It is time to throw away the American inferiority complex with its place in the sport, where many blindly claim that technique should come above all in choosing and developing the best prospects and that the U.S. is not an international power because it cares too much about athleticism.
The Ten Most Unbreakable Records in Sports
With LeBron James breaking the NBA scoring record that had stood for 39 years, it piqued my interest to investigate the 10 most unbreakable records in sports. I'm not interested in ranking them from 1 to 10, just want to list 10. And I'm only interested in fun records that entertain us, not boring ones like most games played. With that said, here are my 10.
NBA Scoring Record
There's no better place to start than this record. As part of a career that already feels like it was written in the stars, LeBron James, 38 years old, on the 38th day of the year, scored 38 points to break the NBA record of 38,388 career points set 38 years ago. That aside, this record stood for almost four decades, and with LeBron still averaging 30 points a game, there is no telling how many points he'll end with.
Most Goals in a Year
From one GOAT to the other. Messi's record-setting 91 goals for club and country in a calendar year is high on the list of unbreakable records. Gerd Muller set the record in 1972 with 85 goals, and it stood for 40 years until Messi broke it in 2012. Consider that as soccer advances and tactics improve, individual players score a lot less now than they did in years past. Yet Messi shattered the record. The closest anyone not named Messi has scored in a calendar year since the turn of the century is 69. Cristiano Ronaldo did it in 2013, and Robert Lewandowski in 2021. Incredible seasons from two of the greatest goal-scorers we have ever seen, yet they were still 22 goals off.
Wayne Gretzky NHL Career Points
You take your pick on which Wayne Gretzky record to use, but I'll settle for this one because it is the most unbreakable. Let me provide some context on how absurd Wayne Gretzky's points record is. Gretzky is the all-time NHL leader in career goals. If you take away all 894 goals he scored, he is still the all-time points leader because of his 1,963 assists. There is a reason this man is synonymous with everything hockey.
Barry Bonds Career Home runs
Aided by steroids or not, the record is the record. With 762 home runs by the end of his career in 2007, Barry bonds broke the Hank Aaron record of 755 that had stood for 31 years. Hank Aaron did it in an era when baseball wasn't nearly as competitive as today, and Barry Bonds still broke that. It is hard to imagine someone being as dominant for as long as it'll take to break this record. For context, Albert Pujols is a future first-ballot Hall-of-Famer that put together an incredible 21-year career, yet he was still 60 home runs from Barry Bonds.
Wilt Chamberlain 100 Points
100 points in an NBA game may never get touched. The closest anyone got was Kobe with 81 points in January 2006, and Devin Booker and Donovan Mitchell have each had 70-point games. Even in the three-point era, where stars are more ball-dominant than ever, no one has come close to this record from 61 years ago.
Most Goals at a World Cup
Just Fontaine scored 13 World Cup goals for France in 1958. The closest anyone has gotten since is Gerd Muller's 10 in 1972, the last time anyone reached double figures. Early soccer was almost a different sport with video game numbers, contributing to the low likelihood this record gets broken. Here are a few scores from that 1958 tournament: 7-3, 6-1, 5-2, 6-3, 5-2. Even though there are more World Cup games now than in 1958, the sport has become too competitive for one player to top 13 goals in one tournament.
Most Olympic Gold Medals
Larisa Latynina, a Soviet Union gymnast, broke the Olympic Record for most career gold medals with 9 in 1964. A couple more people tied it, but for 44 years, the record looked untouchable. Then came Michael Phelps. Phelps officially broke the mark in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Then he added another 13 gold medals for good measure to set the new Olympic record at 23 gold medals. If I were ranking from 1-10, this might have come in at number one. To break a record that stood for 44 years by such a distance is unfathomable greatness.
Largest Masters Win
Jack Nicklaus won the 1965 masters by 9 strokes, setting a new high. Then came Tiger Woods, and among the many records he broke, this may be the most impressive. Tiger Woods won the 1997 Masters by 12 strokes, an incredible feat of dominance at your sport's greatest stage. Woods proved that in golf's most heralded competition, at the peak of his powers, no golfer could come close to him. The closest anyone has come to this record since 1997 is five strokes by Dustin Johnson in 2021. We may never see a golfer stand so far above his peers again.
Fastest Mile Ever
When judging how unbreakable a record is, you have to examine the history of how long each iteration stood. For the fastest mile, until the Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj set a new time, the longest-lasting version of the record was 16 years between 1895 and 1911. El Guerrouj set the current record in 1999, with a time of 3:43:13. It has stood for 24 years, and no one has come all that close. In fact, the second-fastest mile in recorded history was in the same race. We are looking at one of the most dominant records ever.
Most Career Goals
This makes this list because the record is a bit of a phantom. No one agrees on who holds the record. For some publications, they say Erwin Helmchen, a German striker that played between 1923 and 1951 and allegedly scored over 987 goals. I say 'allegedly' because stats keeping was not as robust in that era as it is now. Some say Pele has the record, but his record has the same verification issues. For other publications, they say the record holder is Cristiano Ronaldo because you can verify all of his 821 career goals. Either way, that's a lot of goals, and this might be the literal definition of an unbreakable record. How can you break a record you're not sure exists?
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