20 of the Most Impressive Records in Sports
Each year in sports there are a handful of exceptional accomplishments, some of which are record- setting. And, generally speaking, every time a new record is set means another record has been broken.
That all makes a lot of sense because records are made to be broken—except, of course, when they're not.
There are countless sports records and achievements that are in jeopardy of being toppled each year. But there are a few enduring achievements throughout the sports world that are so remarkable and seemingly out of reach that they may never be matched.
Here are 20 of the most impressive records in sports.
20. Miami Dolphins Perfect Season
Every year when the last undefeated team falls, we're treated to stories about the 1972 Miami Dolphins popping champagne in celebration. Many involved have denied the elaborate celebrations that have been conjured up by the media over the years, but none have denied being pleased to still occupy that place in history.
And why shouldn't they pleased? Their achievement was unprecedented, and 40 years later it has still yet to be matched…but there have been a few close calls. I think this is by far the most likely record to be broken in our lifetime.
19. Federer's 23 Straight Grand Slam Semifinal Appearances
Roger Federer has made tennis history on a number of occasions throughout his career, but his 23 consecutive semifinal appearances has got to be his most noteworthy and unbeatable achievement.
To the casual tennis fan (or for those who aren't fans at all) that might not sound like that impressive an achievement—that's only until you realize that Federer absolutely shattered the previous record, which was 10.
18. Baylor Women's Basketball Goes 40-0
I wanted to give a shout out to the Baylor Lady Bears who are coming off a historic 40-0 run. Baylor defeated Notre Dame in the NCAA Championship and became the first college basketball team in history (men or women) to go 40-0 for the season.
The feat was unprecedented, but there are two other streaks that actually dwarf the 40-game achievement. Between 2001 and 2003, the UConn women won 70 straight games, and between 1970 and 1974, the UCLA men won an epic 88 straight.
17. Gordie Howe's Games Played Record
They don't call Red Wings legend Gordie Howe "Mr. Hockey" for nothing. Howe is unquestionably one of the greatest players of all time and his career longevity is exceptionally rare in the physically punishing NHL.
Howe's career in the NHL spanned an epic 26 seasons and his 1,767 games played is the most in league history. Nearly 25 percent of NHL careers end with just one career season and just 0.03 percent have lasted 26.
16. Pittsburgh Pirates' 19 Consecutive Losing Seasons
Good Lord, I don't mean to pick on the Pirates because God knows the fans of that once storied franchise have suffered enough. But seriously folks, 19 consecutive losing seasons?
Have you ever heard the (stupid) saying that even a broken clock is right two times a day? Well, you would think that in two decades the Pirates would have accidentally stumbled into a .500 season at least once.
15. Don Larsen's Perfect Game
If you're doing it right, the day-to-day pressure of playing professional sports is intense and that pressure is ratcheted up exponentially come playoff time. Regular season accomplishments are often completely disregarded when an athlete comes up small when it counts—I'm not going to point any fingers, but you know the type.
That being said, pitching a rare no-hitter in baseball is always an impressive accomplishment—even in exhibition games. So when Don Larsen pitched a perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series—MLB's first postseason no-hitter—he secured an enduring place in sports history.
14. Los Angeles Lakers' 33 Game Win Streak
Teams in the NBA today just aren't as overwhelmingly dominant as they once were, which is why there hasn't been a team to get anywhere within striking distance of the 1971-72 Lakers' 33-game win streak.
While teams might not be as dominant today, the closest any team has got to the record was the Rockets team of early 2008—but they still came in 11 games under the Lakers record at 22.
13. Jerry Rice's 208 Career Touchdowns
In 2010, the NFL Network ran the The Top 100: NFL's Greatest Players, a 10-part series which counted down the best players in NFL history. After a 10-hour countdown, 49ers wide receiving legend Jerry Rice was the last man standing.
Rice was a natural choice as the No. 1 because he owns, literally, dozens of NFL records. It's actually difficult to narrow them down, but Rice's most impressive has to be his 208 career touchdowns.
There are very few players who have gotten anywhere even close to Rice's record—the closest are retired running back Emmitt Smith with 175 and (likely) retired running back LaDanian Tomlinson with 162. Those next closest wide receiver is Terrell Owens with 156.
12. Rocky Marciano & Julio César Chávez
Boxing today is in a relatively sad state—a casualty of the meteoric rise of MMA over the last few years. But for the last century, boxing was the only game in town for those of us who get our jollies by watching grown men beat the hell out of each other.
There are two boxing records that stand out in my mind and it was impossible to choose between them.
The late Rocky Marciano was the World Heavyweight Champion from 1952 through 1956 and successfully defended his title six times—he's the only champion to hold the heavyweight title and go untied and undefeated throughout his career.
Retired Mexican fighter Julio César Chávez is a six-time world champion in three different weight divisions and was considered the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world for a long stretch of his career. Chávez's 87-match winning streak is the longest steak in boxing history—it ended with a draw in 1993.
11. Michael Phelps's 8 Gold Medals
In 1972, American swimmer Mark Spitz set a record that would stand for 36 years when he won seven gold medals in a single Olympics. At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, another American swimmer had a shot to take the record for himself, but few believed he would.
Apparently Michael Phelps appreciated the naysayers, having said after capturing his eight gold medal "Nothing is impossible. With so many people saying it couldn't be done, all it takes is an imagination, and that's something I learned and something that helped me."
I wonder if he has enough imagination to beat himself at the 2012 Olympics in London.
10. Johnny Van De Meer's Consecutive No-Hitters
Pitching a no-hitter is one of the greatest individual achievements in MLB. There are only a handful (at most) each season and the most any pitcher has ever had over a career is Nolan Ryan's seven.
Ryan had seven in nearly three decades of pitching, but the closest time frame in-between no-hitters was two months in 1973. Johnny Vander Meer is the only pitcher in MLB history to pitch no-hitters in two consecutive starts.
9. Peyton Manning's 11 4,000+ Yard Seasons
The 2011 NFL regular season finished with 10 quarterbacks surpassing the 4,000 yards passing mark and Peyton Manning wasn't even among them. Perhaps it's a sign of things to come, but based on past averages it was a complete anomaly.
At best, there are only a handful of NFL quarterbacks that reach the 4,000 yards passing mark each season. Many of the greatest ever have only exceeded the mark once or twice in their career—but Drew Brees, Brett Favre and Dan Marino have all done it six times.
Those are the three tied for second behind Peyton Manning, who nearly doubles their total with 11. It's hard to imagine someone surpassing Manning—especially if he pads that number in the new few years.
8. Celtics' 8 Consecutive Championships
Everybody knows that it's not easy to repeat as champion in professional sports. Winning two consecutive championships is relatively uncommon these days and is an impressive accomplishment in itself—add two more on top of that and you've got yourself one of the rarest occurrences in sports.
So how about when you add two more on top of that and multiply it by two—then you've got the Celtics' almost unimaginable eight consecutive championships. In the Bill Russell era (1957-69) the Celtics were as dominant a team as there has ever been and their eight straight titles still stands as the longest streak of consecutive championships in U.S. professional sports history.
7. Jack Nicklaus Wins 18 Majors
Over the last decade, there has been endless debate about whether or not Tiger Woods will ever match or surpass the 18 majors captured by the legendary Jack Nicklaus. In 2008, at just 30-years-old, Tiger captured his 14th major and likely felt tantalizingly close to reaching that record.
Well it's been six very long years for Tiger—obviously he's six years older (and hopefully wiser), but his majors tally still stands at 14. People are still engaging in the same old debate, but with Tiger's recent Masters meltdown, the debate seems more irrelevant than ever.
Jack Nicklaus is king and it doesn't look like he's got anything to worry about for the time being.
6. The Tour De Lance
I can already feel the rage building for this choice, but I couldn't couldn't exclude cycling legend Lance Armstrong's seven consecutive Tour de France victories from this list. It is just hands-down one of the most impressive achievements in sports history.
That being said, the doping allegations that have plagued Armstrong over the last few years definitely cast a shadow over his accomplishments. But keep in mind that the federal investigation of Armstrong was dropped in early 2012, with no charges being filed due to lack of evidence.
5. Wayne Gretzky's 200 Point Seasons
The 200 points in a single season mark has only been reached four times in the history of the NHL—and it was Oilers legend Wayne Gretzky all four times. Penguins great Mario Lemieux was just one measly point shy of reaching the 200 mark in 1989, but that was the only time anyone else not named Wayne Gretzky got close.
So is Gretzky's record of 215 points in a single season unbeatable? I guess anything is possible, but it's just a shade off impossible. Considering Wayne "The Great One" Gretzky and Mario "Le Magnifique" Lemieux are the only players to ever score more than 160 points in a single season—it's hard to imagine.
4. Joe DiMaggio's 56 Game Hitting Streak
Yankee legend Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak is widely considered one of the most unbeatable records in sports. DiMaggio set the mark in 1941, shattering the previous record of 45 that was set by Willie Keeler in 1897.
So the closest anyone has ever come to beating DiMaggio's record happened 115 years ago. A more recent "challenger" was (disgraced) Reds legend Pete Rose's 44-game steak in 1978. Not even close.
3. Brett Favre Most Consecutive Starts Streak
I'm no Brett Favre fan (well I was…once upon a time…but not anymore), but when it comes to his NFL record of 297 consecutive starts by a quarterback, I have to give credit where credit is due. It became very difficult to appreciate the streak in the final year of his career, but today it stands as one of the most impressive records in sports.
Even if you question a few of those "starts" in his final games as a Viking, it seriously doesn't even matter. Favre is 94 games ahead his closest competition— Peyton Manning at 227. Oh and he's 197 games ahead of the guy behind him—Peyton's little brother Eli at 130.
2. Cal Ripken Jr.'s Games Played Streak
It's hard to imagine that the consecutive games played streak of Orioles great Cal Ripken Jr. will ever come close to being challenged. The closest player to Ripken's 2,632 games is Lou Gehrig's 2,130—and he retired in 1939.
The gap widens dramatically compared to the lower half of the top 10—with Ripken having started almost 1,500 more games than No. 5 Miguel Tejada. Ripken's achievement is nothing short of epic.
1. Wilt Chamberlain's 100 Point Game
We recently marked the 50th anniversary of Wild Chamberlain's legendary 100-point game, which marked a few days of spirited debate about where this game should land on the list of all-time accomplishments in sports.
Opinions on the matter definitely run the gamut and some are more grounded in reality than others. Count me among those who consider Chamberlain's 100-point game the greatest achievement in sports history.
People have cited a concerted effort to get Chamberlain the ball and Kobe Bryant's 81-point game as arguments against. To that I would say: There's always a concerted effort to get the ball to the best player on the team and if you think 19 points is "close enough" to 100, then you know nothing about basketball.