LeBron’s epic 40 point, 18 rebound, 9 assist performance was the tip of the iceberg is what has been a career of near misses.
Something has stuck with me through the entirety of his 9 year career that has always bugged me about LeBron James. The fact I have watched him religiously for 9 years rules out the late game bullshit everyone goes on about, because I know that simply is a product of LeBron hate mongering. That is not the annoyance. It is not his gradually receding hairline nor is it any of the nail chewing, wrist band adjusting, obsessive compulsive traits he possesses. It also has nothing to do with The Decision.
I refer to it simply as ‘the one that got away’, both literally and figuratively.
By that I mean when he is ONE REBOUND or ONE ASSIST away from recording a triple double.
See what I did there?
Call me a petty statistic whore or whatever you will, but this is arguably the greatest achievement in a single game of basketball (perhaps only surpassed by outrageous scoring performances). Players like Oscar Robertson and Jason Kidd have built careers upon their ability to fill the stat sheet. More recently, Rajon Rondo has redefined both his career and the point guard position within this metric.
The most painfully resonating of James’ near misses was of course the once-in-a-lifetime performance he offered against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden in that infamous week of February in 2009. I say infamous because only two nights previously Kobe Bryant set the building record with a mind-blowing 61 point video game performance, which was backed up by James’ lesser scoring but much more complete effort.
As the game finished, the records were rewritten and James became one of only three players in history to record a 50 point triple double. That was until a few days later when one of his rebounds was rescinded and he was cruelly denied a place in history aside Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Obviously it was not the first nor the last time he was associated with the two, but this one hurt. I maintain that you can go back through every game ever played and change the awarding of a rebound or a steal or a turnover or even the determining of a two-three point shot. Only for LeBron James would they actively attempt to alter history. Perhaps they analysed it closer because it was the first time it had happened since 1975 and only the third time in the game’s existence, but it was completely unnecessary and unjustified.
A release from the league said: “All NBA games are reviewed to ensure the accuracy of the game statistics.”
Anyways, that is the reasoning behind my motivation to write this.
I went through each and every game LeBron James has played throughout both his regular and post season career to see how many times he missed a triple double by a solitary rebound or assist. It was not quite as daunting as you would believe, the ridiculousness of the internet aided my search fruitfully.
As it officially stands, LeBron James is tied 9th with Grant Hill on the All Time Triple Double List. He has 29.
He sits 7th in Playoff triple doubles with 6.
In the regular season alone, 22 times LeBron James has been been a rebound or an assist short of a triple double. To be fair, 4 of these occasions were 9 rebound and 9 assist performances, but given both can be achieved in one possession I deemed it OK to include them. It would have been very easy and hugely overwhelming to include all the games of double doubles partnered with 8 rebound/8 assist performances, but I chose not to beat you to death with numbers.
22 times this has happened in the regular season alone. That means had James been in a little better position for that extra rebound, or perhaps Larry Hughes could have made one of the several open looks James gave him, he could be as high as 6th all time, just below Larry Bird.
The same can be said for his playoffs career. 7 times James has been within tantalisingly close touching distance to a triple double, only to be denied by the never-ending arms of Zydrunas Ilgauskas or the inability of Eric Snow. Had James converted all of those he would be second all time, trailing only Magic Johnson.
It needs to be said that players like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and particularly Oscar Robertson played in eras where statistics were heavily inflated. Defenses were not nearly as philosophical nor effective, as scores below 100 were considered ‘low scoring’. Rather, totals in excess of 120 were common, meaning more shots, more assists, more steals, more blocks, more rebounds, more possessions, more everything.
Had someone like LeBron James played in the time of Magic and Bird, well, the term statistic would be spelt L-E-B-R-O-N.
It would be unfair of me to suggest LeBron was somehow wronged in each of the 29 times he was so narrowly denied. There are more than likely other performances of his that were attributed numbers that were not correct. Perhaps even some of those 29 were miscalculated or wrongly awarded.
We all know he is this generation’s Wilt Chamberlain, the new Oscar Robertson. A perennial fantasy freak that produces video game performances at will.
But my hunger needed to be satisfied, and I have done so.
I hope you too enjoyed the meal.
Tags: Boston Celtics Cleveland Cavaliers Grant Hill Jason Kidd Kobe Bryant LA Lakers Larry Bird Lebron James Los Angeles Lakers Magic Johnson Miami Heat NBA New York Knicks NY Knicks Oscar Robertson Rajon Rondo Wilt Chamberlain