A Brief History
On March 2, 1962, Wilt Chamberlain, center for the Philadelphia Warriors, scored an National Basketball Association (NBA) single-game record of 100 points against the New York Knicks. To put this in perspective, at that time, the only other player to have scored 70 or more points in a single game was Elgin Baylor with 71 points. This performance put Chamberlain so far ahead of any other scoring flurry that he was truly in a class by himself. In the 53 years since then, no other player has approached his record, with the closest effort being Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game in 2006. Back in 2015, we listed 10 of the most amazing athletic accomplishments of all time in our article “10 Incredible Athletic Feats.” Today we revisit the area of incredible athletic feats and list another 10 such accomplishments for you to wonder at. For our younger readers, will you ever make an appearance on such an article?
1. Sabrina Ionescu, College Basketball career numbers.
On February 24, 2020, this star of the Oregon women’s basketball team set a college basketball standard that has never been achieved before, neither by a woman or a man. She accomplished her history making statistics by amassing 2000 points, 1000 rebounds and 1000 assists. The daughter of Romanian immigrants, Sabrina was born in the United States in 1997 and starred at Miramonte High School in California before she has been the star of the Oregon Ducks Women’s college basketball team. She has a twin brother who also plays for the Ducks, but on the Men’s team!
2. Mark Spitz, 7 Olympic Gold Medals in One Olympiad.
American swimmer Mark Spitz set an Olympic record by winning an incredible 7 Gold Medals at the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich, Germany. Capping off his incredible run at the top of the swimming world, all 7 of Spitz’s Gold Medal performances were also new world records. His record of 7 Gold Medals at a single Olympics stood for 36 years until topped by another American swimmer, Michael Phelps.
3. Michael Phelps, 8 Olympic Gold Medals in One Olympiad.
At the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China, Michael Phelps bested the previous record set by Mark Spitz of 7 Gold Medals at a single Olympiad by winning all 8 events he was entered in, taking home 8 Olympic Gold Medals at a single Olympics. But that is not all! Phelps is the most highly awarded Olympian of all time, having won an incredible 28 Olympic Medals, of which 23 are Gold Medals. He is also the winningest individual Olympic Medalist by winning 13 of his Gold Medals in individual events and a total of 16 medals in individual events. Born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1985, Phelps has an engaging personality and was a great crowd favorite.
4. Jim Brown, Greatest Football Running Back.
James Nathaniel Brown born in Georgia in 1936 went on to great success at Syracuse University as a football player, probably the best player in the nation, though denied winning the Heisman Trophy because of the racial prejudice of the day. Brown was an excellent all-around athlete, coming in 5th in the Decathlon in the 1955 College Championships and earning All American status in Lacrosse, a sport in which he was #2 in scoring in the United States as a senior. In fact, he is an inductee in the Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Brown was also the second leading scorer on the Syracuse basketball team as a sophomore. Jim Brown played all 9 years of his professional football career with the Cleveland Browns, winning the league’s Most Valuable Player trophy 3 times and leading the league in rushing in 8 of his 9 seasons! The Brown’s last NFL Championship came with Brown’s help in 1964. When Brown retired, he had NFL records for most carries, most yards gained rushing (12,312), most rushing yards in a season, most touchdowns (106) and was the only running back with a considerable amount of carries to boast above a 5 yards per carry rushing average (5.2). To this day he is still the only running back to average over 100 yards rushing per game for his career (104.3). Upon his retirement, he held virtually all of the meaningful NFL rushing records. In 2002, the Sporting News voted him the Greatest Professional Football Player ever. This guy played when players did not run out of bounds to save themselves wear and tear and when the game was considerably rougher than it is now, and still, Brown never missed a game! Not just the greatest running back, but Brown is also the greatest football player in history.
5. Wilt Chamberlain, 55 Rebounds in one game.
In our previous article, we spoke of Wilt Chamberlain’s incredible 100 point scoring performance, but he was much more than just a fantastic scoring machine. Sure, he is the only NBA player to average over 40 points and over 50 points per game for a season (50.4, 1961-1962), and he did lead the league in scoring 7 times, but he was also a rebounding machine, leading the league in rebounding 11 times! The highlight of his rebounding career was a November 24, 1960, game against the Boston Celtics when Wilt was playing for the Philadelphia Warriors. The big man grabbed an NBA record 55 rebounds. The second best NBA rebounding effort was by Chamberlain’s arch-nemesis, Bill Russel, who snagged 51 boards in a single game in 1960, against the Syracuse Nationals. Other than Russell and Chamberlain, the only other NBA player to grab 40 or more rebounds in a game was Nate Thurmond, who grabbed 42 boards in a game in 1965. Did we forget to mention Wilt Chamberlain also led the league in assists in 1968? (Note: The author got to see Chamberlain play live in 1972.)
6. Baron the Dachshund 4.22 second 50 Yard Dash.
If you were to bet whether or not Usain Bolt, the Olympic Champion and World Record holder in the 100 meter dash could run faster than a Dachshund, you better bet on the dog! Yes, a Wiener Dog, Hot Dog, Badger Hound, Teckle, whatever you want to call the little short legged sausage like canine, at least one of their number was faster than the fastest man who ever lived. Baron was a 34 pound little bundle of muscle and energy that was entered into numerous wiener dog races by his owners, at least until race officials stopped allowing the speedy Dachshund permission to race. Along the way, Baron (1992-2010) won a bundle of races. Oh, and his formal AKC name was “CarrDox Bear Mountain Baron.” Like a true champion, Baron was never defeated in a race! The human 50 yard dash record is held by Stanley Floyd of the United States, posted in 1982 with a time of 5.22 seconds, waaaaayyyy behind Baron!
7. Scott Skiles, 30 Assists in a single NBA Game.
In 1990, while playing for the Orlando Magic against the Denver Nuggets, point guard Scott Skiles dished out an NBA all time record of 30 assists in a single game, the only player in NBA history to achieve that feat. Skiles was the #22 pick of the 1986 draft, but never really achieved stardom in his 10 year NBA career. Since his playing career ended in 1996 (he played one more year in Europe), he turned to coaching, and has been the head coach for 4 different NBA teams. Despite mediocre career scoring, assist and rebound numbers, his 30 assist game has stood at the top of the NBA list for 30 years now, a considerable accomplishment!
8. Bob Beamon, Superhuman Long Jump at 1968 Olympics.
At the 1968 Olympic games Beamon became the only person to win the gold medal and set the world record in the long jump at the same time. His magnificent effort beat the old world record by 21 ¾”, a stunningly large margin when you consider the largest previous record margin was 6”! This record stood for almost 23 years, the second longest reign of a long jump record holder to Jesse Owens’ 25 year stretch. Beating a world record is one thing, but smashing that record to pieces is a rarity never matched against Beamon’s effort.
9. Jim Thorpe, 1912 Olympic God!
This marvelous athlete was a Native-American (with some European ancestry) that grew up in the Sac and Fox Nation in Oklahoma. In the 1912 Olympics he entered and won both the Decathlon and the Pentathlon, a feat never accomplished before or since. In an obvious choice, ABC Sports named him the Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century, and when the King of Sweden awarded Thorpe a special prize and said, “You sir, are the greatest athlete in the world.” Thorpe famously replied, “Thanks, King.” Along with his incredible Olympic performance, Thorpe played baseball, football, basketball and golf professionally, an impressive record in its own right. Thorpe was stripped of his Olympic Gold Medals when it was discovered he had played semi-pro baseball for a few dollars. In 1983, after he had been dead for 30 years, his Olympic Medals were restored. Jim played professional (major league) baseball,, NFL football, and professional basketball as well as swinging a mean golf club. Thorpe went on to become the first President of the NFL.
10. Denny McClain wins 31 Pro Baseball Games 1968.
A pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, McClain made baseball history in 1968 when he posted an incredible won loss record of 31 wins against 6 losses, the first time any major league pitcher had won 30 or more games since Dizzy Dean won 30 games for the St. Louis Cardinals back in 1934. No major league pitcher has won 30 games or more in a single since then, and probably will not based on the way pitchers are used today. McClain’s incredible 1968 season was helped by an increase in the size of the strike zone and came in a year when Carl Yastrzemski won the American League batting title with a record low .301 batting average, the lowest average posted by a major league –batting champion in history. In fact, Yaz was the ONLY American leaguer to bat .300 or better in 1968, a factor not likely to be repeated any time soon. Now that McClain’s high mark of 31 wins has lasted 52 years, it seems possible his win total may not be bested for another 52 years!
Question for students (and subscribers): What fantastic athletic feats would you include on this list? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Chamberlain, Wilt. A View from Above. Villard, 1991.
Wheeler, Robert. Jim Thorpe: World’s Greatest Athlete. University of Oklahoma Press, 2012.
The featured image in this article, a photograph of Wilt Chamberlain (#13) playing for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1969 NBA finals versus the Boston Celtics, is in the public domain in the United States, because it was published in the United States between 1925 and 1977 without a copyright notice. See Commons:Hirtle chart for further explanation. Note that it may still be copyrighted in jurisdictions that do not apply the rule of the shorter term for US works (depending on the date of the author’s death), such as Canada (50 p.m.a.), Mainland China (50 p.m.a., not Hong Kong or Macao), Germany (70 p.m.a.), Mexico (100 p.m.a.), Switzerland (70 p.m.a.), and other countries with individual treaties.