most official triple-doubles in NBA history with 78. Wilt holds the record for most consecutive games with a triple-double, recording triple-doubles in nine consecutive games in the 1967-68 season.
Wilt is the only player to ever record a double triple-double. In 1968, Wilt Chamberlain had 22 points, 25 rebounds, and 21 assists in a NBA game vs the Detroit Pistons.
By many accounts, Wilt Chamberlain was a great shot blocker, and probably exceeded 10 blocked shots in a game many times. Harvey Pollock always claimed that Wilt Chamberlain once blocked 25 shots in a playoff game. Had blocked shots been counted in Wilt's day, he would have had more, likely a lot more, triple-doubles than 78 in his career.
5. Larry Bird - 59
Larry Bird has the fifth most triple-doubles in NBA history with 59. Bird averaged a double-double for his career, 24.3 points and 10.0 rebounds per game, and he was also excellent at dishing the ball, especially on the fast break.
6. Lafayette Lever - 43
Lafayette Lever, better known as Fat Lever, has the sixth most triple-doubles in NBA history with 43. Fat Lever is the first player on this list who is not, and never will be, in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
7. LeBron James - 35
After not recording a single triple-double during the 2011-12 season, LeBron James has recorded three triple-doubles in 2012-13 to increase his career total to 35. That is seventh best in NBA history, and second best among active players.
8. John Havlicek - 30
John Havlicek recorded eight triple-doubles in a season for three consecutive seasons from 1970 to 1972.
9. Grant- Hill - 29
Grant Hill was a triple-double machine for two consecutive seasons, recording 10 in 1996, and 14 in 1997. All 29 of his career triple-doubles came during his first five seasons in the NBA. If not for injuries, Grant Hill would have been a legendary NBA player.
10. Michael Jordan - 28
As stated above, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen had triple-doubles as teammates in the same game. The game was in 1989 against the Los Angeles Clippers.
11. Clyde Drexler - 25
12. Walt Frazier - 23
13. Chris Webber - 22
14. Michael Ray Richardson - 21
15. Rajon Rondo - 18