Rarified Air: Could the Miami Heat's LeBron James Record the NBA's First Quintuple-Double?

There are a number of notable sports feats that are incredibly rare.

For instance, in baseball, a perfect game is considered by many to be the pinnacle of a pitcher’s career. Only 18 players have ever accomplished the feat in the entire history of MLB; two of them happening this season by Dallas Braden of the Oakland Athletics on May 9, and Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies on May 29.

Mark Buehrle of the Chicago White Sox pitched one just last year on July 23, 2009 against the Tampa Bay Rays, and prior to him Randy Johnson had one five years earlier for the Arizona Diamondbacks against the Atlanta Braves on May 18, 2004 in a 2-0 win.

Of course any baseball enthusiast also remembers the two pitched prior to that by the New York Yankees’ David Wells and David Cone on May 17, 1998 and July 18, 1999 respectively. Yet, it is a rare occurrence, despite the number of times it’s happened in the past two decades.

According to Wikipedia, by definition a perfect game is both a no-hitter and a shutout. To define it further, it’s a game in which a pitcher (or combination of pitchers) pitches a victory that lasts a minimum of nine innings and in which no opposing player reaches base.

Now that is obviously a pretty special accomplishment. However, it’s not even the rarest of feats in baseball, let alone other sports.

Perhaps you’re thinking batting .400 is a rarer feat. Nope. While its rarity is emphasized by the fact no one has accomplished it in nearly 70 years (not since Ted Williams batted .406 in 1941), it’s actually occurred 35 times, with 1887 being a banner year, seeing 10 players bat over .400, including Tip O’Neill, who batted a MLB record .485 that year.

There are two notable accomplishments in baseball that are rarer, but still not the rarest. Blasting four home runs in a single game has only been accomplished 15 times in MLB history. An equally rare occurrence is recording an unassisted triple-play. That’s where one player is responsible for recording all the outs in a triple play without any assistance from another player.

However, as with the home-run feat, it’s happened 15 times in MLB history.

The rarest baseball feat of all is hitting for the natural cycle. Only 14 players in the history of professional baseball have been able to do it, making it incredibly rare.

However, football has some notable feats that are even rarer.

For instance, only ten quarterbacks in the history of the NFL have thrown for more than 500 yards, included among them the Miami Dolphins Hall-of-Fame QB Dan Marino, who threw for 521 yards and 3 touchdowns in a 44-30 loss to the New York Jets on October 16, 1988.

Sadly, I was there to witness that game, and had to endure the loss. However, Dan is still the Man.

An even rarer feat in football is rushing for more than 250 yards. Only 9 running backs in the history of the NFL have accomplished the feat.

Hockey has that beat with one of their notable accomplishments in the sport. Only eight times in the history of the NHL has a player scored six or more goals in one game.

A notable accomplishment I have to mention in hockey is Mario Lemieux’s banner day on December 31, 1988 where he scored only five goals, but is the only player in NHL history who has scored five goals in one game to score them in five different ways. He scored an even-strength goal, a power-play goal, a short-handed goal, a penalty goal, and an empty net goal.

Tennis has an equally rare feat, with players notching 50 or more aces in a match only eight times in the sports’ history, including the record of 113 set by John Isner this year at Wimbledon in a match against Nicolas Mahut, who recorded the second-most ever with 103.

Talk about a match.

However, none of these notable accomplishments can match basketball’s Mt. Everest of achievements.

Some may believe it’s a scoring record, and while scoring 70 or more points in a game has only been accomplished 10 times, making it as rare or rarer an accomplishment as most listed above (and consequently, Wilt Chamberlain recorded six of those ten occurrences, which is one of the many reasons I believe he’s the G.O.A.T.), it pales in comparison to the one that really matters.

Only four players in the long history of the National Basketball Association have recorded a Quadruple-Double. It’s a feat so rare it boggles the mind that anyone ever really accomplishes it.

Defined as a performance in which a player accumulates a double digit number total in four of five statistical categories—points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocked shots—in a game, it’s something that every versatile player in the NBA strives for, but only four have done.

The last player to do it was “The Admiral”, David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs, who recorded 34 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, and 10 blocks in a game against the Detroit Pistons on February 17, 1994.

The other three players to have etched their names into the history books?

Nate Thurmond of the Chicago Bulls was the first to do it, scoring 22 points, grabbing 14 boards, dishing out 13 assists, and blocking 12 shots in a game against the Atlanta Hawks on October 18, 1974.

Alvin Robertson of the San Antonio Spurs followed that amazing accomplishment with one of his own 12 years later, as he had 20 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists, and 10 steals (the only player to accomplish the quadruple-double with steals being one of the categories) in a game against the Phoenix Suns on February 18, 1986.

The next player, Hakeem Olajuwon of the Houston Rockets, actually recorded two quadruple-doubles, but his first one was taken away by the NBA, as they stripped him of one of his assists after reviewing the game tape.

That first game, on March 3, 1990 against the Golden State Warriors saw Hakeem put forth a brilliant effort, as he recorded 29 points, 18 rebounds, 9 (10 originally) assists, and 11 blocked shots. The whirling dervish seemed to do whatever he wanted to on the floor, and was a wonder to behold.

The Milwaukee Bucks probably wish the NBA had skipped reviewing that game tape that night. For less than a month later, on March 29, 1990, they faced Hakeem on another night he was the essence of versatile dominance. This time the NBA couldn’t take anything away from him, as he recorded 18 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists, and 11 blocks to notch his first “official” quadruple-double.

Four years later David Robinson would add his own name to the historic three who had preceded him, but it’s been a long 15 years since then, and there is a level of anxiety among NBA fans as to when it will happen again.

Some of the reason for the rarity of the feat obviously has to do with the fact the statistic as a statistic hasn’t even been around that long. The concept of a triple-double and quadruple-double only goes back to about 1980. Supposedly either former Los Angeles Lakers public relations director Bruce Jolesch or Philadelphia 76ers media relations director of the time Harvey Pollack coined the phrase “triple-double” and the stat was born.

The fact blocks weren’t even noted as a stat for much of the early years of the NBA does tend to lend credence to many people’s view that if they had been recorded quadruple-doubles probably would have been far less rare than they are. Wilt Chamberlain probably recorded quite a number of them in his career.

One notable triple-double Wilt had is actually known as the NBA’s only Double-Triple-Double, where Wilt tallied 25 points, 22 rebounds, and 21 assists in a game against the Detroit Pistons on February 2, 1968. Considering many notable media personalities have stated Wilt frequently had 20 or more blocks in a game, it’s conceivable he actually recorded the game’s only Double-Quadruple-Double that night.

Speaking of triple-doubles, one of the rarest of occurrences in the NBA is having two teammates record triple-doubles in the same game. It’s not the Mt. Everest as the quadruple-double is only because it’s not an accomplishment by a single player.

However, it’s only happened twice in the history of the NBA, with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen of the Chicago Bulls doing it first on January 13, 1989 in a game against the lowly Los Angeles Clippers (Jordan recorded 41 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds, while Pippen had 15 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds).

The second time happened on April 7, 2007, as basketball fans witnessed teammates Vince Carter and Jason Kidd of the New Jersey Nets make history. Carter had 46 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists, while Kidd had 10 points, 16 rebounds, and 18 assists.

Both of those games were amazing to watch, and bring me to the point of this article. Are we about to see history being made over and over again by this Miami Heat South Beach Superteam composed of the “Three Kings”?

I truly believe Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are almost certain to be the next pair of teammates to notch a triple-double in the same game. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they do it multiple times over the next five years.

Furthermore, one or both of them are almost certain to record a quadruple-double in that span as well, which will make their feats even more incredible.

Finally, I will be the first to put it out there that I believe LeBron James will be the first player in the history of the NBA to record a quintuple-double.

Yes, that’s right, I said it, I believe LeBron James will have a night where he reaches double digits in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocked shots.

So, beyond the fact I believe the Miami Heat as a team will shatter every team record imaginable, I also believe King James will cement himself in immortality by becoming the first player to ever do the unthinkable.

Quintuple-Double is going to be a word that becomes synonymous with LeBron James in the future. You won’t be able to say one without thinking the other.

Are you ready for that, NBA fans?

Tags: Alvin Robertson Dan Marino David Robinson Dwyane Wade Hakeem Olajuwon Lebron James Miami Heat Nate Thurmond NBA Quadruple-Double Triple-Double Wilt Chamberlain

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