Record This: Analyzing "Unbreakable" Records in Sports
While reading Bill Simmons' latest mailbag article on ESPN.com, he referred to a list of unbreakable sports records, which included "Wilt's 100-point game, DiMaggio's 56-game hit streak, Nolan Ryan's seven no-hitters, and Cal Ripken's 2,632 consecutive games."
The comment gave me pause, not because I disagreed with the records given, rather because of the sheer number of records in sports and which ones are the best of the best.
To be honest, this isn't the first time I have thought about the best records in sports. Bleacher Report even allows writers to list their most unbreakable record as part of our user profile.
I thought about creating my Top 10 list, but there is really no point. There are certainly more than ten records across all sports that will not be broken, and if two records won't be broken, who is to say which one is "more" unbreakable?
That said, certain records are more unbreakable than others, and they can easily be identified categorically.
The list consists of Game Records, Season Records, and Career Records. There are overlaps in there, such as a hitting streak that crosses over from one season to another, but really the three categories do just fine.
In my opinion, Game Records are the easiest to break, followed by Season Records, and then Career Records.
Simply put, "unbreakable" game records are really not that unbreakable. Wilt's 100 point game is the most well-known single-game record in sports. We need not look any further back than Kobe Bryant's 81-point performance in January of 2006 to see that it is not outside the realm of possibility that a player can reach triple digits again.
In fact, I would argue that Wilt's most impressive single-game record is his 54 rebound performance. I cannot, off the top of my head, think the last time a player even grabbed 30 rebounds in a game.
Either way, on any given night, a player can get hot. A player can reach a never before seen level of performance and break a record. This may include a baseball player hitting five home runs (Albert Pujols?), an NFL player scoring seven touchdowns (LaDainian Tomlinson?), or an NHL player scoring eight goals (Alexander Ovechkin?).
The next category are single-season records. Wilt finds his way here again, with his absurd season records for points per game (50.4) and rebounds per game (27.2). To put that in perspective, the players with the next highest averages are Elgin Baylor (38.3 PPG in only 48 games) and Bill Russell (24.7 RPG). It should also be mentioned that no player has averaged 20 boards a game since 1970.
While Kobe could go off for 101 points, or Dwight Howard could benefit from the Warriors shooting 10% for a game, for a player to put up those numbers over the course of an 82 game season would be nearly impossible given the nature of the game today.
The same holds true for DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak. A player would have to demonstrate consistent success for multiple months to break it. While Pete Rose and others have put up some pretty impressive streaks, no player has come within a week of topping the Yankee Clipper's mark.
If it stands to reason that season records and harder to break than game records, than it would stand to reason that career records are the hardest of all to conquer.
It is here that I find the record that I deem to be the most unbreakable in sports. Wayne Gretzky's career mark of 2,857 regular season points in the NHL.
To put this in perspective, Mark Messier is second with nearly 1,000 less points (1,887). Messier also played almost 300 more games than the Great One.
Alexander Ovechkin will lead the NHL in scoring this season, and have between 110 and 115 points doing so. 112 points would give Ovechkin 307 points in his three season so far in the NHL. At 112 points per season, Ovechkin would need to retire in around 2031 at 46 years of age just to catch Gretzky. Sidney Crosby would face a similar challenge.
All in all, I don't think we are going to see anyone score 101, average 50.5, or reach 2,858 anytime soon, as much as I would love to see a player be so dominant.
That said, the pecking order has been set. I leave it up to you the reader to hit me with your unbreakable sports records. Any sport, any year, any country is acceptable, and I look forward to seeing your responses.
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