Nate Thurmond Talks Quadruple Doubles, Provides Some Perspective

While I was watching the post-game press conferences on NBATV after the games tonight (yes, I’m aware that I have too much free time on my hands), I saw on the crawl that Dwight Howard is now the first player to ever lead the league in both rebounding and blocked shots in back-to-back seasons. In fact, he’s the only guy to ever claim two rebounding titles and two shot-blocking titles. (He’s also the youngest player to ever win two DPOY trophies.)

I was already aware of all this, but it was a reminder of a great accomplishment by a guy who still probably doesn’t get as much respect as he deserves

But it’s also definitely not true.

See, the NBA unfortunately didn’t start recording blocked shots until the 1973-74 season, which I’m sure you already knew, and guys like Wilt and Russell almost certainly led the league in both of these stat categories on multiple occasions. From all the accounts of those who watched these legends play, they would have games where they blocked 20 shots. And no one would even really notice. That really puts Dwight’s 9-block Game 1 against the Bobcats into perspective, eh? Attaboy, Superman, and you’re the undisputed DPOY and all that (although my boy Josh Smith did amazing things this season), but let’s not get it twisted and start thinking that Dwight is controlling the backboard like no one else ever has.

As I was Google-fact checking to make sure that 1973-74 was indeed the inaugural season of the block-recording era, I came across a must-read column from 2006 by Hall of Famer Nate Thurmond that punctuates this point perfectly. (By the way, it truly pains me that I feel like I have to identify Thurmond with the “Hall of Famer” tag. But such is life in 2010 in the NBA internet universe.)

Nate was the “first” player to ever record a quadruple-double, and while he’s honored to be remembered as the first guy to ever do it, he also thinks it’s a somewhat silly label.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m truly honored. It’s certainly a rare accomplishment. It took 12 years before the feat was ever accomplished again, and only three guys have posted a quadruple-double since I had mine.

But you know and I know and any good basketball fan knows that there were plenty of quadruple-doubles back in the 1960s. When I first came into the league, I played alongside with Wilt Chamberlain, and there were nights he and I were playing volleyball out there on the floor.

He goes on to mention that Russell certainly had tons of quadruple-doubles and that Oscar Robertson probably had plenty of his own, using steals instead of blocks as the fourth category. There’s one other guy that Nate also knows had a lot of unrecorded-quadruple doubles as well.

He is the only other player aside from Wilt to ever average more than 20 ppg and 20 rpg in a season.

And his name is Nate Thurmond.

And hey, don’t forget about me. You think I never had a quadruple-double before 1973-74, when the NBA first started recording blocks and steals? Let me put it this way: I had 12 blocks in my quadruple-double game, and it was my 12th year in the league. That’s with two bad knees and more than 30,000 minutes pounding NBA floors, night after night. You bet I had plenty of quadruple-doubles before 1974.

I’m not trying to brag, but there were games where it was ridiculous the number of shots I blocked. When I was young, there were nights when guys couldn’t come close to getting shots off on me. Only Russell could have blocked more in his career.

I’d really like to know where I stand with blocks for my entire career. When you look at the list of career blocked shots leaders today, Russell and I are nowhere to be found. Quite frankly, that list is filled with pretenders to the title, all because the NBA didn’t record blocks for any of Bill’s and the majority of my career. Sure, I could put up points, but my game was really defense, so I’m a little disappointed that most of my blocks were never recorded.

Please do yourself a giant favor and go read the entire article. He discusses his entire career in depth, talking openly about his thoughts on being traded from San Francisco Warriors to the Chicago Bulls. It was bittersweet because he didn’t want to leave the Bay, but he also thought heading to Chicago was a good opportunity to play for a team that really wanted him.

And how exactly did Nate show his new Windy City brethren that the feeling was mutual?

Oh, just by, ya know, dropping a quadruple-double in his first-ever game as a Bull.

Looking back, I remember I was busy and was very active in the game, but I didn’t think about it in terms of a quadruple-double. We went into overtime, won the game, and I remember thinking it was a great way to start the season. That’s what made it so special.

One thing I distinctly remember was going back to my apartment after the game—I was just dead. I didn’t realize I had numbers spread out like that, across four categories until the next morning. It was my 12th year, and from that standpoint, the quadruple-double was just another game. But, as I look back now, I realize just how special a performance it was. At the time, nobody even talked about triple-doubles, so no one was really aware that I’d done something unprecedented.

As we all watch in amazement at what Dwight Howard can do on the court, let’s just make sure we’re clear on one thing: Just like Nate’s quad-dub, Superman’s accomplishment may be officially unprecedented, but it’s not actually unprecedented.

It’s sort of like his nickname in that sense.

Seth Carstens