There’s an old saying that goes “records are meant to be broken.” While this tends to be true most of the time, throughout history, there have been a handful of athletes and teams that have set the bar so high that it is considered absolutely impossible to surpass them. We’ve had a tough couple of weeks in the sports world, with a few unfortunate deaths as well as media overload, so I wanted to give everyone some lighter reading and rank the top ten most unbreakable records in sports.
Before I get into the full list I want to clarify the criteria and note some absolutely unbreakable records that I omitted from the actual top ten. My goal with this list was to find ten records and feats that will never be broken but that current players actually have the opportunity to break. As athletes and technology advanced many sports adopted new rules that fundamentally changed how the games were played and made some records absolutely unattainable. I’ll explain what I mean with each case in the honorable mentions but the actual top ten are made up of records that are theoretically still attainable within the rules of the sport. You’ll see though that these records and feats are just so ridiculous that they will never be broken.
The first and probably the most unattainable record that I omitted was Cy Young’s win record at 511 wins. For those unfamiliar with baseball, this is an absolutely absurd number of wins with the next closest being Walter Johnson at 417. It’s quite possible that with how the game is played today we may never see another 300 game-winner, which is what makes this record so unreachable. The reason I had to omit it though was that back in Young’s time pitchers threw almost every day, whereas nowadays pitchers throw every 5th day. Even if there was a pitcher today who could pitch every day, the financial commitment to players in the modern era is so great that no team would ever allow it to happen. Currently, it’s been reported that Trevor Bauer is lobbying to throw every 4th day and even that probably won’t happen.
Sticking with the same theme, I also omitted Cal Ripken’s consecutive games streak of 2,632 games played. For basically the same reason as Cy Young, in today’s MLB you rarely, if ever, see a guy play a full 162 game season let alone for 16 plus seasons without missing a game. Especially in the era of sabermetrics, the value of a few days off throughout the season is much greater than playing every single game. Even if there was a player that had the durability to catch Cal, the risk of injury is too great and there’s just too much money going to today’s players for any team to actually allow it to happen.
The third major record most people would have on this list that I omitted was Wayne Gretzky’s 2,857 points record. This was a tougher one for me because even if the game had stayed the same I doubt any player would ever touch this record. If you took all of Gretzky’s goals away he’d still have the most points of all time just with assists alone. It’s absolutely ridiculous. But, the fact of the matter is Gretzky played at a time when the goaltending technology made it unsafe for goalies to drop and use the “butterfly” technique. In 1985, the year before the “butterfly” was first used by Patrick Roy, NHL goalies averaged 3.87 goals against per game. In today’s NHL, goalies average about 2.8 goals against per game, over a full goal per game. So again, even if a player came along that was actually as good as Gretzky (doubtful that it will ever happen) the opportunity for them to score as many points as The Great One did just isn’t there.
The last two records I omitted that I felt I should note are Barry Bonds’ 762 career home runs and Lance Armstrong’s seven straight Tour De France victories. Both of these guys have been tied to steroids and I decided I didn’t want to get into the legitimacy of the records. So let’s leave it at this, both records are absolutely incredible and both are unlikely to ever be broken. I personally don’t think either record would have been set without the use of PEDs, but Bonds still hit the home runs, Armstrong still won the races and I felt both should at least be noted. But now let’s get to the actual list
No. 10 – UConn Women’s Basketball, NCAA
Geno Auriemma and the Uconn Women’s basketball team have been one of the most dominant forces we’ve ever seen in sports history. During Auriemma’s tenure, he has coached the Lady Huskies to 24 30-win seasons, 20 Final Fours, 11 National Championships, and 224 straight weeks ranked as the number 1 team in the country (all are NCAA Women’s basketball records). Despite these incredible accomplishments, the one that really takes the cake is the run of 111 straight wins they went on from 2014 to 2017. ONE HUNDRED AND ELEVEN STRAIGHT WINS…it’s almost incomprehensible. Honestly, this record should be higher on this list but the previous record of 90 straight wins was also held by UConn and was only set in 2010. The record before that one? 70 wins, ALSO held by UConn. So as long as Auriemma is still at UConn it’s hard to say for certain that they won’t break their own record again. But I doubt it.
No. 9 – Fernando Tatis, MLB
Many people may not think of this as a “record” per se, but Fernando Tatis’ two grand slams in one inning is a feat that will most likely never be matched, let alone beaten. On April 23rd, 1999, in the 3rd inning against Chan Ho Park, Tatis made the most of his two at-bats (literally) by going deep twice with the bases loaded. It’s rare enough that you will get two at-bats in one inning. It’s even rarer to hit two home runs in the same inning, having only been done 58 times in MLB history. For both of those home runs to be grand slams? It’s something that simply won’t happen again and for this “record” to broken someone would have to hit three grand slams in one inning. Considering no one in MLB history has ever hit three home runs in one inning before, it’s pretty safe to say that it will absolutely never happen.
No. 8 – Johnny Vander Meer, MLB
Another feat that might not be considered a “record” was accomplished by Johnny Vander Meer in 1938. On June 11th of that year, Vander Meer threw a no-hitter against Cincinnati, an incredible accomplishment in its own right. But just four days later, in his very next start on June 15th, Vander Meer threw ANOTHER no-hitter. Every pitcher dreams of throwing a no-hitter, forget about two of them, so to do it in back-to-back games is unfathomable. And similar to Tatis, in order to break this record someone would have to throw three straight no-hitters. There have only been five players in history to throw three no-hitters in their career, so to think anyone would ever throw three in a row is simply foolish.
No. 7 – Brett Favre, NFL
Realistically the last two feats could be higher on this list, I think we can all agree neither will ever happen again, but I decided to rank them lower because they are more “incredible feats” than they are “records” that took longevity to achieve. The same cannot be said about Brett Favre.
Brett Favre did many incredible things in his career and set many records. Some of those records have already been broken but one that will almost certainly not be is his consecutive start record. From September 27th, 1992 until December 5th, 2010 Favre started every single game his teams played. That’s over 18 years, 3 different teams, 297 regular-season games, and 24 playoff games for a total of 321 games. I’d like to say that Phillip Rivers came close, he just retired at 252 straight games including the playoffs, but doing the math he would have had to start every game for least the next four-plus seasons. The longest current streak belongs to Russell Wilson with 160 games including playoffs, who is already 32 years old. For him to catch Favre he would have to start every game for the next nine seasons and possibly closer to ten depending on how many playoff games he starts. Technically it is possible but realistically it isn’t going to happen.
Favre actually holds another record that will never be broken but this one is a little less flattering. His record 336 interceptions are 59 more than the next closest player. With how much talent is in the NFL nowadays any QB (Jameis Winston, cough cough) that could ever break this record would lose their starting job before they ever got close.
No. 6 – Pete Rose, MLB
Nowadays, the most common discussion about Pete Rose is that he belongs in the Hall of Fame and that the system for admittance into the Hall of Fame is flawed. I feel like people rarely get into the details as to WHY he belongs though. Obviously, he was a great player but I don’t think the younger generation fully comprehends just how good Pete Rose was. So here’s the stat… Pete Rose has 4,256 career hits.
To put that into context for the younger generation, the closest active player, Albert Pujols, is still over 1,000 hits away from this. Mike Trout, who has already put his name among the greatest hitters of all time, would have to play a full 162 games and maintain his production for the next 16 seasons and even then he’d still be a little short of Rose. Considering there have only been 32 players in the history of baseball to even reach 3,000 hits, it is fair to say that we will never see another player reach 4,000, especially in today’s homerun or bust MLB.
No. 5 – Richard “Night Train” Lane, NFL
We’re at a point in the list where order no longer matters because none of these will ever be broken but I chose Night Train Lane at number five because his record was for a season and not a career number. Make no mistake though, Lane’s 14 interceptions in 1952 will never be passed. What’s even more impressive about this record is not only was Night Train a rooking in 1952, back in the 50s the regular season was only 12 games. This past year, Xavien Howard led the NFL with 10 interceptions in 16 games. Starting in 2021 the NFL will again expand to 17 regular-season games but even with 5 more games than Lane, I doubt any player will ever catch him. In today’s NFL, if any player were to get close teams would simply stop throwing in their direction.
No. 4 – Wilt Chamberlian, NBA
Wilt Chamberlain holds a couple of scoring records that are absolutely insane and will never be broken. Everyone knows about his 100 point game on March 2nd, 1962, but he holds another scoring record that doesn’t get talked about as much but is just as, if not more, impressive. In the same season, 1961-1962, Chamberlain AVERAGED 50.4 points per game. During that season he scored 70 or more points (3 times) more often than scoring less than 30 (only twice). Comparing that to today’s NBA, there have only been 5 players in the 2021 season to score 50 points and right now Bradley Beal leads the NBA with 33.3 points per game. Wilt Chamberlain is actually the only player in history to average more than 40 points per game so his record of 50.4 will absolutely never be touched.
No. 3 – Ricky Henderson, MLB
As I mentioned before, we’re at a point where order doesn’t really matter and realistically Ricky Henderson could very easily be number one on this list. I say this because Henderson’s 1,406 career stolen bases are nothing short of ridiculous. If you took away his top four seasons (130 in 82′, 108 in 83′, 100 in 80′, and 93 in ’88) he would still hold the record over Lou Brock by 37 bases stolen. Dee Gorden is the closest active player and he only has 333 career steals, over 1000 short of Henderson. With the influence of sabermetrics in the MLB today and what the stats say about stealing bases (it is statistically a bad move most of the time) we may never see someone steal 500 bases again, let alone get close to Henderson.
No. 2 – Jerry Rice, NFL
Around sports, there are often debates about who is considered the greatest of all time. When it comes to wide receivers, there is no debate, the answer is Jerry Rice. And with his greatness comes two of the most untouchable records in sports, his career touchdowns, and career receiving yards. Over 21 seasons, Rice accumulated 197 receiving touchdowns and a ridiculous 22,895 receiving yards.
The reason I ranked this record higher than most of the others is that, in a lot of those cases, the way the sport is currently played makes it very difficult for anyone to break those records. The opposite can be said about the NFL. In the current NFL, we are seeing more passing and more scoring than ever before so to know that is the case and still know these records will never be touched is completely insane. That being said, Larry Fitzgerald is the closest active player to both of these records and he’s currently 76 touchdowns and 5,403 receiving yards away from Jerry. He would have to average over 15 touchdowns and 1080 receiving yards per season for the next five years to catch Jerry. Fitz will be 38 next year, has never caught 15 touchdowns in a season, and hasn’t reached 1,000 receiving yards in a season since 2017. Looking around the rest of the NFL, even guys like Deandre Hopkins and Julio Jones won’t be close to Rice when their careers are done. Simply put, Jerry Rice is the greatest to ever do it and his records will never be touched.
No. 1 – Tiger Woods
You may be scratching your head as to how I have Tiger Woods at number one on this list. He’s still three majors short of catching Jack Nicklaus and is currently tied with Sam Snead for total PGA tour wins. But those are not the records I am referring to. Tiger holds two other records that, when put into perspective, are utterly mind-blowing.
The first one is Tiger’s consecutive cuts made. During Tiger’s prime, from the 1998 Buick Invitational until the 2005 Byron Nelson Championship, Woods made 142 straight cuts. Tiger is often known for his dominance, especially in the majors, but the consistency at which he dominated sometimes falls by the wayside. But the tweet below perfectly sums up just how consistent you need to be to accomplish what Tiger was able to accomplish.
Insane stat from @shanebacon on Golf Today just now:
Rory currently holds the longest active streak of cuts made on the PGA TOUR with 25. He would have to make every cut from now until THE PLAYERS in 2028 just to TIE Tiger's record 🤯
— Chad Coleman (@HashtagChad) February 6, 2021
Just a reminder, 2021 just started. In order for Rory to catch Tiger, he would have to make every single cut for the next SEVEN YEARS! Rory is a great golfer, but he’s not going to get anywhere near this record, and neither will anyone else.
The second record that Tiger owns might be even crazier. In Tiger Woods’ career, he has been ranked number one in the world for a total of 683 weeks. To go along with that record he also holds the longest streak at number one, going 281 straight weeks from June 2005 until October of 2010. Greg Norman is the next closest on the list and even if you doubled his 331 total weeks at number one he’d still be short of Woods by 21 weeks. After Norman, the next two names on the list are the current stars, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, who total 116 and 106 weeks respectfully. If you combined their two totals you get 222 weeks. Tiger had two separate streaks, 264 weeks from August 1999 until September 2004 and the streak of 281 weeks that I already mentioned that are more than Rory and DJ’s total weeks combined. They’ll never touch this one either.
Now you could argue or question how I know that no one will ever catch Tiger’s streaks but the answer is actually pretty simple. Nobody will ever break Tiger Woods’ streaks because of Tiger Woods. Tiger brought attention to golf that had never been seen before. The field in today’s game is so deep that no one will ever again dominate as Tiger did. When we talk about GOATs in sports and the most dominant athletes in their sports we often revert to guys like Tom Brady, Michael Jordan, or Lebron James. Tiger may not have the majors record (yet?) but when you really dive into numbers like these it’s hard to ignore that, during his prime from 1999 until 2010, Tiger Woods was one of the most dominant athletes in his sport in history.