Shai Gilgeous-Alexander makes NBA history with first career triple-double

Gilgeous-Alexander joins Steve Nash as the only Canadian players to score a triple-double.

Gilgeous-Alexander was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder last year. — Photo credit / The Associated Press/Jim Mone

By: Nathan Washington, SFU Student

Ah, the illustrious triple-double. In the game of basketball, it is a demonstration of versatility and dominance on all parts of the court. For those that don’t know, a triple-double is achieved by having double-digit statistics during a single game in three of the following categories: points, assists, rebounds, blocks, and/or steals. To provide some context, in the 1,230 games that take place during an NBA regular season, there is an average of around 100 triple-double games per year, often by superstars such as Russell Westbrook and Lebron James. 

So, when the 21-year-old Canadian Shai Gilgeous-Alexander produced a 20-point, 20-rebound, 10-assist performance against the Minnesota Timberwolves on January 13, it was definitely an extraordinary achievement for a multitude of reasons. To be a young, developing player in the NBA with the ability to achieve such a game is an accomplishment on its own given that the league is known for its steep learning curve. Further, Gilgeous-Alexander became only the second Canadian to ever record a triple-double in an NBA game, the first being a guy named Steve Nash. 

On top of that, he joined another exclusive club with triple-double king Russell Westbrook, as the two players are the only guards to have 20 points and 20 rebounds in the same game in the last 30 years. The monumental performance was also historically notable because Gilgeous-Alexander passed Shaquille O’Neal to become the youngest player ever to secure a 20-rebound triple-double in NBA history. 

Gilgeous-Alexander has been thriving as a dangerous all-around player in just his second NBA season, which is his first with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and he is quickly developing into one of the premier young talents in the league. The young Canadian currently leads his team in average points-per-game with 19.9 and is the centrepiece of the crop of young stars from north of the border. This crop includes Jamal Murray, RJ Barrett, Andrew Wiggins, Dillon Brooks, and Gilgeous-Alexander’s cousin, Nickeil Alexander-Walker. 

Gilgeous-Alexander’s historic triple-double was another milestone in the rapid ascension of the Canadian basketball program from disappointment to major influencer in the global basketball community. Look for players like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to continue to make their country proud with their strong play on the court through the rest of this season and beyond.