Unlike some other sports, particularly MLB, the NBA is not a sport that holds their records in prestigious honors. Outside of knowing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the all time leading scorer, and Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point game, what NBA record is even talked about?
So today’s article focuses on ten of the most unbreakable NBA records, and seeing which are likely to fall or stay intact.
10. Most points in a Quarter: 37 by Klay Thompson
On Jan. 23, 2015, during the third quarter of the Warriors’ 126-101 win over the Kings, Klay Thompson scored 37 points. He made all 13 of his shot attempts, including 9 three pointers and 2 free throws.
The previous record had been 33 points in a quarter by George Gervin in 1978 and Carmelo Anthony in 2008. Since Thompson scored 37, the closest anyone has come to breaking it is Kevin Love who dropped 34 points in a quarter during a 2016 regular season game.
With the rules lending towards an offensive style of play, I can see this record being broken.
9. Most Regular Season Wins: 73 by the 2016 Golden State Warriors
When the Warriors capped off the 2016 regular season with a 73-9 record, they had an argument for best team of all time. That is until they blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals. But how likely is it that their 73 wins is surpassed?
First you have to understand how this record has changed over time. The Los Angeles Lakers won 69 games in the 1971-72 NBA season. That record remained intact until the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls broke it with 72 wins. The 1996-97 Bulls also won 69 games.
An NBA team regularly wins 60+ games a season. To break the record, certain conditions will have to apply. The team has to be previously successful and likely young. It will also take a super team of some sorts, or just a great team built around someone like Giannis in a weak conference. This record may take years to be broken, but I believe it is possible.
8. Highest Single Season Free Throw Percentage: 98.1% by Jose Calderon
During the 2008-09 season, Calderon knocked down 151 of his 154 free throw attempts, giving him a percentage of 98.1. To qualify as a league leader in free throw percentage during an 82-game season, and to qualify for this single-season record, a player must make a minimum of 125 free throws.
The key here is to take just enough free throws to qualify, be a good enough free throw shooter to rarely miss. You don’t want to go too far over the minimum number of attempts because your percentage will come back down to earth.
To put this in perspective, Steph Curry, the league’s best free throw shooter, has led the league 4x in this category but never came close to 98.1%. In his last full season (2018-19) Curry attempted 339 free throws. If he wanted to break Calderon’s record, he could only miss 6 free throws. That isn’t happening at that clip.
7. Most Consecutive Regular Season Wins: 33 by Los Angeles Lakers
From November 5th, 1971 to January 7th, 1972, the Los Angeles Lakers led by Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain went unbeaten. They won 33 consecutive games, in a season where they won 69 games, at the time a record.
The reason I have this slightly ahead of the most regular season wins is because of the unpredictability of the NBA. On any given night the worst team in the league can beat the best team in the league. It seems to happen all the time. So the likelihood of being focused and on your game every night, avoiding the impending upset is very slim. That is not even taking into account the elite teams you have to face, or the chance an important player misses games with injury. It just takes one slip to end the streak.
The only time this record has been somewhat threatened was From April 9, 2015, through Dec. 11, 2015, the Warriors won 28 straight games. The Miami Heat also won 27 straight in 2013.
6. Most Consecutive Regular Season Games Played: 1,192 by A.C Green
In Major League Baseball, Lou Gehrig and now Cal Ripken Jr., are known for their durability and availability. The NBA’s version of the Iron Man is A.C Green, a name casual fans never heard before.
Green played in 1,192 consecutive NBA games. In the past few decades, the “closest” anyone has come to Green’s record was Andre Miller who played in 632 consecutive games.
You would think that the athletes today, who have personal chefs, personal trainers, etc., would have an upper hand on a guy playing in the 80’s and 90’s when it comes to durability. But today’s athletes also participate in load management, offsetting any chance of breaking Green’s record.
To catch Green, a player would have to play every game for 15 consecutive seasons, something I don’t see happening in the load management era.
5. Most Career Points: 38,387 by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
We return to the record highlighted at the start of the piece. 4,301 points does not seem like a lot of points for Lebron James to accumulate considering he has already scored 34,086 points for his career. But when you break it down it seems extremely unlikely he catches Kareem.
James would have to average 26.2 points per game over two more full 82-game seasons or 17.48 points per game over three more full 82-game seasons to pass Abdul-Jabbar. Those averages are also under the assumption that James would not miss a single game during those seasons, also unlikely at his advanced age.
I think he gets close but in the days of load management and his advanced age focused on winning titles, I don’t think James catches Kareem.
4. Most consecutive regular-season games with at least 30 points: 65, Wilt Chamberlain
Chamberlain accomplished this remarkable feat from Nov. 4, 1961 to Feb. 22, 1962. The same season in which he averaged an NBA-record 50.4 points per game and scored 100 points in a game.
James Harden has the second longest streak of this kind in league history. From Dec. 13, 2018 to Feb. 21, 2019, he scored at least 30 points in 32 straight games. When Harden was doing this, the coverage was immense. Every night it was a story of if Harden could continue the streak.
This streak is likely safe.
3. Most Points in a Single Game: 100 by Wilt Chamberlain
Of all the NBA records that a casual fan could remember, this is the most iconic. Scoring 100 points in a single game is something full teams struggle to accomplish. When you think about a single player doing so seems like a folk tale.
Wilt scoring 100 points becomes even more of a folktale when you sit down and watch Kobe Bryant’s 81 point game. That game was surreal. It was like something straight out of 2K. Now add 19 more points to that explosive game and you tie Wilt.
It may not seem like 19 points is a lot, but it’s tough to accumulate 19 points. Many NBA players don’t eclipse 19 points in a game all season long.
This record never gets broken, even with guys attempting 12 three pointers in games. The only reason it isn’t number one on the list is because Wilt’s records just continue to get more absurd.
2. Most Career regular-season rebounds: 23,924 By Wilt Chamberlain
Just how unbreakable is this record? Consider this: The current active leader in this category is Dwight Howard, who has hauled in 13,641 total rebounds. Howard is 34 and has no chance of breaking the record due to his age.
The top two guys on this list are Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, both more than 4,000 more rebounds than third place Kareem. Wilt and Russell also accomplished this feat in just 14 and 13 seasons.
It seems absurd that they were able to pull down that many rebounds in roughly 5-7 seasons less than the other 3 in the top 5. Players of the past were not better rebounders per say, but there is a reason.
During the 1950’s and 1960s the pace of play was extremely faster than it was in any other era. The shooting percentage was also at an all time low. This meant more rebounds were there to be had. With Wilt’s physical dominance, he was able to constantly secure rebounds at an excessive rate.
It remains as another unbreakable Wilt record.
1. Highest single-season scoring average: 50.36 by Wilt Chamberlain
Chamberlain averaged 50.36 points per game during his legendary 1961-62 NBA season. Also in that season, he scored 100 points in a game and registered 65 straight games scoring at least 30 points. That season alone will never be duplicated. But something about averaging 50 seems the most unlikely.
To put things in perspective, Chamberlain also owns the second, third and fourth-highest averages on this list. To find another player’s name on this list, you have to go to the 5th highest single season scoring average of Michael Jordan with 37.09 points per game in 1986-87.
The first modern player on the list, you have to go to James Harden at 36.13 points per game, which is 7th on the list.
Only a select few NBA players can eclipse the 50 point mark for a single game, so forget anyone averaging 50 over the course of a 82 game season.
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