100 sports records and the stories behind them

Published 7:00 am Saturday, November 20, 2021

MICHAEL KAPPELER/DDP/AFP via Getty Images

100 sports records and the stories behind them

The 1989 film “Back to the Future Part II” predicted that there wouldn’t be much of a need for sports almanacs in the 21st century. True to form, today’s internet allows us to instantaneously relive great sports moments of yesteryear and find data and recaps of a majority of games from the past century. Still, even some of the sports world’s most heralded records contain multiple backstories that could take days to pore through, even in a time-traveling DeLorean.

That’s why Stacker compiled a list of 100 sports records from the 20th and 21st centuries, and the stories behind them. Sources included statistical databases, Hall of Fame records, official league records, record books, and news reports.

Most baseball buffs know that Nolan Ryan holds the record for most strikeouts in a season, but do you know how many innings he had to pitch in his final start of the 1973 season to break Sandy Koufax’s mark? There are plenty of hoop heads who can easily remember that Mike Krzyzewski has the most career NCAA basketball wins, but can they name the coach who previously had the most victories across all levels of college hoops?

Not all of the records are great athletic feats, but they provide interesting fodder nonetheless—anyone who can crush more than one can per second deserves a tip of the hat, don’t you think? This story also examines important records beyond pro and college sports—like the X Games athlete who overcame a serious injury to inspire us in 2009—and recognizes just plain impressive control over body and mind (like averaging almost three pull-ups a minute over a 24-hour period).

Click through for a drive down memory lane, a look into the absurd and the story of one record that is all but certain to be the most overblown sports story ever.

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1911: Cy Young’s 749 complete games

Cy Young holds the MLB record for complete games with 749. During a 22-year career, Young pitched 7,356 innings, also a record. Young also holds records for wins, losses, starts, hits allowed and earned runs allowed.

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1919: Babe Ruth’s reported 587-foot home run

MLB Statcast has only been used in this century, but baseball fans have always been enamored with tape-measure home runs. In 1919, media reported that Babe Ruth swatted a 587-foot homer at Tampa’s Plant Field. Some historians have speculated the home run was closer to 550 feet, but it remains a monstrous feat regardless and is earmarked with a historical marker at the current site of Plant Field.

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1920: The longest MLB game ever

On May 1, 1920, the Brooklyn Robins and Boston Braves played 26 innings before it was called due to darkness, with the score tied, 1-1. The longest game in terms of duration, a 25-inning tilt in 1984 that the Chicago White Sox won over the Milwaukee Brewers, lasted eight hours, six minutes over the course of two days.

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1930: Hack Wilson’s 191 RBI

During Hack Wilson’s RBI tear in 1930, he did not hit one grand slam. Still, Wilson’s 191 runs batted in remain the best single-season mark in MLB history; Lou Gehrig’s 184 RBI the following year is the closest anyone’s come to hacking Wilson off the top spot.

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1940: Chicago mauls Washington, 73-0

The 1940 Washington Redskins were riding high with a 9-2 record and earned the right to host the NFL Championship Game. Their opponent, the Chicago Bears, went 8-3, including a loss to the Redskins a few weeks earlier. In the rematch, the Bears recorded the biggest blowout in NFL history, stomping Washington, 73-0.

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1941: Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak

Joe DiMaggio’s box score for the New York Yankees’ game on May 15, 1941, was nothing special: 1-for-4, 1 RBI. But that lone hit was the beginning of one of baseball’s most revered records, a 56-game hitting streak that stands today. Pete Rose came the closest to DiMaggio’s record, recording at least one hit in 44 consecutive games in 1978.

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1944: Red Barrett’s 58-pitch complete game

Today, baseball pitch counts heavily dictate a pitcher’s career longevity. In 1944, relief pitchers were an anomaly, and starters tossed well over 100 pitches per outing. Charley “Red” Barrett only needed about half that many pitches when he took the mound on Aug. 10, as he threw a 58-pitch complete game, which remains the fewest number of pitches ever needed for a complete game.

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1950: Jim Hardy throws eight interceptions

The Chicago Cardinals’ 1950 game against the Philadelphia Eagles was one to forget for Jim Hardy. The Cardinals quarterback threw eight interceptions in a 45-7 loss. Hardy bounced back, though, and was named to the Pro Bowl team at season’s end.

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1957: Oklahoma football team wins 47 straight games

The Oklahoma Sooners were unbeatable on the gridiron for the better part of five seasons during the mid-1950s. Oklahoma, led by coach Bud Wilkinson, won 47 straight games. Notre Dame ended the streak in 1957. Toledo’s 35 wins in 1969-1971 have come the closest since that reign of Sooner dominance.

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1962: The Big O’s triple-doubles

In 1962, Oscar Robertson recorded 41 triple-doubles in a season, an NBA record that stood for 55 years until Russell Westbrook notched 42 in 2017. Robertson also averaged a triple-double for the season (30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists). Only eight other players have hit 41 or more triple-doubles through their entire NBA careers.

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1962: Wilt Chamberlain reaches the century mark

On March 2, 1962, Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a game for the Philadelphia Warriors. Chamberlain took 63 shots and made 28 of 32 free-throw attempts. The “track meet” was a rare 300-point game, with the Warriors beating the New York Knicks, 169-147.

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1967: The Ice Bowl

The kickoff temperature for the 1967 NFL Championship Game in Green Bay was minus-13 degrees. Later, the temperature dropped to minus-18, prompting the battle between the Packers and Dallas Cowboys to be dubbed “The Ice Bowl.” The Packers went on to win what is believed to be the coldest game in NFL history.

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1969: Bill Russell earns his 11th ring

Bill Russell won his 11th championship as a player in 1969 but also served double duty. Since 1966, Russell had been coaching the Boston Celtics—he was also the first Black coach in NBA history. Today, the NBA Finals MVP award is named after Russell; the honor was first given out in 1969 and won by Jerry West, whose Lakers lost to Russell’s Celtics.

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1972: Miami Dolphins achieve perfection

The 1972 Miami Dolphins were coming off a Super Bowl loss to the Dallas Cowboys. To return to the big game, Miami reeled off 14 straight wins in the regular season and then swept through the playoffs, culminating with a 14-7 victory over the Washington Redskins in the Super Bowl. The 1972 Dolphins remain the only NFL team to achieve an undefeated season.

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1973: Jack Nicklaus tops Walter Hagen

By winning the 1973 PGA Championship, Jack Nicklaus passed Walter Hagen for most golf major victories with 12. Nicklaus retired with 18 major victories and is being chased by Tiger Woods, who has 15.

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1973: Nolan Ryan’s 383 strikeouts

In 1973, young flamethrower Nolan Ryan took aim at Sandy Koufax’s record of 382 strikeouts in a season. Ryan topped Koufax by one K during his last start of the year; Ryan pitched 11 innings and struck out 16 Minnesota Twins in that game.

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1976: Nadia Comaneci scores a perfect 10

At the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, a largely unknown 14-year-old gymnast from Romania became a worldwide phenomenon. Nadia Comaneci scored the first perfect 10 at the Olympics, then went on to duplicate 10s six more times en route to three gold medals. She later scored two more perfect 10s at the 1980 Moscow Games.

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1977: Tampa Bay’s terrible start

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers began play in 1976 and lost their first 26 NFL games. The Bucs finally won by defeating the New Orleans Saints, 33-14, in December 1977. During the 26-game losing streak, the Buccaneers were shut out 11 times, and the 26 losses were by an average of 16 points. The second-worst NFL losing streak belongs to the Detroit Lions, with 19 straight in 2007-2009, a team that also lost 12 straight through mid-November 2021.

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1980: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wins his sixth MVP

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record-breaking sixth MVP season came as the writing on the wall signaled a new heir apparent. His rookie teammate Magic Johnson mesmerized crowds and stifled opponents with his magnificent play, and when Abdul-Jabbar went down with an injury in the 1980 NBA Finals, Johnson stepped in at center and won Finals MVP honors. Michael Jordan, with five, has come closest to matching Kareem’s six-pack of MVP trophies.

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1983: Nolan Ryan becomes strikeout king

By the time Nolan Ryan finished his career, he led all pitchers in MLB history with 5,714 strikeouts. No one has come close ever since. Randy Johnson is second all-time with 4,875 Ks, while Reggie Jackson holds the records for the most times striking out at 2,597. Ryan overtook the previous record with his 3,509th in 1983 and pitched for another decade.

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1984: Eric Dickerson runs for 2,105 yards

Eric Dickerson thought he’d break O.J. Simpson’s single-season rushing record in the final game of the 1984 season. Instead, in the season’s penultimate game against the Houston Oilers, Dickerson jumped ahead of schedule to top Simpson’s 2,003 yards one week early with a 215-yard game. The player to come closest to the LA Rams star’s record is Adrian Peterson, whose 2,097 yards in 2012 missed it by eight yards.

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1984: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar breaks NBA scoring mark

For over a decade, Wilt Chamberlain reigned supreme as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. But on April 5, 1984, his Laker brethren Kareem Abdul-Jabbar surpassed his record of 31,419 points. Altogether, six players have overtaken Chamberlain’s record, led by Abdul-Jabbar’s record of 38,387 points, Karl Malone’s 36,928 and LeBron James’ 35,500-plus as of mid-November 2021.

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1984: Richard Petty’s 200 NASCAR wins

Richard Petty is known as The King of racing for good reason. On July 4, 1984, in his final triumph, Petty won his 200th NASCAR race at the Firecracker 400. That’s nearly double the number of wins by the career runner-up (and Petty’s contemporary), David Pearson, with 105 wins. President Ronald Reagan was in attendance for the monumental victory and later had a meal of Kentucky Fried Chicken with Petty and other racers.

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1985: Pete Rose becomes the hit king

In September 1985, Pete Rose surpassed Ty Cobb to become MLB’s all-time hit king. Inconsistent MLB records have led some to believe Rose topped Cobb on Sept. 8, but Sept. 11 is widely regarded as the correct date. Either way, Rose finished his career with 4,256 hits, 65 more than Cobb and 485 more than third-best Hank Aaron.

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1986: Mike Tyson, the prodigal heavyweight champ

Mike Tyson, at just 20 years old, became the youngest heavyweight champion when he knocked out Trevor Berbick in the second round of their November 1986 fight. Tyson threw more power punches (46) than Berbick threw in the whole fight (43). The oldest heavyweight champion? George Foreman at 46.

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1986: Wayne Gretzky wins his seventh Hart Trophy

Edmonton Oilers legend Wayne Gretzky won his seventh straight Hart Trophy (the NHL’s MVP award) for his 1986–1987 season. That gave him the most Harts, passing Gordie Howe. Gretzky finished his career with nine MVP awards. Only Howe (six) and 1930s star Eddie Shore (four) have won more than three.

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1986: Wayne Gretzky scores 215 points in one season

During the 1985–86 NHL season, Wayne Gretzky amassed 215 points in 80 games, the most in NHL history. It was Gretzky’s third straight season with 200 or more points (no other player has ever scored 200) and culminated in winning his seventh straight Hart Trophy (he won eight straight overall). Gretzky’s 163 assists that season is also an NHL record.

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1988: Orel Hershiser’s 59 consecutive scoreless innings

On Aug. 30, 1988, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser pitched a complete game, ending with four-plus scoreless innings, to close out the win. Over his next six starts, he did not allow an earned run. In fact, no team scored a run against him in a regular-season game until the 1989 season. In all, Hershiser pitched 59 consecutive scoreless innings, the longest such streak in MLB history, to top Dodgers predecessor Don Drysdale’s 58 straight in 1968.

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1990: Derrick Thomas records seven sacks

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Dave Krieg did not have a good day at the office on Nov. 11, 1990. Kansas City Chiefs pass-rusher Derrick Thomas sent Krieg to the turf seven times that afternoon, a new NFL record for sacks in one game. There have only been four six-sack games, and Thomas has one of those too.

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1991: Rickey Henderson steals Lou Brock’s record

After Oakland Athletics star Rickey Henderson stole his 939th base on May 1, he lifted the bag from the ground and raised it above his head. Henderson would go on to steal 1,406 bases, which is still miles ahead of runner-up Lou Brock’s 938 stolen bags. But his record-breaking steal that day was amazingly overshadowed by another accomplishment later that night (see next item).

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1991: Nolan Ryan tosses his seventh no-hitter

Henderson’s 939th stolen base looked to be the story of the day. But it happened during a day game in Oakland shortly before Nolan Ryan took the mound in Arlington for the Texas Rangers. Ryan ended up tossing his seventh career no-hitter, which still stands as the MLB record. Ryan’s sixth no-hitter came a year before—against Henderson and the A’s. Sandy Koufax, the all-time runner-up in the category, “only” pitched four no-hitters.

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1993: Bullets teammates were tallest NBA tandem

In 1993, the Washington Bullets drafted Gheorghe Muresan, a 7-foot-7 center from Romania, who was tied as the tallest player in NBA history. Who was Muresan tied with? Teammate Manute Bol, a 7-foot-7 center from Sudan—although Bol played just two games for Washington that season.

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1994: Kim Jong-il’s alleged 38-under-par round

This one’s for kicks, folks, and is hardly believable. But the story goes that in 1994, North Korean media reported that Kim Jong-il, the country’s leader at the time, shot 38 under on a par-72. Kim was said to have made five holes in one during his first time playing golf, at a course in Pyongyang. If this wild tale highlights anything (other than the fact that disinformation is nothing new), it is how the existence of a cult of personality often dominates information in North Korea.

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1994: Wayne Gretzky scores his 802nd NHL goal

Entering the 1994 season, Wayne Gretzky seemed destined to pass Gordie Howe’s NHL record of 801 goals. In the weeks leading up to Gretzky’s 802nd goal, Howe spent a lot of time with “The Great One.” After Gretzky lit the lamp for the 802nd time, a 15-minute ceremony stopped play to celebrate the new record, which he would later pad with 92 more goals. He and Howe are still the only NHL players to score more than 800 goals.

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1995: Cal Ripken Jr.’s consecutive-game streak

Lou Gehrig’s streak of 2,130 consecutive games played stood as an MLB record for almost 60 years. But on Sept. 6, 1995, Cal Ripken Jr. broke the record many thought was unbreakable. Ripken made his debut in 1981, and some attribute his longevity to helping revive baseball one year after a strike halted the sport.

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1995: John Stockton breaks Magic Johnson’s assist mark

John Stockton’s record-breaking 9,222nd assist came in familiar fashion, with a pass to Utah Jazz forward Karl Malone. Stockton and Malone played 18 seasons together, making two NBA Finals. After topping Magic Johnson’s mark, Stockton received a video message from Magic, who called him “the greatest team leader I have ever played against.” Stockton went on to notch 15,806 assists, which now leads runner-up Jason Kidd’s 12,091.

JUNJI KUROKAWA/AFP // Getty Images

1995: Pro wrestling in North Korea draws over 300,000

In 1995, U.S.-based wrestling promoter WCW and Japanese-based promoter New Japan Pro Wrestling staged a show in North Korea at Pyongyang’s May Day Stadium. The two-day event reportedly drew crowds of 150,000 and 190,000, making it the largest pro wrestling event in history. The event was partly a political ploy, as New Japan’s Antonio Inoki, who was also a politician, was looking to improve his public image among local voters.

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1996: Michael Jordan wins his fourth Finals MVP

Millions have relived Michael Jordan’s heyday watching ESPN’s “The Last Dance” docuseries, now streaming on Netflix. Jordan won six NBA Finals MVP awards, but his fourth in 1996 gave him the most of any player. Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, and LeBron James are tied for second place with three apiece.

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1997: Gordie Howe’s six decades of hockey history

Gordie Howe first broke into the professional ranks in 1945. His NHL career ended in 1980 with the Hartford Whalers, but in 1997, Howe signed a one-day deal with the Detroit Vipers of the International Hockey League at age 69. No other player has played professional hockey through as many decades.

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1997: Tiger Woods becomes youngest Masters champion

Tiger Woods made his Masters debut in 1995 as a 19-year-old amateur. Two years later, the golf world was already waiting for his coronation, and the 21-year-old phenom set the Augusta National Golf Club ablaze with a dominant victory. At 20 years old, Jordan Spieth almost broke the “youngest champion” record in 2014 but instead had to settle for a victory in 2015, becoming the second-youngest winner.

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2001: Barry Bonds’ 73 home runs

Barry Bonds broke the MLB record for home runs in a single season when he crushed 73 long balls in 2001. Ever since, baseball fans have argued over the validity of the record because of the steroid allegations that trailed Bonds during his time in a San Francisco Giants uniform. No teams came forward to sign him after his 2007 release from the Giants even though he hit 28 homers that year.

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2001: Seattle Mariners win 116 games

After going 116-46 during the 2001 regular season, the Seattle Mariners were clear favorites to win the World Series. Edgar Martinez, Ichiro Suzuki and John Olerud supplied the lumber, and manager Lou Piniella pulled the strings. But the Mariners could not overcome the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series and fell short of the World Series despite its 116 wins, which tied the 1906 Chicago Cubs (116-36) as MLB’s winningest team in history.

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2002: Brazil captures fifth World Cup

Brazil’s 2-0 win over Germany in the 2002 World Cup Final gave them their fifth championship, the most of any country. Italy and Germany are second with four wins—though during Germany’s 2014 championship run, they gained a modicum of revenge, crushing Brazil, 7-1. The 2002 World Cup also made history as the first one held in Asia and the first to be hosted by two countries (South Korea and Japan).

Joe Connell/NCAA Photos // Getty Images

2002: Cael Sanderson’s 159-0 record

No NCAA wrestler has had an amateur career like Cael Sanderson’s. The Iowa State star went a perfect 159-0 in college, and he was the second wrestler to win four NCAA titles. Oklahoma State’s Pat Smith accomplished the four-peat a decade earlier but lost five matches.

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2002: Mark Henry lifts Thomas Inch dumbbell

Before 2002, reportedly no one had lifted a “Thomas Inch” dumbbell off the floor clean with one hand. The Inch dumbbell is 172 pounds, with a handle approximately 2.5 inches in diameter. Mark Henry, a former powerlifter and professional wrestler, became the first to lift one, in front of a room full of strongmen and lifters at a private dinner.

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2003: Michelle Wie becomes youngest to make LPGA cut

In 2003, at only 13 years old, Michelle Wie won the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship, becoming the youngest champion of a USGA-sanctioned tournament. That year, Wie also became the youngest player to make a cut at an LPGA major; the eighth-grader placed ninth at the Nabisco Championship, becoming the youngest player to finish in the top 10 of an LPGA major.

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2004: Barry Bonds wins his seventh MVP crown

Barry Bonds won his seventh MVP award (and fourth straight) after the 2004 season, though many believe he was “juiced” during some of those Steroid Era years. Mike Trout and Albert Pujols are the only current players tied for second place with three MVPs, and just 31 players have won multiple MVP awards.

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2004: Barry Bonds’ 120 intentional walks

Barry Bonds’ 2004 season featured one of the best offensive outputs ever. Bonds was so lethal with the bat that he was intentionally walked 120 times (and 232 times overall), still nearly triple the number of the #2 and #3 players in the category (Willie McCovey’s 45 and Albert Pujol’s 44). He had long been a feared hitter; in 1998, the Arizona Diamondbacks intentionally walked him with the bases loaded.

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2004: Eric Gagne’s consecutive saves streak

Early in his career, Eric Gagne was regarded mostly as a mediocre starter with a history of Tommy John surgery. After moving into the closer’s role for the Los Angeles Dodgers, however, Gagne became a revelation. From Aug. 28, 2002, until July 3, 2004, Gagne converted 84 consecutive save attempts. Later, perhaps explaining the dramatic turnaround, he revealed his usage of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) during his career.

Doug Pensinger // Getty Images

2004: Lance Armstrong wins sixth Tour de France

Four cyclists have five Tour de France victories, but there was a time when one man surpassed them all. In 2004, Lance Armstrong won his sixth straight Tour de France, but his titles (seven overall) would be scratched from the record books in 2012, when Armstrong accepted a ban from the sport of cycling after evidence of doping was published in the press.

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2004: Roger Clemens wins his seventh Cy Young

Roger Clemens retired in 2003 with six Cy Young awards. But Clemens changed his mind and returned in 2004, picking up his MLB-record seventh Cy Young with the Houston Astros. Randy Johnson is second all-time, with five Cy Young plaques. Unlike Clemens, however, Johnson’s reputation has not been tarnished by evidence or allegations of steroid use.

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2006: Alan Shearer’s 260 goals

Alan Shearer finished his English Premier League career with 260 goals, the most all-time. Shearer played in 441 games over 14 seasons and tops Wayne Rooney, in a distant second, by 52 goals.

Sporting News // Getty Images

2006: LaDainian Tomlinson rushes for 28 TDs

LaDainian Tomlinson put up video game numbers in 2006. Aside from rushing for a record 28 touchdowns (and scoring 31 overall), LT was responsible for 186 points, breaking a 46-year record held by Paul Hornung. From Games 7 to 15, Tomlinson ran for 100 or more yards and two touchdowns or more in all but one game.

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2007: Adrian Peterson runs for 296 yards

On Nov. 4, 2007, in a 35-17 Minnesota Vikings win over the Chargers, Adrian Peterson broke the NFL record for rushing yards in a game. Peterson tallied 296 yards but only had 43 in the first half. Peterson topped the 295 yards gained by Jamal Lewis in 2003.

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2007: Barry Bonds surpasses Hank Aaron

Six years after breaking Mark McGwire’s single-season home run record, Barry Bonds etched his name atop another list. With his 756th career homer, Bonds passed Hank Aaron for most ever by an MLB player. Aaron was mostly quiet as Bonds, hounded by steroid allegations, neared his record, but he videotaped a congratulatory message that was aired the night Bonds hit 756.

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2008: Danica Patrick wins Indy Japan 300

Danica Patrick made her IndyCar debut in 2005 and won her first—and only—race at the 2008 Indy Japan 300. The race was Patrick’s 50th IndyCar start, and she finished almost six seconds ahead of second-place finisher Helio Castroneves. No other woman has won an IndyCar race since.

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2008: Michael Phelps tops Mark Spitz

At the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Michael Phelps won his record eighth gold medal in the 4×100-meter medley relay. Mark Spitz’s seven-gold-medal performance at the 1972 Olympics was the previous high mark. Phelps’ career total of 28 Olympic medals makes him tops all-time in any Olympic sport.

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2009: Chris Ridgway enters Summer X Games history

At the 2009 Summer X Games, Chris Ridgway became the first amputee to win gold. Ridgway won the adaptive Moto X class event in its first official year; previously, adaptive Moto X was a demo event, which Ridgway won in 2008. In 2002, Ridgway had his left leg amputated below the knee after a motocross crash several years earlier.

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2009: Usain Bolt runs 100m in 9.58 seconds

In less time than it takes to reheat chicken, Usain Bolt broke his own world record at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin. The six-foot-five sprinter’s 9.58-second 100-meter run required only 41 steps. Five days later during the Worlds, Bolt also broke the 200m world record in a stunning 19.19. Both times are still world records.

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2010: An 11-hour Wimbledon marathon

In 2010, John Isner and Nicolas Mahut played a match at Wimbledon over three days that lasted 11 hours, 5 minutes, and went 183 games. Isner ended up winning the longest match in tour history. The match only had three service breaks, and the fifth set alone (70-68 final) lasted over eight hours.

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2010: Brett Favre’s 297 consecutive starts

While not as high as Cal Ripken’s 2,632-game iron-man streak, Brett Favre’s record of 297 consecutive starts is not too shabby (the NFL only plays 16 games per season, too). Favre’s streak spanned 19 seasons (two more than Ripken) and included several broken bones, but a damaged shoulder forced him to sit out a 2010 game against the New York Giants. After Favre missed the game, his website sold commemorative footballs honoring the streak.

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2012: 234 climbers reach summit of Mount Everest

The first person to climb Mount Everest achieved the feat in 1953. On May 19, 2012, 234 climbers reached the peak, a new record for most in a day. Nearly 6,000 climbers have reached the top of Mount Everest to date.

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2012: North Carolina’s 21 NCAA soccer titles

Since the NCAA women’s soccer tournament was first held in 1982, the North Carolina Tar Heels have won a record 21 titles, led by players like Mia Hamm and Cindy Parlow, and coached the entire time by Anson Dorrance. North Carolina won 12 of the first 13 titles, only dropping the 1985 title game, 2-0, to George Mason. They have not, however, won any titles since 2012.

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2012: Sam Groth’s 163-mph serve

Aussie Sam Groth, then ranked 340th in the world, became #1 in one regard in 2012. Groth served one point at 163 mph in a South Korea match, the fastest recorded serve in an ATP event. The previous record was around 156 mph by Ivo Karlovic.

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2021: Justin Tucker’s 66-yard field goal

Broncos kicker Matt Prater set the NFL field goal record of 64 yards in 2013, though it was in the thin air of Denver (along with two previous 63-yarders). But on September 26, 2021, Justin Tucker of the Baltimore Ravens airmailed the ball a record 66 yards in sea-level Detroit, simultaneously crushing the record, winning the game as time expired and seeing it bounce over the crossbar. His 90.8 completion percentage (as of Nov. 2021) is also best all-time.

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2013: Peyton Manning throws 55 touchdowns

In 2011, some thought Peyton Manning’s career was over after he missed the entire NFL season due to neck surgery. But two years later, he threw 55 touchdown passes, crushing Tom Brady’s single-season record of 50 (which beat Manning’s previous record of 49 in 2004). Manning won the MVP award that year but lost the Super Bowl to the Seattle Seahawks.

AMER HILABI // Getty Images

2013: The Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak

Results in professional wrestling are predetermined, but one streak earned respect from fans and athletes alike. WWE’s The Undertaker won 21 consecutive matches at Wrestlemania—the sport’s “Super Bowl”—and put his streak on the line at Wrestlemania XXX against MMA star Brock Lesnar. Some betting sites had The Undertaker as a huge favorite, but Lesnar shockingly pinned The Undertaker, giving him his first loss at WrestleMania.

Bruce Bennett // Getty Images

2014: Canada’s golden women’s hockey trio

Jayna Hefford, Hayley Wickenheiser and Caroline Ouellette won four consecutive Olympic gold medals (2002 to 2014) for Canada, the most by any players in Olympic hockey history. In 2018 and 2019, Hefford and Wickenheiser were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and Ouellette might not be far behind.

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2014: LA Galaxy win fifth MLS Cup

The 2014 MLS Cup was a battle of league originals, and the LA Galaxy came out on top, defeating the New England Revolution, 2-1.. The win gave the Galaxy a record five MLS Cups, while the Revolution fell to 0-5 all-time in the Cup final—three of those losses handed to them by the Galaxy.

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2015: Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather shatter records

Fight fans waited years for Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather to face off in the ring, and their 2015 “Fight of the Century” drew in about 4.6 million pay-per-view buys, the most in boxing history. Mayweather, who won the bout by decision, earned about $250 million, while Pacquiao earned somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 million. Those made it the richest-ever fight in history.

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2015: Most-watched Super Bowl ever

Pete Carroll might not be too happy about this one. A record 114.4 million viewers watched Super Bowl XLIX on NBC, featuring the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots. The dramatic game all but ended when Carroll called a pass play instead of a run near the goal line, and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was intercepted, deflating a last-second comeback bid.

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2016: Crushing 77 cans with an elbow in 1 minute

If there’s one record on this list that you could maybe take a run at while at home, it might be this one. In 2016, Muhammad Rashid crushed 77 full drink cans in one minute with his elbow, setting a new world record. Then again, Rashid founded the Pakistan Academy of Martial Arts, so there’s probably no chance of a regular Joe coming close to his mark.

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2016: Deng Wei adds to her world records

China’s Deng Wei executed a 147-kilogram (more than 324 pounds) clean and jerk in the 63-kilogram (139-pound) category, setting a new world record at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Wei also holds several other world records and has won five World Championship titles.

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2016: Eva Clarke’s 3,737 pull-ups

Australian Eva Clarke holds the world record for most pull-ups in a 24-hour period. In an effort to raise funds for the Task Brazil charity, Clarke did 3,737 pull-ups on March 10, 2016. She also set another world record that same day by completing 725 pull-ups in one hour. Try that at the local schoolyard!

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2016: Geno Auriemma overtakes John Wooden

By winning the 2016 NCAA women’s tournament, University of Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma hoisted his 11th championship trophy, the most by a Division I basketball coach. Auriemma won all 11 with the UConn Huskies, coaching stars like Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore and Tina Charles. Auriemma’s title stash bested the 10 won by former UCLA men’s basketball coach John Wooden.

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2016: Golden State wins 73 games

The Golden State Warriors broke the 1995–96 Chicago Bulls’ record of 72 wins by going 73-9. Steve Kerr, coach of the Warriors, was a guard on that Bulls team; however, unlike Chicago, Golden State did not win the NBA title, falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James after leading the Finals, 3-1.

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2016: Ichiro’s 4,257 hits

In 2016, Ichiro Suzuki reached 4,257 hits between his pro careers in Japan and MLB. That was enough to top Pete Rose’s career total in the majors and had some arguing that Ichiro’s achievement was equally or even more impressive. Whether or not he deserves the crown as the true hit king, Ichiro’s achievement is one to marvel at.

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2016: Max Verstappen races into Formula One history

Max Verstappen became the youngest driver to win a Formula One Championship race at age 18 (and 228 days). The teenage speed racer took the Spanish Grand Prix in May 2016 and also became the first Dutch racer to win an F1 Championship race.

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2017: Diana Taurasi passes Tina Thompson

Diana Taurasi became the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer in her 13th season, passing Houston Comets great Tina Thompson, who set the former mark of 7,488 points over 17 seasons. Taurasi’s achievement is especially impressive because she spent many offseasons playing abroad, taxing her body year-round. Since then, she has seemingly put the record out of reach with 9,174 career points after the 2021 season.

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2017: Sean McVay becomes NFL’s youngest coach

Sean McVay became the NFL’s youngest head coach in 2017 when he was tapped to lead the Los Angeles Rams at age 30. In his second season, McVay led the Rams to a Super Bowl appearance. Lane Kiffin, who began coaching the Oakland Raiders in 2007, is the second-youngest to coach a team at 31 years, eight months.

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2017: Serena Williams sets several records in Australia

The biggest news regarding Serena Williams’ 2017 Australian Open victory was that it gave her 23 Grand Slam titles, which broke a tie with Steffi Graf for the most in the Open era. But Williams, then 35, also set other Open-era records that week by becoming the oldest woman to win a Grand Slam and capturing her fifth Australian Open (most of any player, ahead of Roger Federer’s four).

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2017: Sorry, Atlanta: 28-3

The biggest comeback in Super Bowl history occurred on Feb. 5, 2017. The Atlanta Falcons held a 28-3 lead over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI but then allowed 31 unanswered points and lost the game. Even Patriots fans thought the game was over: Mark Wahlberg was seen leaving the Super Bowl early with his hometown team getting thrashed.

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2017: UConn women win 91 straight games

The UConn Huskies women’s basketball team owns a plethora of college basketball records. In 2017, they extended a winning streak to 91 games, the most in NCAA history. UConn broke the previous record of 90, which was set by earlier Huskies teams, and in all, won 111 straight games before a loss in the 2017 NCAA Tournament.

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2018: Joey Chestnut gobbles 74 hot dogs

The annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest has become a widely viewed event every Fourth of July. The sometimes gross contest has seen some astounding records, too. In 2018, Joey Chestnut set a new world record, eating 74 hot dogs in 10 minutes—devouring his previous record of 72.

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2018: Lindsey Vonn’s 82 World Cup victories

In 2018, Lindsey Vonn won her 82nd World Cup race, a women’s skiing record. Vonn is ranked as the greatest women’s skier in history, but oddly won only one Olympic gold medal, the downhill, in 2010.

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2018: Marit Bjørgen’s 15 Winter Olympic medals

Marit Bjørgen won her 15th Olympic medal at the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and retired as the most decorated Winter Olympian ever. The Norwegian cross-country skier first medaled at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City but didn’t win Olympic gold until 2010.

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2019: Coach K becomes all-time winningest coach

Harry Statham was a big name at a small university, McKendree, leading its NAIA basketball team to 1,122 wins, the most in NCAA history. However, Statham was bumped when Mike Krzyzewski won his 1,123rd game in 2019. Krzyzewski coached Army for five years, beginning in 1975, before his current gig with Duke, highlighted by five NCAA titles. He plans to retire after the 2021-22 season, so he won’t threaten Statham’s record of 1,635 games coached.

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2019: Eliud Kipchoge breaks the two-hour marathon mark

Breaking the two-hour marathon barrier has been the holy grail of runners for decades. In late 2019, Eliud Kipchoge finally did it on a course in Vienna, completing 26.2 miles in 1:59:40. The time is not recognized as a world record, however, because he was aided by the use of professional pacesetters. But Kipchoge still owns the recognized world record of 2:01:39 (4:38 per mile) and has won the last two Olympic marathons.

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2019: Joe Burrow sets college TD mark

LSU’s Joe Burrow broke the NCAA’s single-season passing touchdown record with a four-yard pass to Thaddeus Moss in the 2020 National Championship Game. Burrow finished his final season at LSU with a Heisman Trophy and 60 touchdowns passes, two more than Hawaii’s Colt Brennan (58) in 2006. Burrow is now contracted to be the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback through 2025.

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2019: Mariano Rivera earns unanimous election

Before 2019, none of the hundreds of members of the Baseball Hall of Fame entered the hallowed halls by unanimous vote—not even Jackie Robinson or Hank Aaron or Randy Johnson. That summer, though, Mariano Rivera became the first to appear on 100% of baseball writers’ ballots, thanks to a career in which he became the majors’ all-time leader in saves.

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2019: Mike Trout’s $430 million contract

In March 2019, Mike Trout signed baseball’s biggest contract ever, a 12-year, $430 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels. Just one month earlier, Bryce Harper had signed a 13-year, $330 million contract, which at that point was the biggest ever. Trout went on to win the American League MVP award that year for the third time.

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2019: Simone Biles flips world record

In 2019, Simone Biles won her 25th World Artistic Gymnastics medal, surpassing Vitaly Scherbo’s old record of 23. She also became the first gymnast to execute a double-double beam dismount and the first female to accomplish a triple-double in a gymnastics competition. In all, the gymnastics GOAT has six world records.

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2019: U.S. wins fourth World Cup

The United States women’s national soccer team captured their fourth World Cup title in 2019, the most in women’s soccer. The first tournament was held in 1991, and Germany is the only other winner of at least two titles. The Women’s World Cup was skipped in 2021 but will resume in Australia/New Zealand in 2023.

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2019: UFC’s 5-second KO

At UFC 239, Jorge Masvidal knocked out Ben Askren in five seconds, the fastest KO in UFC history. Masvidal won the bout with a knee, followed by a series of punches to his defenseless opponent. The American welterweight really won in about two seconds, but it took five seconds for the referee to call the match.

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2020: Aaron Gordon’s perfectly imperfect dunks

Aaron Gordon scored perfect 50s on his first five dunks at the 2020 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, giving him a total of eight all-time, the most in NBA dunk contest history. However, Gordon lost the 2020 contest in a judged dunk-off, which many NBA fans blamed on judge Dwyane Wade, a former teammate of winner Derrick Jones Jr.

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2020: Patrick Mahomes becomes a half-billion-dollar man

The $503 million, 12-year contract the Kansas City Chiefs awarded Patrick Mahomes was jaw-dropping even by professional sports standards. Only soccer star Lionel Messi earns more; baseball star Mike Trout’s $426 million (also for 12 years) comes in third. The contract awards the superstar quarterback that amount through 2031, when he will be 36, and doesn’t include the fortune he is earning through endorsements.

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2020: Christine Sinclair’s 188 goals

Canadian soccer captain Christine Sinclair holds the record for most international goals with 188. Sinclair passed American star Abby Wambach and may have her sights on 200. “When I get tired of scoring, that’s when I’ll stop playing,” Sinclair told reporters after netting #186.

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2020: Super Mario Bros. speedrun record

Gaming is steadily gaining recognition in the sports world. In 2020, gamer Kosmic set a new fastest time in beating Super Mario Bros., posting a mark of 4:55.64. More than 1 million viewers have watched that speedrun on YouTube, and speedruns in other classic games make up one of the most popular genres of competitive gaming.

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2021: Tom Brady gets fitted for a seventh ring

Tom Brady had already played on the most winning Super Bowl teams when he took the field for Super Bowl LV. By crushing the Kansas City Chiefs, 31-9, in Tampa on February 7, 2021, he earned his seventh ring. That one was different because the longtime Patriot won it for his new team, the Tampa Bay Bucs, and he did it with a torn MCL. The ageless GOAT will have to be fitted for thumb rings if he wins two more.

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2021: Novak Djokovic catches Roger and Rafael

By taking his sixth Wimbledon title on July 11, 2021, Novak Djokovic pulled into a three-way tie with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal by winning his 20th Grand Slam title, the most all-time for men. By the time they’ve all retired, the Swiss and Spanish tennis stars will probably yield to the Serb in the title race because, at 34, Djokovic is six years younger than Federer and is still on top, winning three of the four 2021 Grand Slam titles.