Friday, December 21, 2012

Nic Batum and the Elusive 5x5

Nic Batum eyes an assist during his 5x5 game against the Hornets. (AP Photo)

The triple-double is the pinnacle of stat lines in the NBA. It’s an undeniable achievement of greatness and the definition of a complete performance. Watching the league’s elite fill up a stat sheet and reach double-digits in three categories is an experience every fan should get to see at least once.

However, there is one other feat more rare and, unfortunately, less valued: the 5x5 stat line. The latest example of this came in the form of an all-around effort by Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum. Batum had an outstanding performance this past Sunday evening against the New Orleans Hornets, finishing up with the final line of 11 points, 10 assists, five rebounds, five steals and five blocks. Not too shabby.

He’s the first player to achieve the accomplishment since 2006 when Andrei Kirilenko pulled it off one of his three 5x5's as a member of the Utah Jazz. Batum’s performance is one that may go unnoticed by most casual fans, or even intense fans who don’t follow the Trail Blazers. It’s truly unfortunate because the 5x5 stat line is arguably more impressive than the lofty triple-double.

With his performance on Sunday, Batum became just the eighth player in this era of basketball to achieve the 5x5 statistical anomaly. The other seven are Hakeem Olajuwon, Kirilenko, David Robinson, Vlade Divac, Marcus Camby, Derrick Coleman and Jamaal Tinsley a pretty solid list to join. It’s also exclusive, as only those eight players have reached this mark since statisticians began tracking the 5x5 as an actual accomplishment in 1990.

Now, let’s compare the 5x5 to the triple-double. From the 1990-91 NBA season to the 2010-11 season, there have been an average of 34.5 triple-doubles recorded per season. There have only been 15 times in the last 27 years that a 5x5 has been recorded. Total. Not per season, but in the entire decade. The difference in frequency of occurrence between these two feats is enough to open some eyes. There have been only 15 5x5s recorded, ever, while there have already been 12 triple-doubles this season.

In short, there are some accomplishments that do not get enough hype in athletics. Yes, the triple-double is an exceptional achievement and, yes, it is the symbol of a complete game at the highest level in basketball. However, should it be? The realization of a 5x5 performance by any player is far more rare and, frankly, requires the player to fill up more statistical categories in a single game. Maybe it’s time for the 5x5 to take center stage.

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