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Debbie Black and "Two Times Four"

One of the interesting statistical feats commonly achieved in basketball is the "double" - the accumulation of some double-digit number in at least one of five categories (points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocked shots).  Often, a person will state that "Sylvia Fowles had a double-double last night", meaning that in at least two of those five categories she scored a double digit number.  A triple-double would be scoring double-digits in at least three of those categories.

The double-double is quite common in women's pro ball.  However, as far as I know, there have only been six triple-doubles in ABL/WNBA history.

January 30, 1997:  Niesa Johnson, Atlanta Glory (A) vs. Columbus Quest, 97-77, 14 points, 11 rebounds, 13 assists
June 27, 1999:  Sheryl Swoopes, Houston (H) vs. Detroit, 85-46, 15 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists
June 7, 2001:  Margo Dydek, Utah (H) vs. Orlando, 82-79, 12 points, 11 rebounds, 10 blocks
September 9, 2004:  Lisa Leslie, Los Angeles (H) vs. Detroit, 81-63, 29 points, 15 rebounds, 10 blocks
May 21, 2005:  Deanna Nolan, Detroit (H) vs. Connecticut, 78-67, 11 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists - the only opening-day triple-double
September 3, 2005:  Sheryl Swoopes, Houston (A) vs. Seattle, 75-58, 14 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists - the only playoff triple-double

But has any player reached a quadruple-double, where a player scored in double-digits in four of the above five categories?  Believe it or not - it has happened. What, you weren't aware? This feat was achieved by Debbie Black, all 5 feet and 3 inches of her, in an American Basketball League game by the Colorado Xplosion against the Atlanta Glory on December 8, 1996, where Black scored 10 points, 14 rebounds (!!), 12 assists and 10 steals. 

But who actually won the game?  What was the final score?  Did the game take place in Atlanta or Colorado?

If you try to find out anything about the game - the attendance, the statistical line, what Black said after the feat, whether she was even aware of the feat - you come to a dead end.  The WNBA honored the feat in Debbie Black's eventual retirement article, which is a rarity as the default for the WNBA is to pretend the ABL never existed.  If you think it's hard finding about about Black's quadruple-double, imagine trying to find out about Niesa Johnson's triple-double, an achievement unfortunately overshadowed by Black's quadruple-double six weeks earlier.

It's a good thing I had an old ABL media guide or I might have never gotten the date right.  Furthermore, I can now say with finality that the score of the game of that quadruple-double was Colorado 91, Atlanta 75 and that the game took place in Colorado, most likely at the Denver Coliseum where most of the Xplosion's games were played.  Or maybe, I can't say anything with finality.  The ABL Media Guide wants to attribute Johnson's triple-double to the previous game two days earlier against New England in one section and to the game above in another; I trust the Seattle Times more than the not-entirely-100-percent accurate guide.

Black ended up being named on the 1996-97 all ABL second team, and was the Defensive Player of the Year that same season.

I finally found some information about the game from this article from Colleen Bitner:

On December 8, 1996, with one minute to go in an American Basketball League game, the Colorado Xplosion versus the Atlanta Glory, Point Guard Debbie Black had 14 rebounds, 12 assists, and 10 steals. She had already registered a triple double, but that wasn't good enough for her. Debbie had eight points, and she was determined to make that ten. Her coach told her to take it to the hoop, so she did, earning the fifth-ever quadruple-double in professional basketball history, and was the first ever in women's basketball.

"It was my best-ever performance in my career." Debbie told ESPN. "It was just awesome. There have only been four people in the NBA to do it, ever. That makes it that much more of an honor."


The article also tells an amusing story about the player known as The Pest.  A graduate of St. Joseph's, she was signed by the Tasmanian Islanders of the WNBL, the Australian women's pro league.  They were under the impression that Black was 6-3, and not 5-3.  Even so, she played eight seasons in Australia.

Of course, there might have been a triple double or even a quadruple double somewhere along the way in the old Women's Professional Basketball League (WBL).  We'll never know.  Those records are dead, and as far as the world is concerned, they are buried.  In order to recover much of women's professional basketball history, one needs not historians as much as archaeologists. The records could be recovered but no one with either time or money has interest in doing it.  To even find the WBL's records, one needs a legal team to unwind the WBL's bankruptcy proceedings - and one needs prayer, in the hope that whatever shack those records are stored in hasn't burned to the ground during the last thirty years.

Even when looking over the wide expanse of women's basketball history, a quadruple-double isn't the ne plus ultra of double-digit achievements.  There has actually been a quintuple-double scored by a female basketball player in high school competition.  In 1997, during a game for Duncanville (Texas) High School, a player had 25 points, 18 rebounds, 11 assists, 10 steals and 10 blocked shots in a game.  The circumstances of the game are no longer known; one suspects that details are light to protect the name of the losing team.

I wonder whatever became of that player who scored the quintuple-double.  Her name is Tamika Catchings.  Maybe she's playing in Europe somewhere.

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