As the NBA keeps pushing its boundaries, so do the record books. This year saw dozens of records fall — old ones and new, on the league, team, and individual level, and sometimes coming with hilarious qualifiers that just barely made them true records. You can likely guess that many relate to three-point shooting, but it’s not just that.
Triple-doubles were as prominent a conversation as last year, but records galore were still broken. One that was not was the rookie triple-double record, despite some misidentification that Ben Simmons did just that. While Simmons did pass Magic Johnson, he came nowhere close to Oscar Robertson’s 26 triple-doubles as a rookie. So just remember that if you’re looking for him on this list.
But it was players like Simmons who helped push the league’s boundaries this year, something that happens with increasingly frequency. We know many of these records will be broken again, which is a beautiful representation of the sport’s progress. And some of these records may stand for decades, and that’s just a sign that we’re witnessing history.
They’re both great things to recognize. While this list is unlikely to be completely comprehensive, it does highlight more than three dozen examples.
Let’s start here. Every team had a chance to contribute to these records.
Most three-pointers made and attempted
NBA teams averaged 10.5 made threes and 29 attempted threes per game, once again surpassing last year’s record of 9.7 makes and 27 attempts. In the 21 seasons since the league ended its experiment with a shortened three-point line, the number of threes attempted has risen or remained the same 20 times. These figures will keep rising for the foreseeable future.
Most individual players with 50-point games: 10 (tied)
The league set this record last season when 10 players broke the 50-point plateau, and it happened again this year. There were 13 such games in total, with James Harden being the only one to record multiple 50-point games. (He had four.) This isn’t the highest scoring era in league history, and so this stat shows how impressive the individual talent is around the league. Would anyone deny that?
Highest effective field goal percentage: 52.1 percent
This is the most efficient era in league history, even if raw scoring and pace aren’t anywhere near as fast as the 60s and 70s. Effective field goal percentage equalizes the point value earned on two-pointers and threes, and so this just shows that teams are expected to score more points for any given shot than any other time in league history.
By offensive rating, this season was only the second-best in league history — a 108.6 figure, which is slightly lower than last year’s 108.8. That’s because free-throw attempts fell slightly this season, along with free-throw and field-goal percentage. But in terms of effective field-goal percentage, yes. The highest ever.
Lowest offensive rebounding rate: 22.3 percent
One more league-wide trend, and one that Rockets general manager Daryl Morey thinks will reverse.
“The choice away from that has been a mistake by the league,” Morey told me last week. “So that’s one that I would say that won’t continue to trend down.”
We shall see!
As overall three-point shooting gets broken every season, so do more specific shooting records. Here’s a taste of general three-point records which have been replaced.
First team to attempt more threes than twos: Houston Rockets
Houston attempted 3,470 three-pointers while taking just 3,436 two-point attempts, becoming the first team to ever shoot more outside the arc than inside. They won’t be the last. It should go without saying that the team’s three-point attempts and their 1,256 made triples are also league records, and that their two-pointers are the fewest ever attempted in a regular, non-shortened season.
Most combined three-point attempts in a game: 94
In late November, the Houston Rockets hoisted 50 triples while the Brooklyn Nets threw up 39 more of their own. Those 89 combined three-point attempts were the most ever in a game of NBA basketball.
Later this season, the Rockets faced the Chicago Bulls, with the teams combining for 94 total attempts. Houston went 18-of-57 while the Bulls attempted to match them with 8-of-37 shooting. It obviously didn’t work, but hey, this record won’t last long — someone will be breaking it again.
Most three-point makes by a rookie in a season: Donovan Mitchell (187)
Mitchell settles into a spot above both Damian Lillard (185) and Stephen Curry (166), two guards obviously noted for bombing from deep. Another rookie guard even more adept at hitting from long-range will come before long, but Mitchell is a stud and his rookie campaign was nothing short of spectacular. This stat is just one example why.
Most three-point makes off the bench: Wayne Ellington (227)
Ellington’s reinvention as an incredible three-point sniper has been so fun to watch, and he did it virtually all year off the bench for the Miami Heat. It also set franchise record for Miami, and broke Eric Gordon’s 206 made threes off the bench, set while on the Rockets last year.
We’re living in a triple-doubles golden age. While last year’s record for a season (115) remains standing, this year’s record (107) came close. Here are some triple-double records that did get broken.
Most individuals with a triple-double: 31
To the best of my knowledge, the previous record was 26, something that happened several times in the past decade. The triple-doubles this season ranged from James Harden to Terry Rozier, and from Giannis Antetokounmpo to T.J. McConnell. On the final day of the season, even Markelle Fultz added one. (We’ll circle back to that one.)
Most seasons averaging a triple-double: Russell Westbrook (2)
Just when we thought he wouldn’t get there again ... nope. And Westbrook even set a career-high in rebounds during his final game, just to be sure.
Oldest player to average a triple-double for a month: LeBron James (33)
The 33-year-old James averaged 27.0 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 10.5 assists in 10 games this February, which passed Wilt Chamberlain as the oldest to ever accomplish that.
Youngest player to record a triple-double: Markelle Fultz (19 years, 317 days)
Fultz stole this record away from Lonzo Ball on the final day of the NBA season, putting together a 13-point, 10-rebound, 10-assist evening in just 25 minutes. Ball had previously set the record, getting his first triple-double at 20 years and 15 days old, which beat James’ first triple-double by five days.
Also, shoutout to Dennis Smith Jr., who also had a triple-double this season and is the fourth youngest to ever accomplish that feat.
Most points scored in a triple-double: James Harden (60)
Harden set a Houston Rockets franchise record when he dropped 60 points on Jan. 30, and he did it with 10 rebounds and 11 assists, too. Surprisingly, Harden only had four triple-doubles on the year — but he made them count.
Quickest triple-double in a game: Nikola Jokic (14 minutes)
This might be the wildest one in this section, since Jokic tallied three statistical 10s in less than 15 minutes. The previous record had been set in 1955 by Jim Tucker, who still needed 17 minutes to accomplish it.
First player to record a triple-double with blocks on his birthday: Anthony Davis
Obviously, this is the most cherry-picked stat that has ever been cherry-picked. But that didn’t stop people from sharing it as a serious stat, so we feel like we must include it here.
This is where I’m putting the records that didn’t fit anywhere else. They’re still good records, Brent.
Most consecutive games with 10-plus points: LeBron James (873)
James famously passed Michael Jordan this year, who had gone 866 games scoring double figures. This is a more impressive feat of James’ durability than anything else, I’d argue, but certainly he’s a precocious talent like nothing we’ve ever seen.
Most free-throw attempts in a quarter: Ben Simmons (24)
In the fourth quarter of an incredibly forgettable November game, Washington Wizards head coach Scott Brooks intentionally fouled Ben Simmons for an entire fourth quarter. It was disgusting. Simmons started 4-of-14, but finished 12-of-24 in the frame.
The Wizards still lost. Good riddance.
Highest score in the Three-Point Contest: Devin Booker (28)
This isn’t totally fair since Booker didn’t actually make the most threes, but instead just benefitted from a new scoring system. But hey, records and records, and Booker now owns the highest point total we’ve ever seen in this event.
First ever NBA Summer League sellout: about 17,500 fans
Here’s what it looked like while Lonzo Ball mania took over Las Vegas.
lakers-celtics seriously sold out summer league for the first time ever, this is absurd pic.twitter.com/OL85GJdMqc— Tim Cato (@tim_cato) July 9, 2017
Most career franchises played for while scoring exactly one point: Scotty Hopson (2)
I wish Hopson the best and hope he gets an extended chance with someone soon, but this record is hilarious nonetheless. In the 2013-14 season, he played two games for the Cleveland Cavaliers and scored one point. This year, he suited up just once for the Dallas Mavericks and again scored ... one point. (He’s 0-of-5 from the field and 2-of-4 from the line.) Those two points are his only two career points.
Longest win streak headed into the postseason: Philadelphia 76ers (16)
This is why teams should be scared of Philadelphia, no matter when Joel Embiid suits up in the first round.
Most losses by a team with a positive scoring differential: Charlotte Hornets (+21)
Charlotte finished the year 36-46, despite outscoring teams by 21 points this year. The record they broke? Last year’s Charlotte team, which also lost 46 games despite outscoring teams by 16 points.
While this is a bizarre stat, it’s somewhat explainable: just look at Charlotte’s 61-point win over the tanking Memphis Grizzlies earlier this year.
Fewest minutes needed for a 45-point game: Kemba Walker (28)
From that 61-point blowout over Memphis mentioned above: Walker scored 46 points that game before sitting down for the entire fourth quarter, finishing with 28 minutes played.
Most bowls of soup thrown at an assistant coach: J.R. Smith (1)
I mean ... this one is hard to fact check, but I’d like to think it’s a record.
NEVER-SEEN-BEFORE STATISTICAL SEASONS
This section should be self explanatory.
LeBron James: first player with 30,000 points, 8,000 rebounds, and 8,000 assists in his career
LeBron James: first player to lead team in points and assists for 15 straight seasons
LeBron James: most consecutive years (14) averaging 25 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists
James Harden: first player to average 10 two-point attempts, 10 three-point attempts, and 10 free-throw attempts
Ben Simmons: first rookie with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists, 50 blocks, and 50 steals in a season
Dirk Nowitzki: first player to play 75-plus games in his 20th season
Not every record is a good one. Here are a few that certainly aren’t going to be brought up in dinner conversations.
Most missed attempts without a make in a season opener: Stanley Johnson (13)
Johnson shot 0-of-13 from the field, including six missed triples. He did have two points (2-of-2 from the line) while playing 40 minutes, and still finished as a plus-six thanks to a solid effort on the other end. Still, it didn’t bode well for his season — Johnson shot under 40 percent from the field.
Fewest games before a head coach firing: Earl Watson (3)
Watson only made it one week into the season before Phoenix decided they’d part ways with him, the earliest any head coaching firing has ever gone down.
First team to finish with the worst offense AND defense at the same time: Phoenix Suns
It doesn’t look like that fixed things.
The Suns did it. First team in a 30-team league to finish last in both offensive & defensive efficiency in an 82-game season. Congrats to them.https://t.co/aammD72Ozr— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) April 12, 2018
Most losses as a player: Jamal Crawford (667) and Vince Carter (664)
Look, having the most losses just means that you deserved to stick around long enough to accomplish it. This isn’t really a lowlight. Carter’s 664 is technically tied for second-place along with Johnny Newman, the leader coming into the year. But Carter has committed to another season, so he’ll surpass him officially then.
First player to average at least four turnovers for his career: Russell Westbrook
Westbrook’s completely involved playing style leads him to being a high turnover player, and his teams have accepted that. Oklahoma City was above average as a team this season in turning the ball over, and Westbrook was the only player who constantly coughed it up, relative to the rest of the league. Still, no qualifying player has ever gone over four turnovers per game until now. We have to mention it!
Most games missed due to injuries: more than 5,000
Total NBA games lost to injury or illness crossed the 5,000 mark over the weekend. This is the first time since the league stopped using the injured reserve list prior to the 2005-06 season that this has occurred.— Jeff Stotts (@InStreetClothes) April 2, 2018
First player to play 48 scoreless minutes without recording 10-plus rebounds: Wilson Chandler
In Denver’s win-or-go-home regular season finale against Minnesota, Chandler played 48 minutes in the overtime thriller without scoring a single point.
I’m cherrypicking slightly — this has happened in two other instances, but both players (Horace Grant and Dennis Rodman) recorded significantly more rebounds. Chandler had just nine, while attempting three shots.
A term coined by FiveThirtyEight in this article, a Pareto Game is a game that includes statistical feats that have never been matched, typically referring to multiple categories.
James Harden: 60 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds
No player has ever scored 60 points or more, 11 assists or more, and 10 rebounds or more. That’s the definition of a Pareto Game, even this one is a more extreme outlier due to Harden’s staggering statistical show.
Rajon Rondo: 2 points, 25 assists, 7 rebounds
While players have gone over 25 assists, they haven’t done it while also recording seven rebounds. Rondo stands alone there. (He also set a New Orleans franchise record with this stat.)
Joel Embiid: 46 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, 7 blocks
No player has ever scored 46 points, seven assists, and seven blocks, even forgetting the rebounds total.
LeBron James: 35 points, 17 assists, 0 turnovers
While players have recorded 35 points and 17 assists, and we’ve seen individual games with more than 17 assists while still sitting at zero turnovers,
ONE MORE HUGE NBA MILESTONE
Thanks to one studious r/nba user, MainMendoza, we know that Julius Randle scored the 12,000,000th point in NBA history during a game in early February. The 12 million mark comes just about four years after the 11 millionth, and it has been eight years since the NBA registered its 10 millionth. You can read up on the various milestones, and who scored them, at this blog post.
Did we miss any? Comment or @ me on Twitter. We’re trying to gather everything worth remembering here.