Minnesota Timberwolves third-year forward Kevin Love scored 23 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in Monday's loss to the Dallas Mavericks. The double-double, his 51st in a row, tied him for the all-time lead with Moses Malone, who set the mark during the 1978-79 season.
Love can sit atop a list of all-time greats with his 52nd straight double-double Wednesday against the Indiana Pacers. If he were to notch a double-double in each of Minnesota's remaining 17 games, he would notch 77 for the season and 68 straight. How far can he go?
"It’s a joke that he’s doing it so easily," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "Unless he gets hurt, I don’t see anybody stopping it any time soon."
The 6-foot-10, 260-pound Love accumulated 65 double-doubles in his first two seasons, but he was limited to 25.3 and 28.6 minutes a game, respectively, in those seasons. This year, coach Kurt Rambis has granted Love 36.6 minutes a game and he's averaging 20.9 points and 15.8 rebounds. He has 60 double-doubles in 65 games.
But just how impressive is 51 consecutive double-doubles? The fact that only Malone has done it should make it fairly obvious. Dirk Nowitzki, for example, who has averaged 8.4 rebounds a game in his career, has nine double-doubles this season and once has strung at least two back-to-back. Mavs center Tyson Chandler, who did not play in Monday's game because of a sprained ankle, has 16 double-doubles and has twice strung together three in a row.
That's not to compare players. Chandler has fewer opportunities to score than Love and Nowitzki's rebounding totals have dropped this season with the addition of Chandler. But it does reveal the difficulty in notching double-digit points and rebounds virtually every night during the grind of an NBA season.
Entering Wednesday's game, Love has 142 career double-doubles. If his streak continues through the end of the season, he'll enter year No. 4 with 169.
Of the top 12 all-time double-double leaders (points-rebounds), according to the Elias Sports Bureau, Wilt Chamberlain stands alone at 966. Malone is next at 894 and Elvin Hayes had 890. The only active players on the list are Boston Celtics center Shaquille O'Neal at 727 and San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan with 704, who is one behind Charles Barkley.
Those numbers demonstrate remarkable consistency over a career. Consider for Love to reach 700, he would need to average in the neighborhood of 60 double-doubles over the next 10 years.
"The way he’s going, he goes and gets the ball," Carlisle said. "And a lot of his scoring is pure effort of going and getting the ball. And so, it’s not as simple as taking away certain actions in their offense, stuff like that. A lot of it is just grit and a real sense for where the ball is going and then the tenacity to go get it and then make a play with it."
If no team halts Love's streak by March 24, the Mavs will have one more crack at the American Airlines Center.