On this day one year ago, Panathinaikos OPAP Athens playmaker Nick Calathes made history with the first triple-double in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague in more than a dozen years. Calathes had come close before; during the 2016-17 season, he was 1 assist shy of the feat in Round 3 against Brose Bamberg and 2 rebounds short against Fenerbahce Istanbul in Round 12. The next season, he missed out by 1 board in Round 8 at Anadolu Efes Istanbul and by 2 rebounds in Round 26 at Unicaja Malaga. He had games with at least 10 points and assists plus 8 rebounds last season against Efes in Round 21 and AX Armani Exchange Milan in Round 28. And then...
11 points, 12 rebounds, 18 assists
Calathes dominated the court in Panathinaikos's regular-season finale against Buducnost VOLI Podgorica with 11 points, 12 rebounds and 18 assists to power the Greens into the playoffs. He was well on his way to a triple-double when he amassed 7 points, 4 rebounds and 10 assists in the first half alone, which also put him on pace to set the EuroLeague single-game assist record, which is 19. Then he added 2 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists in the third quarter as the Greens protected their 13-point halftime lead. The fourth quarter became a celebration for Panathinaikos and its fans with Calathes as the catalyst. He reached 11 points on a basket 2 minutes into the fourth quarter and then got his 10th rebound through a tip-in attempt on the offensive glass with 6:13 left in the fourth quarter.
What he said
"It feels good, it’s an honor to be next to that guy [Nikola Vujcic], considering he was a legend as a player and what he accomplished," Calathes said after the game. "I got close a lot in the last couple of years, it feels good to get it but even better to be in the playoffs after what we’ve been through as a team."
The next triple-double?
Calathes flirted with triple-double No. 2 when he tallied 13 points, 12 rebounds and 9 assists in a Round 7 victory over Valencia earlier this season. Assist No. 9 came with 1:22 remaining in the game, but he could not come up with another in the remaining time. The Panathinaikos star is averaging 13.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and a league-best 9.1 assists per game this season and is a threat to notch a triple-double every time he takes the floor. And lest one think Calathes is simply numbers-hunting, in every game where he has been within a couple of rebounds or assists of a triple-double, Panathinaikos has won.
The EuroLeague's first triple-doubles
Before Calathes, there had only been two triple-doubles in EuroLeague history and both came from the hands of the same player: Nikola Vujcic. The first was on opening night of the 2005-06 season when he tallied 11 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in a victory over Prokom Trefl Sopot. A little more than a year later, Vujcic made history again with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists against Union Olimpija Ljubljana. Others would come close, but not until Calathes struck on this date in 2019 would the third EuroLeague triple-double be recorded.