It’s been screamed from mountain tops that sports records are made to be broken. Yet there are a handful of gutsy athletic performances that have tested the limits of repeated possibility, finishes that have threatened the assumption that all unbreakable sports records can one day be eclipsed.
But since Russell Westbrook broke Oscar Robertson’s seemingly untouchable triple-double record this past NBA season, fans have been tearing through pages to find sports records that are somehow still locked in the darkest dungeon of can’t-touch-this; anxiously perusing the sports bibles for the statistically untouchable. But at the same time waiting for that next miracle like..
Let’s rank the most unbreakable professional sports records.
15. Emmitt Smith’s 18,355 rushing yards. 18K+ yards in 15 seasons with mostly the Dallas Cowboys and a bit of the Arizona Cardinals isn’t just fantastic on paper, but it’s seemingly untouchable during today’s running-back-by-committee approach. Whether they’re icing knees, battling with three recently drafted speedsters for third-down pass-catching exposure, or retiring at 28 years old, NFL tailbacks no longer endure the same featured-back wear and tear of old. This bodes well for the maintenance of Smith’s record.
14. Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. During which time he hit .408 with 15 dingers and 55 RBI. 1941 was good to Joltin’ Joe. Shifts and platoons prevent players from getting enough at-bats to break this. Pete Rose came close in 1978 with 44, but this one may last awhile.
13. Connie Mack’s 3,948 losses as manager. For even sticking around that long, well done Connie. Not so much for you, Philadelphia Athletics.
12. Derrick Thomas’ seven sacks in game. Tecmo Bowl performance right here, as the Kansas City Chiefs’ eventual hall of fame linebacker used Nov. 11, 1990 to eat Seattle Seahawks quarterback Dave Krieg seven times for lunch. Osi Umenyiora got close with six on Donovan McNabb in 2007, but we’re left waiting for the finish.
11. Jerry Rice 1,549 receptions. 20 years in the league as the hands-down best set of hands may never be touched. Not many wide receivers get to play with two Hall of Fame quarterbacks either.
10. Pete Rose’s 4,256 hits. Scrappy Elton John doppelganger, Pete’s position outside of Cooperstown due to betting on baseball games (that he’d win!) has haunted him forever, but there’s no denying his on-field legacy. Considering he also owns the most at-bats (14,053) and games (3,562), the sports record hat trick makes sense. Ichiro Suzuki is the active leader with 3,041.. at age 43.
9. Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 points in a single game. Many teams struggle to score 100 (Knicks.. cough..) in a game, let alone allow a player do it. To that, one must not hate the player, but instead hate the probably lacking competition. Kobe’s 81 is the closest total — with the two of them being the only hardwood players to surpass 80 points in a game — but Wilt the Stilt’s 55 rebounds is also probably unreachable. All in all, the game produced one timelessly iconic photograph.
8. Brett Favre’s 321 consecutive starts. And every other passing stat, naturally including interceptions. Eli Manning could surpass the 321 — currently at 199 — but he’d have to go another seven or eight seasons. He’s 36.
7. Nolan Ryan’s seven no-hitters and 5,714 strikeouts. Only retired southpaw giant Randy Johnson (4,857), who once hit a bird, is within 1,000 strikeouts. To beat Ryan, a pitcher would have to average 286 strikeouts for 20 seasons, a nearly impossible feat in an age where pitchers only pitch once every five days and are on strict pitch counts.
6. Willie Keeler’s 63.17 at-bats per strikeout. Unreal. Perhaps the greatest contact hitter in history, .341 career hitter Willie Keeler finished his 19-year journey with 136 strikeouts in 9,610 plate appearances. For some perspective, Mark Reynolds nearly reached Keeler’s career K mark of 136 in pretty much half a season — when he had 223 strikeouts in 2009. In an age of power hitting, contact is no longer so revered.
5. Bill Russell’s 11 championships. Yogi Berra was close with 10 as a MLB player from the late ’40s to ’60s. But with NBA free agency starting in 1988 (thanks a lot, Tom Chambers), teams have lost most of the ability to retain their own stars in any sport. Rinse and repeat.
4. Cal Ripken’s 2,632 consecutive games played. This may be simply impossible to battle. 162 games for 16 straight seasons is insane knowing the benefits of rest, especially on playoff bound teams. Ripken was the real Iron Man.
3. Ricky Henderson’s 1,406 steals. The Man of Steal holds the record for runs, unintentional walks, and lead off home runs as well. Cincinnati Reds spark plug Billy Hamilton broke the single season Minor League record for stolen bases with 155 in 2012, so he’s got the wheels to compete for this record. But with only 210 career Major League steals at 26 years old, Hamilton would need to average roughly 75 steals over the next 16 seasons. That may be tough with a .299 career OBP compared to Rickey’s .401.
2. Wayne Gretzky’s 2,857 points. During today’s 82-game season, a player would need to average 143 points for 20 consecutive seasons to break Gretzky’s record. But nobody has touched 140 points in a season since 1996. Last year, Patrick Kane was the only player with more than 90 points. To quote Liam Neeson, “Good luck.”
1. Cy Young’s 511 wins and 749 complete games. These two sit high atop this sports records list, considering the limits pitchers are now held to. Bartolo Colon — endearingly referred to as Big Sexy by mostly New York Mets fans — is the current active leader with 235, but he’s 44 years old. On the durability side, Chris Sale led the MLB with six complete games last year, but 36-year-old CC Sabathia is the active leader with a pedestrian 38 complete games (an average of roughly two per season). I’ll take pigs flying first.