Magic Johnson, more than any other player, has made ``triple double'' a catch phrase around the National Basketball Association. The term has grown out of the desire to recognize superlative, all-around performances, specifically the kind that yield double-digit figures for points, rebounds, and assists in the same game. Magic has had many such games. What neither he nor any other active player has had, though, is a quadruple double. San Antonio's Johnny Moore came within a whisker of this feat in one recent game when he finished with 26 points, 13 assists, 11 rebounds, and 9 steals.
The only known quadruple double was turned in by Nate Thurmond in the opening game of the 1974-75 season. Thurmond, the starting center for the Chicago Bulls at the time, had 22 points, 14 rebounds, 13 assists, and 12 block shots in a 120-115 overtime victory over the Atlanta Hawks.
Official statistics for steals and blocked shots have only been kept since 1973-74, so there is no way of verifying how often such former greats as Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, or Oscar Robertson pulled off hoop grand slams.
Clearly, however, Robertson was the prototype all-around player. ``Everything anyone's done since him pretty much pales by comparison,'' says Brian McIntyre, the NBA's director of public relations. ``Magic turns in a triple double about 30 times a year, but Oscar averaged triple doubles one season and almost did it a few other times.''
During the 1961-62 season, his second in the league, the ``Big O' averaged 30.8 points, nearly 121/2 rebounds, and better than 11 assists per game. As a rookie with the Cincinnati Royals, he fell 20 assists shy of the same feat, and missed by only seven rebounds in 1963-64, when he was the league's MVP.
The closest Magic Johnson has come thus far to averaging double figures in points, rebounds, and assists for a season occurred three years ago, when he missed by 29 rebounds and 37 assists. Although a tremendous talent, Boston's Larry Bird doesn't compile enough assists as a forward to come close to a season-long triple double.
The Tiffany touch was applied to the US Figure Skating Championships last weekend by a gem of a skater, one Tiffany Chin of Toluca Lake, Calif. Despite some jitters, the 17-year-old Chinese-American maintained her lead throughout the competition and finished with a strong free skating performance. She makes a pretty picture on the ice, and blends athleticism with artistry in a manner that pleases both judges and specatators and inspires comparisons to Dorothy Hamill. Her performance in Kansas City also indicated that she is learning how to cope with the pressure.
She felt very little last year, when Rosalynn Sumners and Elaine Zayak were the established American Olympic hopes. Skating with none of the expectations that shadowed her older rivals, Tiffany actually finished second between Sumners and Zayak in last year's nationals. Then in the Olympics, she just missed winning a medal after turning in a dazzling free skating routine.
American skating experts are already buzzing about her gold medal chances in 1988, but of more immediate concern are the world championships in Tokyo March. 2. Among the women who have retained their amateur standing, and therefore are eligibile for the worlds, are East Germany's Katarina Witt and the Soviet Union's Kira Ivanova, the reigning Olympic gold and silver medalists. Joining Chin in representing the US in the women's event will be Debi Thomas, whose second made her the first black skater to ever win a medal at the nationals.
The year after the Olympics traditionally finds many new faces taking over for the departed US stars. The biggest names to turn pro since last winter are Scott Hamilton, Sumners, Zayak, and Peter and Kitty Carruthers.
Ice dancers Judy Blumberg and Michael Seibert might have gone the ice show route themselves if not for the disappointments of 1984, when they finished fourth at the Olympics and third in the world championships. Last weekend, though, they waltzed away with their fifth US crown and now have their sights set on the worlds. ``We want to win; we believe we are as good as anybody competing in the event,'' Blumberg says.
After finishing second to Hamilton the last two years, Brian Boitano won the US men's title, while Olympian Jill Watson, skating with new partner Peter Oppegard, won the pairs.