I know what you’re thinking… how many of these lists can people actually write about? I hear you, I think the same thing. But it doesn’t make reading about them any less incredible. Like thinking about Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak, or Nolan Ryan striking out 5,714 batters over his career, or Brett Favre starting 297 consecutive games at quarterback (321 including playoffs). Amazing, right? And these aren’t even on my list!
Some you’ve see before, no doubt. But I’ve tried to come up with a couple not so commonly known. Living in Australia not a lot of people around the world know of some sports native to us, Australian Rules being the most obvious one. Having said that, here is my list of 9 of the most unbreakable records in sport. Also, they have been listed in alphabetical order… there’s no way I’m listing them in order of importance or difficulty!
A.C. Green (NBA) – 1,192 consecutive games
There have been much better players and players who have played for longer, but none of them managed to survive as many consecutive games as A.C. Green. Consider this… only 43 players in ABA/NBA history have played at least 1,192 games (39 in NBA only). According to basketball-reference.com there have been 4,370 players in ABA/NBA history, which means that just 0.98% of players have actually made it to 1,192 games. Based on 30 current NBA teams and 12 man rosters there are currently 360 players in the league, meaning only 4 active players will play that many games in an entire career (as it turns out there are currently 8… but you get my point!). Now, imagine they don’t miss a game through injury, suspension, trade or being coached by Gregg Popovich. I know… INSANE! Well, that’s what Green did. There’s no way anyone (EVER) will play that many games without sitting for 1 of them, it’s over 14 straight seasons of 82 games. Good luck!
Cal Ripken Jr. (MLB) – 2,632 consecutive games
Another ironman, and just as fascinating. Let’s use the same theory as for A.C. Green. Only 35 MLB players have ever played more than 2,632 games. According to Wikipedia there were 17,732 players in MLB history (at the end of the 2011 season), which means that a minuscule 0.20% of MLB players will reach 2,632 games. Using 32 current MLB teams with 25 man active rosters there are 800 active players, with just 2 projected to play this many career games (Alex Rodriguez is at 2,719 with Adrian Beltre at 2,567). Again, imagine playing all 162 games a year with no injuries, suspensions or days off from having played every day for a month. Can’t picture it? Neither can I.
This record is more remarkable then Green’s as it covers over 16 MLB seasons. And Ripken did it at shortstop! Never mind he also amassed 431 HR’s, 1,695 RBI and 2 MVP awards. Footage from Ripken’s record breaking game should be placed in a time capsule and opened 100 years from now… they’ll need proof that it happened as nobody will believe it.
Cy Young (MLB) – 511 wins
Gone are the days of starting pitchers racking up 45-50 starts and pitching over 400 innings a season, managers would have a heart attack just thinking about it! That was the era where Cy Young carved out one of the most incredible careers in sport. Never mind he won 511 games (as astounding as that is), get a load of these… 906 games played (815 starts) 7,356 innings pitched (that’s 8.11 innings per game!), career 2.63 ERA (only Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright have sub 3 career ERA’s among active players). You see any starting pitcher lasting for 25 years and winning 20 games a season? That’s what they’d have to do to catch Young… and they’d still be 11 wins short! Kershaw has been the most dominant pitcher this century and he’s only averaged 17 wins a season since 2010. There were no middle relievers or closers to help out 120 years ago, you were on your own and Young did it better than anyone… guess that’s why he has a certain award named after him! They say records are meant to be broken, this one has been around since 1911 and isn’t going anywhere for a LONG time.
Jerry Rice (NFL) – 22,895 receiving yards
The NFL has become a pass first league over the last few years, which shows in the stats as 27 of the top 30 all time passing yard seasons have occurred since 2000. So it only makes sense that most (if not all) passing and receiving records will soon fall, right? WRONG! Let’s take Julio Jones as an example. He’s a physical beast, able to sprint past cornerbacks and overpower them in the air. From the 2013 to the 2015 season he averaged 112 receiving yards per game, this works out to a 16 season of 1,797 yards. His career best season was in 2015 where he caught for 1,871 (the 2nd highest single season total in history). Now, imagine his doing that for 12 seasons and 12 games… that’s what it would take to catch Jerry Rice. Now granted, Rice played into his 40’s which is unheard of in the modern day NFL. We just say Calvin Johnson retire at the age of 30. But it wasn’t just longevity that made him great. He owns 6 of the top 50 season in terms of receiving yards. He is the all time leader in receiving and total TD’s. He’s over 6,900 yards and 41 receiving TD’s more than 2nd on the all time list. His 14 seasons of at least 1,000 receiving yards is 4 more than Randy Moss who is 2nd all time with 10. Think of how many players actually get through 14 seasons in the NFL these days. Now see them catching over 1,000 in every one of those seasons. Yeah, this Jerry Rice fellow was pretty good. This record is to stay.
Oscar Robertson (NBA) – Average a triple double (at least 10ppg, 10rpg, 10apg) for a season
Plenty has been made about the season Russell Westbrook has been having. Through 76 games he has accumulated 16 triple doubles, something that hasn’t been done since Michael Jordan in 1989. But forget that, there’s a guy who has had more that 16 in a season… 5 different times!
Try and forget about that, how about someone who would average a triple double over an entire 82 game NBA season. Well, a guy named Oscar Robertson did exactly that. It’s a shame that the NBA didn’t record game by game stats on assists and rebounds, that would make for some entertaining reading. During the 1961-62 season Robertson played in 79 games and had a triple double in 41 of them. That’s right, in just under 52% of his games that season he had at least 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Compare that to Westbrook’s current season where he’s running at a 21% rate. Still impressive, but no Oscar. Even with a spike in triple doubles not seen for 25 years there won’t be anyone who will do it over the course of an entire season.
A final thought… Robertson average 30.8ppg, 12.5rpg and 11.4 apg in his historic season… and cam win 3rd in MVP voting. Bill Russell won with Wilt Chamberlain 2nd, you’ll read why later on.
Phil Taylor (Darts) – 14 World Championships
Here’s the first of 2 obscure records you’ll read. Not everything is NFL, MLB and NBA (although most is), there are other sports in the world that attract quite the following. One (to the chagrin of my wife) is Darts, a sport that is very popular in the UK. And it’s biggest name ever is Phil “The Power” Taylor.
My first exposure to Taylor was the 2002 PDC World Championship and his match with Peter Manley in the final. Having not watched a lot of world class darts I was intrigued and looked forward to a long and entertaining match. I received half of my wish as it was certainly entertaining but hardly long as Taylor swept Manley with a 7-0 demolition. It was then I was hooked on watching Taylor when I could… and it was a pleasure every time.
To put into perspective there aren’t major tournaments like golf and tennis have where you compete in 4 per year. There are other major tournaments on the schedule (World Matchplay and Grand Slam of Darts to name a couple) but the PDC World Championship is the cream of the crop. And to have won it 14 times (and been runner-up 4 times) is unfathomable. There is hardly anything to compare it to in regards to total domination, and this is why it (probably) never be matched.
Tony Lockett (Australian Rules) – 1,360 career goals
And now for the 2nd obscure record. Australian Rules Football (or the AFL) is hugely popular in Australia, with all sorts of entertaining and sometimes spiteful conversations occurring in workplaces all across the country on a Monday morning. In this game it’s all about the goals, like anything the more you score the more you win. And like all sports there are those that do it better than the other, and in this case it’s Tony Lockett.
Lockett averaged 4.84 goals per game during his 281 game career. Only Peter Hudson at 5.64 per game can really challenge that average for those who kicked over 600 career goals, although Jason Dunstall at 4.66 comes close. Then consider that Lockett missed 23 games over his career through suspension. If we give 4.84 goals to each of those games his career total comes to 1,471 goals. Second on the all time list is Gordon Coventry with 1,299. The current leader for career goals is Lance Franklin with 710. At his current average per game (3.2) he would need another 203 games to pass Lockett. That would take him to 425 career games, the all time record for games played is 426. The way the current game is played it’s virtually impossible to see anyone get close to Lockett, you can quote me on that!
Wayne Gretzky (NHL) – 2,857 career points
If you’ve been a reader since my first blog you’ll notice that there isn’t much in the way of ice hockey… if fact, there’s nothing about ice hockey! So I’m not going to pretend I’m an authority on all things NHL. But no matter what sport you follow or play, almost everyone knows about the legend that is Wayne Gretzky.
The facts say it all… 10 times leading the NHL is points, 9 time MVP, 5 time NHLPA MVP, 4 Stanley Cups (5 times to the Stanley Cup), 2 time Stanley Cup MVP. And they’re just the awards!
Gretzky is the all time leader in total points (2,857… 970 more than 2nd), goals (894… 93 more than 2nd) and assists (1,963… 714 more than 2nd). He also owns 9 of the top 11 individual seasons for total points, 4 of the top 11 individual seasons for goals and 11 of the top 13 individual seasons for assists. His 1.921 points per game average over his career is more than double all but 78 other players who have ever played in the NHL (10,056 as per hockey-reference.com). We always marvel at the best of the best, but Gretzky was more than that. This is why the simple nickname of “The Great One” couldn’t be mote fitting, not just for the man who dominated the ice but the gentleman he was off it.
Wilt Chamberlain (NBA) – 100 points in a game and 50.4 ppg for a season
And for last we have maybe the most incredible record of them all. The NBA have seen some prolific scorers over the years, but none did it quite like “The Big Dipper”
Chamberlain ended his 14 season NBA career holding numerous records (most points, field goals made and total rebounds among many). But there is one game and one season that sets him apart from any other player in history.
On March 2, 1962 in Hershey, PA the Philadelphia Warriors took on the New York Knicks. There have been many stories told about this game, least of all the number of people that claim they were in attendance (this has been inflated a little over time!). But the show Chamberlain put on for those that actually were there would never be forgotten. 100 points on 36 of 63 from the field and (more amazingly) 28 of 32 from the foul line. For a career 51.1% free throw shooter it was like a perfect storm. He exclaimed to teammate Al Attles after the game that he never thought he’d take 60 shots in a game, but sometimes fate has other plans.
The other half of this record is the face he average 50.4ppg over the entire season. Consider that is that season alone Wilt had 45 games of at least 50 points… there have only been another 328 occasions of 50 point games (from the 1963-64 season accruing to basketball-reference.com) and Wilt had 30 of those! Consider that Wilt hold 5 of the 6 highest point per game averages for a single season, with only Michael Jordan’s 1986-87 season of 37.09ppg the outlier. There have been 33 times where a player has averaged at least 30ppg since 1979-80 and only 3 averaging over 35ppg. The marks that Wilt has set will stand the test of time and nobody will come close to beating them. Oh, and that reference to the 1961-62 MVP? Yeah, Oscar and Wilt had their amazing years in the same season… and still couldn’t win MVP from Russell! Think about that.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about some of the most incredible sporting achievements we have ever seen. Please leave any feedback you might have about these or any other records that come to mind in the comments section of the blog, at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @usasportblog78.