Sports records that won’t be broken in our lifetime
Records are meant to be broken, right? Well, not exactly. There are some records that are seemingly off limits and too hard to take down, too improbable to best.
Here are 30 incredible sports records that won’t be broken any time soon.
Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game
On March 2, 1962, Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors scored an NBA-record 100 points in a monumental win over the New York Knicks. Unfortunately for us fans, there is no video evidence of the historic feat, and the only audio recordings to surface from the game were from the fourth quarter.
That being said, it is well established that Wilt netted 100 points during a season in which he averaged a healthy 50.4 points per game. The closest anyone has gotten to eclipsing Wilt’s record was Kobe Bryant, who dropped 81 points against the Toronto Raptors back in 2006. The third spot on the list, unsurprisingly, also belongs to Wilt, who had a 78-point outburst in 1961.
Jerry Rice’s 22,895 receiving yards
It took a perfect storm of good health, better quarterbacks, and an amazing pair of hands (sometimes aided by Stickum) to get Jerry Rice to the top, a position he won’t be giving up for a long, long time. Jerry Rice is the career leader in receptions, touchdown receptions, and receiving yards, three of the most important statistical categories for a receiver.
A 13-time Pro Bowler and 12-time All-Pro, Rice won three Super Bowls with the 49ers and appeared in another with the Oakland Raiders. Rice is lightyears ahead of the second place receiver, Larry Fitzgerald, on the NFL’s all-time receiving yards list. Rice has 22,895 yards while Fitzgerald, whose career is rapidly coming to a close, has 16,279 yards and counting.
Barry Bonds’ 73 home runs in a season
Baseball purists, shield your eyes. Barry Bonds holds the MLB record for most home runs in a single season with an astounding 73. In 2001, Bonds went on a torrid run of clobbering balls out of the park, that is when he wasn’t getting walked by opposing pitchers. On Oct. 5, 2001, Bonds hit his 71st home run, breaking the previous record of 70 set by Mark McGwire in 1998.
Two days later, Bonds smashed his 73rd and final homer of the season, establishing the new gold standard for home runs. However, that gold standard is severely tarnished thanks to Bonds’ use of steroids, which was confirmed by his lawyer. Since Bonds’ 73 home run year, no MLB player has even eclipsed 60 home runs.
John Stockton’s 15,806 assists
John Stockton may go down as the greatest passer to never win a ring. The Jazz selected Stockton with the 16th pick in the 1984 NBA Draft, hoping the scrappy Gonzaga Bulldog could have a productive NBA career. Well, it’s safe to say he did. Stockton played the entirety of his 19-year career in Utah, never missing the playoffs while establishing numerous (and potentially unbreakable) records.
Today, Stockton holds, by massive margins, the NBA record for steals and assists. Stockton has 15,806 assists, almost 4,000 more than Jason Kidd who sits in second place. Stockton also has the career steals record with 3,265, a good 800 more than Jason Kidd. The one thing Kidd has on Stockton? A precious ring.
Boston Celtics’ 8-straight championships
It’s not often that you hear the term “eight-peat.” Three-peats are more common, albeit incredibly rare (think about Jordan’s two separate three-peats of the 1990s). But eight championship victories in a row? Practically unheard of. Despite the insane odds of it occurring — and in today’s NBA, it’s a virtual lock to never occur again — the Celtics pull off the remarkable feat from 1959 t0 1966.
What’s even more remarkable about this is the anchor of the team, Bill Russell, had no idea that the team had just won eight-straight championships. According to Russell, he did “not know our Celtic teams won eight championships in a row until about 20 years ago when I read about it in a game program.”
Wayne Gretzky’s 215 points in a season
In hockey, a point is awarded to a player who scores a goal or assists on a scoring play. And in NHL history, only one person has accumulated 200 points in a single season, Wayne Gretzky, something he accomplished four times. Gretzky is by and large considered the greatest NHL player to ever lace ’em up.
He was a deft scorer and a true winner with an unbreakable work ethic and focus. And all of that translated into winning, goals, points, and unbreakable records. Gretzky holds nine out of the NHL’s top-10 single-season points records, including the top four spots. Gretzky’s 1985-86 215-point season remains one of the most untouchable records in sports.
Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hit streak
In 1941, Joe DiMaggio established what would be the longest hitting streak in MLB history. The streak, in which DiMaggio hit safely in 56 consecutive games, began on May 15 and ended on July 17. When it ended, DiMaggio held up double zeros (pictured below) to indicate his hitless night.
Nicknamed the “The Yankee Clipper,” DiMaggio was a three-time MVP and nine-time World Series champion. The closest anyone has come to matching his streak was Willie Keeler’s 45-game hit streak from 1896-97. In the modern era, only Pete Rose has eclipsed a 40-game hit streak when he had an impressive 44-game hit streak in 1978.
Bob Gibson’s 1.12 ERA
Bob Gibson’s 1968 season is considered the greatest in the modern era for a pitcher. For starters, Gibson won the National League MVP Award. That alone should tell you he dominated. But if you dive into the numbers, you can see just how amazing Gibson was that year. Gibson started 34 games, with 28 complete games pitched. He also maintained an astoundingly-low 1.12 ERA, a live-ball era record.
That 1.12 ERA was also the lowest MLB mark since Dutch Leonard’s 0.96 ERA from 1914. In general, 1968 was considered a pitchers year, with Gibson leading the charge. Due to an inability for teams to get on base and score runs, MLB decided to lower the mound 5 inches and reduce the strike zone, commonly known as “Gibson rules.”
Michael Phelps’ 23 Olympic gold medals
There isn’t a more decorated Olympian than Baltimore’s Michael Phelps, the proud owner of 28 Olympic medals, 23 of which are gold. Known as the “Flying Fish,” Phelps made his Olympic debut at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where the 15-year-old Phelps placed fifth in the 200-meter butterfly, his signature event.
Four years later, Phelps won six gold medals at the 2004 Athens Olympics. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Phelps took home eight golds, and four years later at the 2012 London games, Phelps brought home another four golds. In his final Olympics, the 2016 Rio games, Phelps won five golds, bringing his gold medal count to 23 — 14 more than Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina’s nine gold medals.
Cy Young’s 511 wins
Denton True “Cy” Young got his start pitching in the majors in 1890 with the Cleveland Spiders of the National League. After Cleveland, Young moved to the Cardinals before jumping to the American League’s Boston Red Sox, where he pitched until 1908. Young returned to Cleveland as a member of the Naps and finished his career in Boston with the Rustlers.
During that span, Young amassed win after win after win. Ultimately, he collected an MLB-record 511 wins. Young also holds the record for most innings pitched, games started, and complete games. He’s also the only pitcher to amass 500 or more wins, and one of only two pitchers to amass 400 or more wins, the other being Walter Johnson.
Richard Petty’s 200 NASCAR wins
Name a NASCAR race and you can bet Richard Petty, “The King,” has won it. Pett drove his signature No. 43 car from 1958 to 1992. In that span, he won a record seven Daytona 500s and 200 races overall. The next closest to Petty in win totals? David Pearson, with 105. Even greater than his win totals was the lasting legacy he left on the sport.
In 1992, Petty was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George Bush. Today, the king of racing owns a racing team, Richard Petty Motorsports, that competes in the NASCAR Cup Series. Out of active drivers, Jimmie Johnson (83 wins) is closest to Petty’s win record.
Cal Ripken Jr.’s 2,632 consecutive-game streak
Nicknamed the “Iron Man,” Cal Ripken Jr. was a Baltimore Oriole for life. Ripken got his MLB start in 1981 and played through the conclusion of the 2001 season. During that span, Ripken went onto win two American League MVP Awards, was selected for 19 All-Star games, and won one World Series. While those accomplishments may be incredible on their own, Ripken’s real crowning achievement was his consecutive games streak.
From May 30, 1982, to Sept. 19, 1998, Ripken, remarkably, played in 2,632 consecutive games. Nothing, be it injury or personal/family issues, could stop him from taking the field. Ripken’s impressive streak lasted 500 games longer than the second-longest streak owned by Lou Gehrig.
Nolan Ryan’s 5,714 career strikeouts
Batters facing Nolan Ryan were facing the (almost) inevitable: a strikeout. Nolan Ryan was baseball. He was pitching. And he was dominant from start to finish. Ryan is one of only a handful of players to play in four decades; his career spanned from 1966 through 1993.
In those four decades, Ryan won one World Series, tossed a record seven no-hitters — which we’ll discuss later — and struck out an insane 5,714 batters, more than 800 strikeouts ahead of Randy Johnson. In 1999, Ryan was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Despite all of the strikeouts, Ryan had a penchant for walking batters. His 2,795 walks are by far the most in MLB history.
John Wooden’s 10 NCAA championships
Greatness can be defined by this upcoming sentence: John Wooden, nicknamed the “Wizard of Westwood,” won seven national championships in a row and 10 in a 12-year period while coaching the UCLA Bruins from 1948 to 1975. Those 10 national championships put Coach Wooden five above the coach with the second most, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski who has five.
In 2009, Wooden, whose legacy transcends basketball, was named The Sporting News Greatest Coach of All Time, a designation most, if not all, fans can agree with. Wooden was instrumental in building UCLA’s basketball program, recruited some of the nation’s top talent to play there, like Lew Alcindor (below), and set the gold standard for coaching and winning.
Pele’s 3 World Cup wins
Winning the World Cup is soccer’s ultimate prize. It’s also one of the hardest feats to accomplish in sports. Accordingly, the world only has a handful of players to ever win the World Cup multiple times. However, there is only one player to win the World Cup three times, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, simply known as Pele.
Pele, considered the world’s greatest soccer player, led Brazil to three World Cup victories: 1958, 1962, and 1970. The 1970 World Cup, Pele’s last World Cup, was the first FIFA World Cup to be broadcasted live around the world in color. To date, Brazil leads all countries with five World Cup victories.
Ricky Henderson’s 1,406 stolen bases
Aptly nicknamed the “Man of Steal,” Ricky Henderson, by the widest of margins, is MLB’s all-time stolen base leader. Henderson set numerous records while playing and is oft-considered the greatest leadoff hitter ever. Henderson holds records for career stolen bases, runs, walks, and leadoff home runs, but his base stealing record is his greatest accomplishment.
In 1991, Henderson stole his 939th base, passing the great Lou Brock for most all time, and he was just getting started. Henderson would play into the 2000s and amass an extraordinary 1,406 steals, nearly double Brock’s previous record of 938. Henderson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009.
Martin Brodeur’s 691 wins
Considered one of the most skilled and successful goalies in NHL history, long-time New Jersey Devil Martin Brodeur won three Stanley Cups and two Olympic gold medals representing Team Canada. Brodeur played 21 of his 22 NHL seasons with the Devils, racking up an insane amount of wins season after season.
In total, Brodeur won 691 times, over 100 more wins than the next closest goalie, Patrick Roy who won 551 times. In 2018, Brodeur was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Since retirement, Brodeur has returned to the Devils in an administrative capacity as the team’s vice president of business development.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 26-game losing streak
Futility. Misery. Hopelessness. All fitting descriptions for the utter disappointment that was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when they entered the league back in 1976. The Bucs, like most expansion teams, were bound to have struggles, but what no one could predict was just how bad they were going to be. When the Bucs entered the league, the NFL had a 14-game schedule, two short of today’s season.
Well, 14 games or 16, it didn’t matter, because the Bucs were going to lose them all anyway. The Bucs went winless in their first season and proceeded to follow that up the next season by starting off 0-12, bringing their losing streak to 26 games. Thankfully, it ended when the Bucs rattled off two consecutive victories to close out the 1977 season.
Montreal Canadiens’ 5-straight Stanley Cup victories
The Stanley Cup playoffs is a war of attrition, and when it comes to the Stanley Cup Final, the last remaining team is often simply the healthiest. The NHL is a brutal sport, and the physicality takes its toll on teams like no other. So it is remarkable that the Montreal Canadiens were able to get to and win the Stanley Cup Final five-straight years.
The improbable streak started in 1956 and went through the 1960 season. Today, you’d be hard pressed to find an NHL team that has repeated as champions (think Penguins and Red Wings), but a three-peat? Not happening. Five in a row? Impossible, making the Canadiens achievement one of the most unbreakable records in sports.
Gordie Howe playing in 5 decades
Playing any sport for five decades is a remarkable accomplishment, but doing so in hockey just doesn’t make any sense. Well, Gordie Howe was out to prove everyone and their infallible logic wrong. Howe got started in the NHL in 1946 as a rookie with the Detroit Red Wings. In the 1950s, still with the Red Wings, Howe became one of the league’s best players and adroit scorers. In the 60s, Howe, slowly showing his age in his third decade of professional hockey, still managed to put the puck in the net with ease.
Finally, after the 1970-71 season, Howe had had enough of the NHL, at least for now. Following a short break from hockey to heal up some injuries, Howe made his return to the ice, but this time for the World Hockey Association. In 1979, the WHA folded; those who were good enough transferred to the NHL. Howe, who was a member of the WHA’s Whalers, was now back in the NHL, playing for the newly-formed Hartford Whalers. During the 1979-80 season, Howe, in his fifth decade, appeared in 80 games and guided the Whalers to the playoffs.
Tom Brady’s 6 Super Bowls
The only man in NFL history to win six Super Bowls as a player, Tom Brady has ended the greatest-quarterback-of-all-time debate. For a while, Brady was stuck at five rings, tied with Charles Haley. However, Brady eventually broke the tie after Brady and his Patriots vanquished the Rams in Super Bowl 53.
And with that sixth ring, Brady put himself on another level of greatness, a level no active player is close to reaching. Among active players, kicker Adam Vinatieri is second closest to Brady with four Super Bowl rings — three of which were from the Patriots and one from the Colts.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 38,387 points
This picture. This picture is the reason why Kareem was able to rack up an NBA-record 38,387 points in his hall-of-fame career. Kareem had an arsenal of impressive shots, none more lethal than his famous skyhook. Over the course of his illustrious career, Kareem won six NBA Finals and six MVP Awards, each one fueled by sound defense and a virtually unstoppable offensive game.
Karl Malone, who is second on the all-time list, retired from basketball almost 2,000 points behind Kareem. Among active players, LeBron James sits at fourth place with 32,543 points and counting, but it would take a gargantuan effort from him to eclipse Kareem’s mark.
Eric Gagne’s 84-game save streak
For a few years, there wasn’t a reliever in baseball as scary as Eric Gagne. Gagne’s career took off with the Dodgers when the team switched him from starter to reliever where he eventually found his niche as a closer. From 2002 to 2004, Gagne appeared in three All-Star games, won a Cy Young Award, and converted 84 consecutive save opportunities, an MLB record.
During that span, Gagne would appear on the mound and the stadium scoreboard, if it was a home game, would flash “Game Over.” And it usually was. Gagne’s 84-game save streak is 24 games more than the next best streak, belonging to Zack Britton.
George Blanda’s 42 interceptions in a season
Not that this record is anything to be proud about, but it is an unbreakable record nonetheless. In 1962, Houston Oilers quarterback George Blanda, playing in a 14-game season mind you, tossed 42 interceptions, a record that will not be broken any time soon. Despite the appalling amount of interceptions he threw, an average of three per game, Blanda led the Oilers to an 11-3 record.
In today’s NFL, there will never be a season in which a quarterback throws 42 picks. A player will get benched, cut, or opt to quit long before that number is even approached. In 1988, Vinny Testaverde got within striking distance of Blanda’s record by throwing a league-high 35 picks.
Nolan Ryan’s 7 no-hitters
Back on the Ryan express we go. As we mentioned, Ryan threw the most strikeouts in MLB history. While some fans may consider this to be his greatest accomplishment, others would point to the seven no-hitters he tossed. Sandy Koufax, who threw four no-hitters, is second in baseball history.
Ryan, had things gone a bit differently, easily could have thrown more no-hitters; he threw 12 one-hitters and 18-two hitters. What he wasn’t able to do was pitch a perfect game or win a Cy Young. In 1999, Ryan was enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Pete Rose’s 4,256 hits
Pete Rose bet on baseball and essentially barred himself from the hall of fame. That is a massive blemish on his resume. However, if you are able to look beyond that slip-up, you’ll soon realize and appreciate Rose’s greatness. Rose played with an unmatchable amount of effort and had an amazing knack for getting on base.
On Sept. 11, 1985, Rose got the 4,192nd hit of his career, surpassing the legendary Ty Cobb for the most in baseball’s long history. By the end of his career, Rose accumulated 4,256 hits, a record that isn’t even close to being broken. He also set records for most games played, at-bats, and singles.
Brett Favre’s 297-game starting streak
The NFL’s ironman, Brett Favre, somehow, managed to play in 297 consecutive games. Despite playing one of the most physical sports with the highest injury rates, Favre, who also was sacked more than any other quarterback in NFL history, kept coming back for more. Favre was the unquestioned leader of the Packers from 1992 to 2007.
Favre’s start streak began in 1992 and lasted through his tenure in Green Bay, his one season as a Jet, and his time spent in Minnesota. Including the playoffs, Favre started 321 consecutive games. He was also a three-time MVP, winning the award three straight years — the only player to do so.
Derrick Thomas’ 7 sacks in a game
The fourth pick in the 1989 NFL Draft was Derrick Thomas, selected by the Chiefs who had big expectations for the promising pass-rusher. Thomas did not disappoint. He spent his entire 11-year career in Kansas City, bringing down more quarterbacks than any other player in Chiefs history.
Thomas, a nine-time Pro Bowler, also set the mark for most sacks in a game, notching seven back in a 1990 game against the Seattle Seahawks. Who’s in second place on the single-game sack list? This man and Osi Umenyiora, both of whom recorded six sacks. In 2000, Thomas tragically passed away due to injuries suffered from a car accident.
Barry Bonds’ 762 career home runs
Another controversial record, Barry Bonds smashed the 756th home run of his career on Aug. 7, 2007, at AT&T Park in San Francisco. That monumental blast put Bonds atop the all-time home run list, surpassing Hank Aaron who crushed 755 in his career.
Much like other feats and achievements from Bonds’ career, this one wasn’t without its fair share of controversy. As details emerged about Bonds’ steroid use, many fans and baseball purists rejected him as the king of home runs and questioned his record. Today, fans are split about supporting Bonds, who finished his career with 762 home runs, or Aaron.
Byron Nelson’s 18 PGA Tour wins in a year
Not Tiger Woods, not Rory McIlroy, and not Jordan Spieth. No one, to be exact, has matched Byron Nelson’s record-breaking 1945 season. In that year, Lord Byron won 18 of 35 PGA tournaments. Of those 18, Byron rattled off 11 wins in a row.
For those of you wondering what’s the most wins Tiger has collected in a single season, it’s exactly half of what Byron Nelson achieved in 1945. The only slight against this record is the timing and circumstances behind it. Many golf historians point to America’s involvement in WWII as a major contributing factor behind Nelson’s dominance, claiming the talent pool was severely reduced.