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. Other athletes have achieved incredible feats and records, and here we list 10 instances that impress us the most.
10. Longest Home Run.
I really wanted to cite the longest home run ever hit, but while researching, I found that there is no reliable way to determine that statistic. Many reports of monster homers were calculated by “estimates” and faulty mathematics in figuring the trajectory of a blast. Furthermore, balls do not fly in a symmetrical arc. The latter part of the flight is a steeper fall than the upward portion of the hit. It is very possible that either Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle smacked the mightiest homer of all, but that is impossible to prove. Ruth did, however, hit 500-foot home runs in all 8 American League ballparks in 1921, an amazing feat of power never equaled. Few batters have ever hit legitimate 500-foot home runs, and fewer still have hit more than one. Ruth and Mantle seem to be the exception.
9. Diana Nyad, 103-Mile Swim, 2013.
Incredibly, this appropriately named woman was 64 years old at the time of her record swim from Cuba to Florida. Not only does such a swim require staying awake for a couple of days straight and incredible endurance, but the swimmer also faces hazards such as jellyfish, sharks, dehydration, hypothermia, hunger, no handy porta-potties and, in my case, the threat of Japanese with harpoons.
8. Javier Sotomayor, 8’ ¼” High Jump, 1993.
This springy Cuban has held the world record longer than any other male high jumper. Going over the preposterous height of 8 feet is something no one else has ever done. To appreciate the immensity of this feat, stand next to something 8 feet tall, like an adult male grizzly bear on its hind legs, and imagine jumping over it (please, don’t really try this). The women’s world record, held by Bulgarian Stefka Kostadinova, is 6’ 10 ¼” and has been on the books even longer, since 1987.
7. Dennis Kimetto, 2:02:57 Marathon, 2014.
The current world record Marathon run got tantalizingly close to breaking the 2-hour mark. Though there are not many people on this planet who could run 26.22 miles in that time, Dennis Kimetto’s record could be matched by racehorses, sled dogs, wolves, camels and the champion marathoners of the animal kingdom, the Pronghorn Antelope and the Ostrich (tied for first). According to Popular Mechanics magazine, the last two could run the race in about 45 minutes. The women’s record is 2:15:25 set by Paula Radcliffe way back in 2003.
6. Roger Bannister, First Sub-4-Minute Mile, 1954.
Skeptics said no man would ever break the “4-minute barrier” in the mile run, with scientists backing up that opinion, claiming the human body was not capable of such a feat. Well, the Englishman Bannister proved them wrong, and, of course, many have done so since, with the current world record being an impressive 3:43.13. The fastest woman to run a mile is Svetlana Masterkova who had a time of 4:12.56. We suspect that very soon a woman will also finally break the hallowed “barrier.” (Wanna laugh? In high school I could break the women’s world records in the mile run and bench press, but those numbers now would not even beat high school girls!)
5. Brett Melson, Longest Hole in One, 2007.
Beating the previous record by a mere yard, Melson got his record Hole in One, or ace, at 448 yards on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Although there have been thousands of aces over the years, they are still a highly unlikely event and occur normally on the shortest holes. Oddly enough, there have been aces on longer holes, but those were dog-leg-type holes played by cutting the corner and having an actual distance to the hole shorter than this record. Honorable mention to Robert Mitera who got a Hole in One at 447 yards in 1965, the previous record.
4. Becca Swanson, 600 lb Bench Press, c. 2002.
A bodybuilding champion as well as weightlifter, this 5’10” 240 lb woman is the only female to ever bench press 600 pounds (with bench shirt) and the only woman to ever squat over 800 lbs. Almost assuredly the strongest woman ever to live on the planet, even the immediate assumption of steroid use does not change that fact. Swanson has also delved into professional wrestling. To top off her list of accomplishments, she also has a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.
3. Paul “Tiny” Meeker, 1,102 lb Bench Press, 2013.
Meeker made his incredible lift wearing a bench shirt, the first man to press 500 kilograms (1,102 lbs). That is especially amazing when you consider that the first ever 400 lb bench press was in 1950 and the first ever 500 lb bench press in 1953. Obviously, lifters have become incredibly strong in the meantime, due to special training and diets and perhaps performance-enhancing drugs. Still, the feat is awesome. The record without a bench shirt is 722 lbs.
2. Mats Wermelin, 272-point Basketball Game, 1974.
Mats, a 13-year-old Swedish boy, scored all of his team’s 272 points in a single game during a tournament in Stockholm. (The game was a shut out.) In 1941, Bob Harrison, a 13-year-old 8th grader, scored every one of his team’s points in a 139-8 basketball win. Most instances of 100-point scoring outbursts in high school and college basketball games have been when the teams were grossly mismatched. Still, scoring either 272 or 139 points in 1 game must still have been exhausting. The first female high school player to break the 100-point barrier was Denise Long of Iowa in 1968, with 111 points. The 100-point level has been achieved 24 times by high school student athletes, 5 of those times by a girl. The first ever such feat was in 1913 when Herman Saygar of Culver High School in Indiana scored 113 points. College players have reached the 100-point mark a total of 6 times, amazingly two times each by both “Bevo” Francis and Jack Taylor.
1. Wilt Chamberlain 100-point Basketball Game, 1962.
Not only did “Wilt the Stilt” (a.k.a., “The Big Dipper”) rack up 100 points, he did it by making an NBA record 28 free throws in 32 attempts and by scoring 25 points in the final 8 minutes of the game. (There were no 3-point shots in those days!) That season he averaged 50.4 points per game, another NBA record! Incredibly, Wilt had his big game when the Knicks were fouling the other players on the Warriors team in an effort to keep the ball out of Chamberlain’s hands. Additionally, the Knicks were not a doormat team, scoring 147 points in that same game but still losing to the Warrior’s 169 points. This feat is more impressive than the high school and college games of 100+ points because the players trying to stop Wilt from scoring were big, strong NBA players, the best in the world. This historic game also made another NBA record in combined team scoring. Unfortunately, no film or video tape of the game was made, attendance at the Hershey Sports Arena in Hershey, Pennsylvania was only at half of the stadium’s maximum capacity, and no New York reporters were present.
Question for students (and subscribers): What athletic performances would you have included on the list? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Epstein, David. The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance. Portfolio, 2014.
The Editors of Sports Illustrated Kids. The Top 10 of Everything in Sports (Sports Illustrated Kids Top 10 Lists). Sports Illustrated Kids, 2013.