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The 15: Most Unbreakable Sports Records

August 17, 2015

The Orioles will celebrate the 20th anniversary of Cal Ripken Jr.'s record-breaking 2,131st consecutive game during a 7:05 p.m. contest Sept. 1 against the Tampa Bay Rays. Ripken will be recognized for the iconic moment when he broke New York Yankees legend Lou Gehrig's 56-year-old record Sept. 6, 1995 that once seemed unreachable. While a few optimists never say never when it comes to Ripken's impressive feat being surpassed one day, here are 15 sports records, listed in no particular order, that will likely never fall.

Issue 190: Cal Ripken (playing)
Courtesy of Jerry Wachter/Baltimore Orioles

1. Cal Ripken's Consecutive Games Played Streak (2,632)

On May 30, 1982, one day after sitting out the second game of a doubleheader against the Toronto Blue Jays, Ripken, then a 21-year-old third baseman later turned shortstop, began his legendary streak. He would not miss another game until Sept. 20, 1998, when he voluntarily pulled himself out of the starting lineup during the final home game of the season against the Yankees. To put some perspective on his string of longevity, Ripken played for eight different managers, four general managers and three owners during his streak.

2. Michael Phelps' Career Olympic Medals Record (22)

Phelps captured the world's attention during the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympic Games, winning 22 total medals (18 gold) to overtake former Soviet Union gymnast Larisa Latynina for the most career medals. The Baltimore native had his best showing during the Beijing Olympics in 2008, passing former U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz for the most gold medals during a single Olympics with eight. The 30-year-old Phelps came out of retirement in 2014 and will look to continue adding to his medal count during the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

3. Cy Young's Career Wins Record (511)

With starting pitchers being protected more than ever now, it's not farfetched to believe MLB will never see another 300-game winner. But when Young took the mound each time during the late-1890s through the early-1900s, pitchers were relied upon to take the ball and go as deep as they could. Young, the man for whom the most prestigious pitching award is named after, did it better than anyone, helping him become the only hurler to win at least 500 games. The only player within 100 wins of Young's 511 is fellow Hall of Fame right-hander Walter Johnson (417).

4. Wayne Gretzky's Career Points Record (2,857)

At the time he decided to hang up his skates April 18, 1999, Gretzky, also known as "The Great One," held or shared 61 career NHL records. His most impressive, however, and the least likely to be broken is his all-time career points record of 2,857. A player could post 140 points 20 straight seasons and would still be 57 short of Gretzky's feat. It's worth noting that no player has tallied 140 points during a season since 1996.

5. Joe DiMaggio's Consecutive Games Hitting Streak Record (56)

It is often said that hitting a baseball is the hardest single thing to do in sports. For DiMaggio, that couldn't have been further from the truth during his 56-game hitting streak from May 15-July 16, 1941, as he made it look second nature. During the streak, the ex-Yankee legend compiled a .409 average (91-for-223) to go along with 15 home runs and 55 RBIs. Since then, only one player, former Cincinnati Reds great Pete Rose, has come within serious striking distance, hitting safely during 44 straight games in 1978. 

6. Wilt Chamberlain's Single-Game Scoring Record (100)

It has become a struggle during recent years for teams to score 100 points in a game, let alone one player, but that's exactly what Chamberlain did against the New York Knicks March 2, 1962. In the process, Chamberlain topped his previous single-game scoring mark of 78 set earlier during that season for the Philadelphia Warriors. Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant joined Chamberalin Jan. 22, 2006, as the only other player in league history to score at least 80 points during a game, totaling 81 against the Toronto Raptors.

7. Jerry Rice's Career Receiving Yards Record (22,985)

Many questioned ex-San Francisco 49ers head coach Bill Walsh's selection of the little-known Rice out of Division I-AA Mississippi Valley State during the first round of the 1983 draft. Rice wasted little time answering his critics, recording 22,895 receiving yards during a 20-year Hall-of-Fame career that included three Super Bowl victories in San Francisco. Rice's ex-49ers teammate, Terrell Owens, is the next closest receiver on the list, having accumulated 15,934 yards during his 15-year career from 1996-2010.

8. Bill Russell's NBA Championships Record as a Player (11)

Most professional athletes spend their entire career chasing a championship and, more often than not, come up short of reaching the ultimate team goal. That wasn't the case for Russell, the anchor for all 11 of the Celtics' championship-winning seasons during a 13-year stretch from the late-1950s-1960s. With the advent of free agency in 1988 making it harder for teams to retain their own personnel, no player has won more rings than longtime journeyman forward Robert Horry's seven during his 16-year career from 1992-2008.

9. Pete Rose's Career Hits Record (4,256)

Despite gambling on games as a manager, and possibly as a player, and receiving a lifetime ban from MLB, there was no denying Rose's on-field accomplishments. Dubbed "Charlie Hustle" for his win-at-all-costs mentality, Rose wrote his name at the top of the all-time hits lists when he surpassed Ty Cobb's 57-year-old record with his 4,192nd hit Sept. 11, 1985. Given Rose also played in the most career games (3,562) and had the most at bats (14,053), his record is a safe bet to stand the test of time.

10. Rickey Henderson's Career Stolen Bases Record (1,406)

When it came to stealing bases, there was no one like Henderson, who earned nicknamed the "Man of Steal" en route to swiping 1,406 bags during his 25-year Hall-of-Fame career. The day Henderson bested Hall of Famer Lou Brock's then-record of 938 May 1, 1991, he famously pronounced, "But today, I'm the greatest of all time." No active player currently has more than 500 career stolen bases, so Henderson's record won't be challenged anytime soon.

11. Nolan Ryan's Career No-Hitters Record (Seven)

Considering only five pitchers have thrown more than two no-hitters during their careers, it's hard to imagine anyone coming close to Ryan's record. Four of Ryan's record seven no-hitters came during a two-year span, with the first taking place May 15, 1973 and the fourth occurring June 1, 1975. He tossed one during the 1980s, but then defied Father Time and threw his final two in the 1990s past the age of 40.

12. Brett Favre's Consecutive Games Streak (297)

Quarterback is one of the most physically and mentally demanding positions in sports. Favre withstood those rigors of the position longer than any other signal-caller in NFL history, starting a record 297 straight games during 19 seasons. But in 2010, the years of broken bones, aches, bumps and bruises finally caught up with the 41-year-old Favre, forcing him to the watch from the sidelines during Week 14 of his final season.

13. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's Career NBA Scoring Record (38,387)

Abdul-Jabbar's size at 7-foot-2,  skill, overall athletic ability and patented skyhook made him an elite scorer throughout his 20-year career, leading the former Milwaukee Bucks and L.A. Lakers great to finish with 38,387 points. The only other player to score at least 35,000 points and come close is former Utah Jazz and Lakers legendary power forward Karl Malone (36,928). Meanwhile, Kobe Bryant, who enters the 2015-16 campaign with 32,842 points, could catch Abdul-Jabbar if he plays into his 40s, but he has reportedly indicated he will retire after this season.

14. Nolan Ryan's Career Strikeouts Record (5,714)

No pitcher in MLB history was quite as dominant as Ryan. In addition to his record seven no-hitters, Ryan, nicknamed the "Ryan Express," set the record for most career strikeouts with 5,714. Only one pitcher -- left-hander Randy Johnson (4,857) -- is within 1,000 strikeouts. To top Ryan's mark, a pitcher would have to average 286 strikeouts for 20 seasons, a nearly impossible number during an age in which pitchers start on four or five days' rest and receive strict pitch counts. 
15. Derrick Thomas' Single-Game Sack Record (Seven) 

Few pass rushers have mastered the art of the sack better than Thomas. The Hall of Fame outside linebacker and former Chief put together the best single-game performance a pass rusher has ever had Nov. 11, 1990, sacking Seattle Seahawks quarterback Dave Krieg seven times. Former New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora nearly tied Thomas' record 17 years later, getting to ex-Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb six times Sept. 30, 2007.

Issue 212: August 2015