Sports term etymology is generally taken for granted. Most phrases are pretty obvious in origin; someone saw a baseball player hit the ball, and run to second base — so yeah, that’s a double. It just makes sense. But without a name, a statistic can’t exist in trackable fashion, no matter how obvious the concept seems.
That’s what happened with the triple-double. No one had coined the term for years until stats guru Harvey Pollack came along 1980. If it hadn’t been for him, we wouldn’t have had the beautiful 2016-17 divide amongst Russell Westbrook believers and haters.
Pollack came up with the triple-double to describe the incredible things that Magic Johnson was doing on the court. Johnson was a well-rounded player whose brilliance Pollack felt wasn’t being properly reflected in traditional counting stats. Only the “triple-double” did Magic justice.
Pollack changed the way we view guys like Magic, the Big O, and Russ. It was no longer just the points that popped off the page that mattered, but how much you were helping your team across all aspects of the game.
(Pollack — a renaissance man of sorts — would also set the Guinness world record for most consecutive days wearing a different T-shirt at 3,420.)
As for who had the first triple-double, that honor most likely belongs to Dolph Schayes, who played for Syracuse back when it made sense for a professional team to play out of Syracuse, New York — or for parents to name their child “Dolph.”
Now that you have a little background, watch that dang video. It’s much better than this write up. But, since I still have you, please let us know what sports-related first you’d like us to make a video about in the comments.