Let’s face it, there’s no shortage of amazing world records and astonishing feats these days. There is a world record for everything, from most hot dogs eaten in 10 minutes, to the world’s fattest man, and even the world’s longest fingernails. However amusing and incredible some of these feats appear to be, they will never live up to the hype that the 24/7 news media will provide on any record-breaking performance when it comes to sports.
Whether the record-breaking act is intentional or not, there’s something to be said about forever having your name etched in the history books. Here are 10 of the greatest records from the world of sports. Granted, some are now synonymous with scandals, but who doesn’t like a little controversy now and then?
10. Lance Armstrong — 7x Tour de France Champion (kind of)
During the 1990s and into the 2000s, Lance Armstrong was a modern day American hero. Having survived testicular cancer, he became the poster boy for cancer research and overcoming adversity. Amongst the hundreds of awards he had won only one stood out; winning the Tour de France seven times. Prior to Armstrong, there had been four riders who had won the Tour five times. Granted, we all know now that Armstrong used performance enhancing drugs to win his titles, but his efforts are impressive nonetheless. In 2012, Armstrong was stripped of his seven tour titles and the sport has suffered a black eye as the result of numerous high profile doping allegations. To this day, Armstrong still calls himself a seven-time winner of the Tour, despite what others may say.
9. Cael Sanderson — 159-0 College Wrestling Record
For those of you who are not familiar, Cael Sanderson was one of the greatest collegiate wrestlers of all time. After winning four state championships in high school, Sanderson went to Iowa State and became one of the most prolific wrestlers in school history. Sanderson won his first NCAA Championship in 1999, becoming the first freshman to be named the most outstanding wrestler at the NCAA Championships. All he did after that was win another 120 straight matches, bring his total career record to 159-0 and become just the second four-time collegiate champion in history. Fittingly, Sanderson took home the gold at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, the birthplace of one of the world’s oldest sports and home to the first Olympics.
8. Oscar Robertson — 1961-62 Triple Double Season
Before there was Jordan, Kobe, and LeBron, basketball was defined by one player; Oscar Robertson. “The Big O” dominated the opposition, literally defining what a triple-double was. In college, Robertson became the first player to ever lead the nation in scoring for three consecutive years, and was Player of the Year in each of those seasons. Upon graduation, Robertson became the All-Star Game MVP and Rookie of the Year in 1960-61. The following season, Robertson averaged 30.8 points per game, 12.5 rebounds per game, and 11.4 assists per game, making him the only player to ever average a triple-double in a season. Granted, the game was not the same in 1961 as it is today, but it is still one of the most unbreakable records in history. Even if LeBron James were to average double-digit points and rebounds, chances are he wouldn’t be as successful for that final category.
7. Michael Phelps — 2008 Olympic Performance
The most prolific swimmer in Olympic history without a doubt is Michael Phelps. The American golden boy from Maryland broke onto the scene in 2002 at the Pan Pacific Championships, setting an American record for the 200 meter medley and never looked back. By the time the 2008 Olympics rolled around, the world was fixated on Phelps and his quest to break the gold medal record of seven gold medals which was held by Mark Spitz from the 1972 games. Despite some controversy and a protest from the Serbian Olympic team after winning his seventh gold by .01 seconds, Phelps tied the record and was primed to take down his eighth gold medal. On August 17th, Phelps and his teammates finished first in the 4×100 meter medley, etching his name in history books forever.
6. Cal Ripken — 2,632 Consecutive Games Played
In one of the most impressive sports streaks and examples of durability, Cal Ripken Jr.’s record for consecutive games played will probably never be broken. Beginning on May 30th, 1982 and ending on September 19th, 1998, Ripken suited up and played in 2,632 games, surpassing Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig’s record of 2,130. The “Iron Man” record became Ripken’s identity as he surpassed it and stood alone as one of the most durable players of all time. Not only was his durability put to the test, but from early in his career so was his skill. It was certainly by no accident that he was able to play 16 straight seasons of baseball; his career stat line includes a .276 average, .340 OBP, and 1,695 RBI, in addition to being a 19-time All-Star and World Series Champion as a member of the Baltimore Orioles.
5. Wayne Gretzky — 2,857 Career Points Scored
If you watch hockey for the finesse and fluidity of the game, you’re probably very familiar with Wayne Gretzky, one of the greatest athletes to ever lace up a pair of skates. Sure, there have been some hockey players who have had some pretty remarkable seasons since Gretzky’s retirement, but none have had prolonged success quite like the Great One experienced. In fact, by the time Gretzky was 24 years old, he had already tallied up 914 points. By the time Gretzky hung up his skates for good, he had broken 24 long standing records, none of which are quite as impressive as his career points mark. As for anyone coming close to the record, Gretzky’s former teammate Mark Messier is second on the list with 1,887 points and active players Jaromir Jagr and (recently) Teemu Selanne are 6th and 15th on the list with 1,755 and 1,457 points respectively.
4. Nolan Ryan — 5,714 Career Strikeouts/Seven No-Hitters
As one of the only pitchers to pitch over four decades, Nolan Ryan was one of the most feared pitchers in baseball for most of his career. With a fastball reaching 100 MPH, Ryan was known for his Texas work ethic and tenacity. He broke dozens of records and finished his career with 324 victories, an unheard of seven no-hitters, and 5,714 strikeouts. The guy had an arm that pitchers today could only dream of, as the sport has changed dramatically since Ryan played. Gone are the days of throwing until you can’t pick up the ball anymore, as everything is tracked to the nanosecond in today’s game. Ryan has 900 more strikeouts than the second person on the list, Randy Johnson, and he is currently 3,500 strikeouts ahead the current active MLB leader, CC Sabathia.
3. John Wooden — 10 National Championships
When you think of college basketball coaches you think of John Wooden. Never had there ever been a coach quite like him, and to this day there haven’t been any to reach the level of success Wooden did during his tenure. Wooden was responsible for establishing the UCLA dynasty of the 1960s and 1970s, as he won 10 NCAA Championships his last 12 seasons before retiring in 1975. Not only that, but UCLA’s record seven consecutive championships and Wooden’s 88 straight victories have not even been close to being broken in the record books. As the first player to ever be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player and coach, he helped to revolutionize the way coaches thought of the game. His integrity, dedication, and success led to his 15 step “pyramid of success” to be a fixture in locker rooms and coaches’ libraries throughout the world.
2. Boston Celtics — 8 Consecutive NBA Titles
If you thought the Miami Heat had a hard time three-peating as NBA champs this season, imagine trying to do it in eight straight seasons. From 1959-1966, the Boston Celtics won the NBA Championship every single season, establishing a record that will never be broken. Not only because of the way contracts are set up and structured, but because teams simply can’t stack their lineups today. The disparity may seem wide between the best and worse teams in the NBA, but nobody will ever be as dominant as the Celtics were during that time. The Celtics benefitted from not only one of the best coaches of all time in Red Auerbach, but they also enjoyed the likes of Hall of Famers Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, John Havlicek, and Larry Bird. So the next time you talk about the beginnings of a dynasty, be aware that the record for consecutive NBA title will never even be close to being broken.
1. Wilt Chamberlain — Career 60 Point Games
There have been 64 games in NBA history in which a player has scored over 60 points. Wilt Chamberlain accounts for half of those. During his career, Chamberlain amassed 32 games with at least 60 points, including a performance in which he set the record for most points in a game with 100. Included amongst his 60-point performances, Chamberlain scored at least 70 points six times, easily the most in NBA history. While he may not be known as the most prolific scorer in history, nobody can take away the mark that he left on the game. As for the greatest basketball player ever, Michael Jordan scored at least 60 points six times; impressive, but nowhere near what Wilt was able to accomplish.