What do Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and Michael Phelps have in common? If you answered a crippling gambling addiction, you’re half-right. They’re also pretty decent athletes. In fact, a lot of the sporting records they set remain unbroken to this day.
Some of the feats the amazing men and women below have achieved will remain enshrined in global sporting folklore long after they are gone. If you’ve always wanted to know who’s the best at throwing, kicking, or hitting a ball, you’ve come to the right place.
Longest Unbeaten Streak Across All Competitions
What: 48 matches
Who: S.L. Benfica
When: December 1963 to 14 February 1965
One of the world’s most iconic teams was a true powerhouse in the 1960s, having won back-to-back European championships against Barcelona and Real Madrid in 1961 and 1962, and losing finals to AC Milan, Inter, and Manchester United. Celtic’s 62 matches without a loss seem more impressive, but that was before the introduction of UEFA club tournaments.
Longest Unbeaten Streak – National League Only
What: 104 matches won
Who: Steaua Bucharest
When: June 1986 – September 1989
Bet you thought this one was going to be about Arsenal, didn’t you? You could argue that Arsène Wenger’s Unbeatens had a much harder road to the largest of their Premier League records – but the 49 matches they went without defeat are fewer by half than what Steaua accomplished in the late 1980s. Also, unlike Arsenal, Steaua bagged a European Champions Cup (later known as the Champions League) and European Supercup during its run in 1986.
Most Career Goals by a Player
What: 805 goals scored
Who: Josef Bican
While Messi (724) and Ronaldo (743) might end up beating this crazy record, it will take them a lot more matches to do it. Messi has played 911 matches and Ronaldo 1,036 – while Bican set his record in just 530 games, making his 1.51 ratio a football record no one is likely to ever beat. For reference, Romario is currently second on that list with 772 goals, with an average of just 0.77 goals per match.
Most Goals by a Player in a Calendar Year
What: 91 goals scored
Who: Lionel Messi
In one year the magical Argentinian not only scored the most goals, but also set the Champions League record by scoring five goals against Bayer Leverkusen and a hat-trick against Brazil at the 49-minute mark. His 73-goal record in the league during the same year is second only to Jimmy Jones’s 74 for Glenavon FC during the 1956–1957 season.
Most Goals by a Player in a Single World Cup
What: 13 goals scored
Who: Just Fontaine
On our list of the greatest football records, 13 goals may not seem like much. But consider this: The all-time record for World Cup goals scored is held by Germany’s Miroslav Klose, who took 24 matches to score 16 goals for his team. Fontaine? It took him just six games to come within three goals of that record in 1958.
Most Goals Scored by a Goalkeeper
What: 131 goals scored
Who: Rogério Ceni
Even in the world’s largest football nation, you’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger legend than Rogério Ceni. During his 22-year career in São Paulo he became known not only as a phenomenal shot stopper but as a real threat when it came to penalties and free kicks. His 1,198 matches for São Paulo are also a record unlikely to be beaten any time soon.
Longest Goal Scored
What: Goal scored from 100.5 yards
Who: Asmir Begovic
This magic is one of the more recent world records in sports. Thanks to a bit of wind, a fair bit of kicking power and a whole lot of bad goalkeeping, Artur Boruc will forever be remembered as the goalkeeper that conceded the world’s longest goal in the history of professional football.
Fastest Send-Off in the History of Football
What: Red card after two seconds
Who: Lee Todd
It takes something special to be booked within two seconds of the first whistle. Cross Park Farm Celtic player Lee Todd apparently shoulted “F*ck me, that’s loud,” in response to the ref’s enthusiastic kick-off announcement. The whistle-blower, as it were, wasn’t terribly impressed, and sent the man on a one-way trip to the dressing room.
Highest Attendance at a Football Match
What: 173,850 tickets sold, unofficially around 210,000 people
Who: Brazil and Uruguay
When: 1950 World Cup Final
Ah, the glorious ‘50s. The age of widespread post-war optimism, advertisements featuring children smoking cigarettes and stadiums chock-full of people breaking every safety measure known to man. One of the most impressive sporting world records is something that simply wouldn’t be possible these days, due to mandatory seating and other safety measures. For reference, Europe’s largest stadium, Camp Nou, seats only 99,354 people.
Most Expensive Player Transfer
What: €222 million transfer from Barcelona to PSG
Who: Neymar Jr.
The infamous transfer of one of Barca’s three deadly musketeers sent ripples through the sporting world back in 2017. Neymar himself never went on to capture the glory of his Barcelona days, but he did manage to make a lot of us wonder if we aren’t shelling out just a bit too much for people punting the ball around a pitch these days. PSG holds the record for the second largest transfer as well, with a mind-boggling €145m for Kylian Mbappe during the same year.
What: Winning all four Grand Slam titles, the year-end championship and the Olympic medal in the same year
Who: Steffi Graf
There are tons of impressive records in tennis. Winning literally everything that counts during one season is probably the most impressive of them. While Margaret Court and Serena Wiliams have won many more titles overall, and Martina Higgins won a Grand Slam at a much younger age, no one else (male or female) has managed to nab all four Grand Slam titles, the year-end championship and an Olympic gold medal, all within the same year.
Youngest Champion and Grand Slam Winner
What: Youngest player to win a Grand Slam and become world #1 in the Open Era
Who: Martina Hingis
Martina Hingis had a short and injury-riddled career, but an impressive one, nonetheless. Winning the 1997 Australian Open at just 17 years and 117 days made her the youngest player to ever win a Grand Slam, which was accompanied by becoming the youngest #1 ranked player in the history of Open Era tennis the very same year.
Longest Tennis Match in History
What: A match lasting 11 hours and five minutes
Who: John Isner (USA) and Nicolas Mahut (France)
The most exhausting of all sports records involving a tennis racket was set at the 2010 Wimbledon Championship. It lasted over three days, with the final set’s eight hours and 11 minutes breaking the previous longest-match record. Isner finally prevailed 70-68, with both players serving over 100 aces each. Isner unsurprisingly holds the record for most aces served in a match, with his 112 unreturnable serves edging out Mahut’s 102 in that epic match.
Fastest Serve in Tennis History
What: 163.4 mph
Who: Sam Groth
While this is a completely legitimate serve, recorded with ATP equipment, it happened at a Challenger tournament in Busan, South Korea, so ATP does not officially endorse it. If you’re a stickler for that sort of thing, our old buddy Isner holds the record for the fastest official serve at 157.2 mph.
Career Batting Average in Test Matches
Who: Don Bradman
One of the greatest sportsmen of all time, “The Don” Bradman was one of those people who just intimidated the opposing team by their very presence. In 80 test cricket innings, the man scored his runs at an average of 99.94. For reference, anything over 50 is considered exceptional in cricket, and only seven players in history have managed to score more than 1,000 runs at an average of over 60.
Most Runs and Centuries in First Class Cricket
What: 61,760 runs and 199 centuries
Who: Jack Hobbs
Speaking of borderline-absurd records, Jack’s nearly 30-year first class career has plenty of them. In addition to the most runs and centuries, he also holds the record for the most fifties (273), most fifty-plus scores (473), most runs over the age of 40 (58.9), and more. The man retired at the age of 52, need we say more?
Most Records in International Test Cricket
What: 20+ records held
Who: Sachin Tendulkar
The man, the myth, the legend. Famous for some of the greatest sporting achievements in the history of cricket, Sachin holds the record for the highest number of runs in both tests (15,921) and ODIs (18,426). He also holds the record for the highest number of centuries in both (51 and 49, respectively). He has played more test matches than any other player in history (200), and has the highest number of Man of the Match awards in international cricket (76). We could go on, but you get the idea – the man was a beast.
Longest Cricket Match in History
What: 12 days, including nine playing days
Who: England and South Africa
The infamous “Timeless Test” not only lasted for a staggering 43 hours and 16 minutes in total, but it also failed to produce a definitive winner after all that effort. The match was concluded with a mutually agreed tie, after the English players had to catch a boat home, putting an end to one of the most exhausting matches in the history of any sport.
Longest Unbeaten Run in Ranking Matches
What: 36 matches
Who: Stephen Hendry
Snooker is a tough sport to set huge records in. Stephen Hendry’s nearly unbeaten year saw him win 36 consecutive matches and five titles in a row. Ronnie O’Sullivan’s 38 consecutive wins is technically better but includes qualifiers.
Most Points in a Match Without Answer
What: 556-0 point victory
Who: Ronnie O’Sullivan
Ronnie O’Sullivan is arguably the game’s greatest player of all time. Among his many records, one of the most brutal was set at the Dafabet Masters in London, when he demolished Ricky Walden 6-0 in just 57 minutes and 48 seconds, not allowing the poor man to score a single point during the match.
Longest Frame Ever Played
What: 123 minutes and 41 seconds
Who: Fergal O’Brien and David Gilbert
Not the proudest of sporting records for either party here. Ronnie would finish up two whole matches in the time it took Fergal O’Brien and David Gilbert to end their epic deciding frame in the qualifying round for the 2017 championship. O’Brien won, having probably set a new world record for pre-shot prep time in the process.
Most World Championship Titles
What: 15 titles
Who: Joe Davis
When: 1927-1940 and 1946
Joe Davis was the sort of guy that could make you consider a career change. He won his 15 world championship titles in a row during the first fifteen years that the competition was held (1941-1945 had no competitions for obvious reasons). The man just quit playing these tournaments in 1946, much to the joy of everyone else playing snooker professionally.
Most Consecutive International Wins
What: 24 victories
The Mouflons’ unbeaten streak against Azerbaijan started in 2008 and ended in 2014 after a loss against Andorra. Admittedly, unlike England and New Zealand (18 consecutive victories each), they didn’t have proper competition while setting the record, having lost their first match only after the promotion to level 2B of the European Nations Cup.
Largest World Cup Winning Margin
Who: Australia beating Namibia
Not only is this the most embarrassing thrashing a team has ever suffered in a World Cup, it’s also the largest victory against a team that didn’t manage to score a single point. Furthermore, the Aussies also scored 22 tries in that match, setting a world record ahead of New Zealand (21).
Player With Most Tries in a Single World Cup Match
Who: Marc Ellis
A lot of rugby’s world sporting records happened during the historic 145-17 All Blacks win over Japan in 1995. Despite scoring six tries, Marc wasn’t even the highest scoring player. That honor went to Simon Culhane, who ended the game with a record-holding 45 points, from 20 conversions, which he also holds a record for.
Record Scoreline in Rugby
Who: Lavardac vs Vergt
Having four of their players suspended, third league team Vergt decided to show its disdain for the decision by fielding 11 players for the next few matches. Their protest allowed Lavardac to set a record unlikely to ever be beaten in rugby, with 66 tries and 350 points to nil, averaging a try in just over 72 seconds.
Miscellaneous Sporting Records
This section contains fascinating achievements across a wide range of popular sports. In addition to many athletics world records, you can find something here from just about any sport that people care about these days. We’ll start off with a little tribute to basketball’s greatest player of all time, Michael Jordan.
Most Career Points Per Game in NBA History
What: 30.1 point career average
Who: Michael Jordan
The world’s most iconic basketball player holds many, many records, but here we’ll mention just a few. His career scoring average tops out even the legendary Wilt Chamberlain (30.07), who set his scoring records in a time when defense was pretty much an afterthought, especially compared to Jordan’s era. Furthermore, MJ also holds 10 top NBA scorer titles, while Wilt stopped at seven and Kevin Durent is at four so far.
Only Player in NBA History to Earn More Than His Entire Team Combined
What: $33.1 million salary
Who: Michael Jordan
Perhaps not one of the best records in sports, but certainly one showing just how much MJ was worth in his time. During the 1998 season, when the salary cap was a “paltry” $26.9 million, his agent was able to use a contractual loophole to score him an extra $15 million
For perspective, Ron Harper and Toni Kukoc earned $4.5 million that year, while one of the era’s greatest players, Scottie Pippen, made just $1.8 million.
Longest Losing Streak in Professional Sports
What: 42 matches in a row
Who: Shanghai Dragons
Any good list of world records in sports has to have a few embarrassing ones as well, right? Finishing a whole season without a single win is a pretty epic “achievement,” but how about extending that for two more games in the following season? eSports are officially recognized as sports these days, so these blokes have officially been recognized as the worst team in the entire history of sports. Blimey.
Most Consecutive Complete Games
What: 502 consecutive full games played
Who: Glenn Hall
One of the most outrageous records in any sport ever, Glenn Hall’s streak is about 400 (yes, four hundred) games ahead of his closest competitors. Ice hockey is a dynamic game, in which goalie subs are not a rare occurrence. For someone to go seven straight seasons without missing a single minute of a single game is definitely one of the most remarkable world records in sports.
Most Consecutive Tour de France Victories
What: Seven victories
Who: Lance Armstrong
The infamous Lance, a man who admitted to doping, is possibly a controversial choice. Consider this though: the guy came clean, at a time when it was industry practice to use substances as a borderline-necessary competitive equalizer. Now we’re not saying he’s off the hook, but it will be interesting to see if anyone manages even half of this streak now that the sport is supposedly clean.
Longest Scoring Streak
What: Scoring goals in 51 consecutive games
Who: Wayne Gretzky
Wayne Gretzky is one of those guys who has set so many records in his sport that it’s hard to pick the most impressive one. Scoring goals in every match for 51 straight games is less of a sporting record and more of a miracle, though. For reference, Messi scored goals in 21 consecutive games and no one has ever come close to that in football. Wayne’s second best streak (which no one else has touched yet) is scoring a goal in thirty consecutive games.
Most Consecutive Wins in Motosports
What: Winning 58 consecutive races
Who: Giacomo Agostini
Scoring a goal in 51 consecutive games is pretty impressive, sure, but how about winning every Motorcycle Grand Prix race for almost three years in a row? And doing so across two different motorcycle categories? While also winning six Isle of Man TT races? For reference, one of the more impressive F1 records is Sebastian Vettel’s nine consecutive victories.
Longest Hitting Streak in Baseball
What: 56 games with at least one base hit
Who: Joe DiMaggio
Joe DiMaggio was hitting all the bases long before he met Marylin Monroe. His impressive 1941 record of hitting a base at least once in 56 straight games never came close to being beaten. Pete Rose’s 44 game streak came the closest, and that’s still twelve games short.
Most Consecutive Losses in NBA
What: 26 consecutive losses
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers
When: 2010-2011 season
Remember Kyrie Irving? The 2015-2016 upset that netted Cavs their only NBA title in history? Yeah, before that, they were known as the team that holds not one but three of the worst losing streaks in NBA history. The 2010-2011 Cavs beat the teams of 1981-1982 and 1982-1983 who lost “only” 24 matches in a row.
Longest Winning Streak in Boxing
What: 87 games
Who: Julio Cesar Chavez
Probably the most impressive of all boxing records involves the mexican legend Julio Cesar Chavez. Imagine entering a ring 87 times and slugging it out with other blokes for fourteen straight years before someone finally beats you. The man ended his stellar career with a 107-6, but everyone still remembers how it took more than a decade for someone to hand him his first loss.
The Tiger Slam
What: Winning all four professional major championships in a row
Who: Tiger Woods
When: 2000 and 2001 seasons
Before all the infamy he garnered for adultery and other vices, Tiger Woods was simply known as the best damn golfer the game had ever seen. One of his many impressive achievements was not only being the youngest of only five players to win all four major tournaments, but holding them all at the same time.
World’s Fastest Man
What: 100m and 200m world records
Who: Usain Bolt
When: 2008 (200m), 2012 (100m)
If there’s a sprinting record out there, Usain Bolt probably holds it. In addition to being the fastest man at 100m and 200m, he also helped Jamaica break the world record in 4x100m relay. The man even tried his luck at semi-professional football, but that didn’t go so well.
Longest Running Record in Athletics
What: 400m women’s world record
Who: Jarmila Kratochvílová
The World’s longest running record is to this day a controversial one. The fact that the previous records were constantly broken while this one stands for nearly 40 years speaks volumes about how impressive an achievement it was. The fact that it came at the age of 32, combined with Jarmila’s atypical muscular build, made many believe that Jarmila used performance enhancing drugs. It was never proven, though.
The Most Decorated Olympian
What: 28 Olympic medals
Who: Michael Phelps
Michael Phelps lost many of his Olympic records in recent years. One that hardly anyone will be able to take is 16 individual and 28 overall career medals at the Olympics. The man won eight medals in just one year, back in 2008. While his individual records may all get broken one day, it’s unlikely anyone will ever win as many medals at the Olympics, regardless of the sport.
Largest Triple Crown Victory Margin
What: Victory by 31 lengths
You just don’t see records like this in modern-day horse races. To put things in perspective, Smarty Jones had an 11.5-length win at the 2004 Preakness Stakes and people lost their minds. Let’s just say that anyone racing against Secretariat at the Belmont Stakes that day was considering changing careers afterwards.
Single-Game Scoring Record in Professional Basketball
What: 100 points
Who: Wilt Chamberlain
The lack of tough defense and offensive goaltending rules made this and many of Wilt’s other impressive NBA records possible. Kobe Bryant’s modern-day 81-point game is perhaps a more impressive feat all things considered, but Wilt’s 100 points for the Philadelphia Warriors in a 169–147 win over the New York Knicks remains professional basketball’s single greatest scoring performance of all time.
Most Career Assists in Professional Basketball
What: 15,806 assists
Who: John Stockton
Arguably the best assist-man in the history of the game, Stockton led the league in assists every year from 1987-1988 through to 1995-1996. Jason Kidd is the closest that the NBA (or any other league) came to producing a contender, and he stopped at 12,091, more than 3,000 short.
Longest Consecutive NBA Winning Streak
What: 33 games in a row
Who: Los Angeles Lakers
Sticking with the world’s best league, here is another one of those seemingly unbeatable basketball records for the ages. Although the Golden State Warriors ended their 2015-2016 season with a 73-9 win/loss ratio, not even they managed to beat the Lakers’ 33-game winning streak. The best they could do was two 28-game runs.
Heavyweight No Loss Streak
What: 49-0 (43 knockouts)
Who: Rocky Marciano
Arguably the single-greatest heavyweight boxer of all time on win/loss ratio alone, Rocky is the only boxer in his weight category to never get knocked out. Despite being only 5’10’’, he had an incredibly tough chin and was able to take a punch better than anyone. He served as the inspiration for Sylvester Stallone’s character “Rocky.”
Fastest MMA Knockout
What: Knockout after two seconds
Who: Ryohei Masuda
Perhaps not one of the most famous sporting records, but certainly one of the quickest. Takahiro Kuroishi is basically the inverse Rocky Marciano, and we’re sure that after this epic K.O. he never tried sprinting at his opponents with his guard down again.
China’s Table Tennis Domination
What: 53 medals
Rarely does a spot get dominated by a single nation. Since the sport was introduced at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, they went on to win 28 gold, 17 silver and eight bronze medals. At the 2008 Olympics, they simply went and won pretty much everything, including gold, silver and bronze medals in both men’s and women’s singles.
Longest Triple Jump
What: 60 feet (18.29m)
Who: Jonathan Edwards
One of the rare British sporting records that still holds up as a world record in athletics, this epic jump was recorded at the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg. Will Kaye came close with last year’s 59’ 6’’ jump, but the 25 year old record still stands strong.
Most Consecutive Olympic Appearances
What: 10 Olympic appearances in a row
Who: Ian Millar
A career spanning 40 years is impressive enough, but not missing a single Olympic event in that time is something else. To top it off, Ian was ready for an eleventh straight appearance, but his horse’s imminent surgery stopped him from participating in the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Most Medals by a Nation at the Olympics
What: 239 medals
Who: US athletes
When: 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis
If you thought China’s table tennis domination at the 2008 Beijing Olympics was something special, how about 239 medals across all sports, won by the US athletes in 1904? Admittedly, one of the most unreachable records in sports came about because only 62 of the 651 participating athletes came from outside North America, and the vast majority of top-ranked athletes outside of the United States didn’t participate. Still, the USSR only managed to get 195 medals at the infamous 1980 Games in Moscow, and no other nation even came close to those two.
Most Career and Consecutive Season Home Runs
What: 11 and seven home runs
Who: Babe Ruth
When: 1921-1932 (career), 1926-1932 (consecutive)
One of the best batters in the history of the game, Babe Ruth set his records at a time when only white athletes were allowed to compete and steroids were not yet a thing. That they still stand today is a testament to just how good the man was.