For Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Love Wednesday night against the Indiana Pacers, it was just another day at the office. Never much for flash or flare, Love simply punched the clock and went to work. It took him no longer than just under seven minutes left to go in the first half to reach one of the most epic milestones in the history of the league.
With a free throw that gave him 10 points, in addition to his 10 rebounds he had by the end of the 1st quarter, Love’s 52nd recorded double-double in a game in the ’10-’11 season secured the record for the most consecutive games in the NBA’s modern era.* It was also the 27th time this season he recorded a double-double in one half.
Love supplanted legendary Hall of Fame player and NBA Champion Moses Malone, who set the record in the 1978-’79 season with 51 double-doubles for the Houston Rockets. That season would end up being Malone’s best statistical season of his career and would earn him the league’s distinguished and highly coveted Most Valuable Player award.
The Minnesota Timberwolves found a gem when they traded for the 5th overall pick, Kevin Love, on 2008 NBA draft night in a deal that swapped Love, picked by the Memphis Grizzlies with Minnesota’s third overall pick, O.J. Mayo, in an eight-player deal. He’s made the Grizzlies regret they ever dealt him. Love brings, night in and night out, the kind of consistency and hustle a franchise dreams of in a young, talented star player.
Whether it’s the grind at practice or in the games, the ‘Wolves can always expect Love to show up with voracious tenacity, yet also with a controlled finesse that combines the mental and physical parts of the game, in sync with one another. It’s his team-first workman’s mentality and playing for one of the NBA’s worst franchises that has made Kevin Love the most under-appreciated superstar in the NBA today.
Love has averaged 21 points and 16 rebounds per game in 65 games played this season. The combination of these averages have typically only been put up in full seasons by some of the NBA’s greatest of all time. In fact, none of the greatest combination rebounder/scorers in the NBA’s modern era have come close to the combined PPG & RPG average of Moses Malone’s 21.2 during the aforementioned ’78-’79 MVP season.
Aside from the individual statistical comparisons of Love’s current season versus the best combination rebounder/scorers in the modern (or any) era, what glaringly stands out as a colossal difference between them and Love is that each of the players listed in the figure above had their best season for a team that finished with a winning record and made the NBA playoffs.
Not only is Love having an epically historic season in points and rebounds, he’s doing it for a team that is void of any other talent and has close to a league worst 16 wins in 66 games for a .242 winning percentage. Only Shaquille O’Neal’s rookie campaign with the Orlando Magic, in which he had his best statistical season in combined points and rebounds, had as little as 41 wins, the least of any team listed above in their superstar’s greatest season.
Before Kevin Love’s historic night, only eight other players, before and after the modern era, had ever eclipsed 50 consecutive games recording a double-double. All eight of them—Moses Malone, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elgin Baylor, Walt Bellamy, Wilt Chamberlain, Elvin Hayes, Jerry Lucas and Bill Russell—have been inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame.
Love has only the double-double streaks of the pre-modern era to pass. At this point moving forward, he will have to record four more consecutive double-doubles to replace Elvin Hayes’ 55 for the NBA’s Capital Bullets in ’73-’74, which is fourth all-time. Beyond that, only the legendary folk-hero and basketball pioneer, Wilt Chamberlin’s impossible streaks of 133, 220 and the all-time record of 227 consecutive recorded double-doubles will be in play for Love. He isn’t eagerly pursuing a record of such surreal proportions
When asked about his record breaking night and the potential to chase down Chamberlin’s hopelessly insurmountable record for consecutive double-doubles, Love said, “If you are looking at the grand scheme of things, you have to look at the 227 by ‘The Big Dipper,’ Wilt the Stilt. He was something special. It’s not like I have my eyes set on that. I am pretty happy in 2011 with where I am at with 52 [consecutive] double-doubles.”
Love also added on his thoughts on Chamberlin’s record, “There are unbreakable records in this league and that is one of them.”
*The modern era of the NBA is the era that started in 1976 when America’s two national leagues, the American Basketball Association and the National Basketball Association, merged to become what we now know as today’s NBA. The merger vastly changed the landscape of the NBA and had such an impact on statistics, NBA records are distinguished by whether or not they happened in the NBA’s modern era or before (For example: the single game scoring record in NBA history is Wilt Chamberlin’s 100 points in 1962 but the modern era record is Kobe Bryant’s 81 in 2006.)
Photo credit: adamcarolla.com