Most Unbreakable NBA Records
It seems like yesterday that the NBA was celebrating its 50th anniversary and handing out those hideous jackets at the 1997 All-Star Game. But we are now in the 74th season of the NBA, and that’s a lot of time to set a lot of NBA records.
They say records are made to be broken, and while that’s a nice, ambitious saying, it’s not true. Some NBA records are sure to stand the test of time just due to the changing landscape of the NBA. Take the lowest-scoring game in NBA history, which finished 19-18 in 1950 (a Fort Wayne Pistons win over the Minneapolis Lakers). No game will come close to that level of futility again, since that game took place before the shot clock.
Many other NBA records can be engraved in Springfield at the Basketball Hall of Fame. They relate to a player, a team, a game or the king of the NBA record book, Wilt Chamberlain.
These are the NBA records that will never be broken.
Averaging 48.5 Minutes Per Game
Player: Wilt Chamberlain
Team: Philadelphia Warriors
Bottom Line: Averaging 48.5 Minutes Per Game
If you follow the NBA, you know that they play 48 minutes a game, which means that Wilt Chamberlain played in every minute, including overtime, during the 1961-62 season. Well, almost every minute.
Chamberlain missed eight minutes during one game after being ejected, but he still played in 99.8 percent of his team’s minutes. Chamberlain was a notorious stat chaser, so he wanted this record. And he got it.
The top seven spots in minutes per game in NBA history are all held by Chamberlain, and the 2010-11 season was the last one that anyone averaged more than 40 minutes per game, when Monta Ellis averaged 40.3.
20 Free Throws Missed Without a Make
Player: Giff Roux
Team: St. Louis Bombers
Bottom Line: 20 Free Throws Missed Without a Make
Decades before Hack-a-Shaq existed — or Shaq existed, for that matter — Hack-a-Roux took place. During the NBA’s second season in 1947-48, Giff Roux of the St. Louis Bombers was sent to the line 20 times. And he missed all 20.
Roux’s Bombers lost to the Knicks by just four points, so leaving 20 points on the board affected the outcome.
Roux was a 51.1 percent career shooter from the line, and the next most free-throw misses without a make is Shaq’s 11.
30 Assists in a Game
Player: Scott Skiles
Team: Orlando Magic
Bottom Line: 30 Assists in a Game
Scott Skiles was a journeyman point guard best known for being Penny Hardaway’s predecessor in Orlando and for dishing an NBA record 30 assists in a game.
On Dec. 30, 1990, Skiles broke Kevin Porter’s 12-year-old record by one assist. Skiles provided most of the offense as the Magic scored a franchise-high of 155 points in a win over Denver. Skiles also had 22 points in the game so it wasn’t like he was looking pass-first, second and third.
His 30 assists were two more than all of the other players had in the game. Both Denver and the other Magic players had 28 assists combined, 14 assists for each side.
7 Personal Fouls in a Game
Player: Cal Bowdler
Team: Atlanta Hawks
Bottom Line: 7 Personal Fouls in a Game
This record may have cost someone his job because in Cal Bowdler’s fifth career NBA game, he recorded an implausible seven personal fouls.
Yes, a player fouls out after six fouls in the NBA, but the scorekeeper for Bowdler’s game miscounted his number of fouls throughout the game. It wasn’t until after the game was over that he noticed that Bowdler had picked up his sixth foul and kept playing before fouling out (again) on his seventh foul.
For what it’s worth, Bowdler logged two minutes with his sixth before picking up his seventh and recorded no stats during that time.
118 50-Point Games
Player: Wilt Chamberlain
Team: Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers
Bottom Line: 118 50-Point Games
So many Wilt Chamberlain records are related to scoring, but this mark is more unreachable than even his 100-point game.
Chamberlain had 118 50-point games, which is nearly four times as many as the player with the second most (Michael Jordan, 31). Wilt the Stilt actually had more 50-point games in one season (45 in 1961-62) than any other player has had in their entire career.
Since we’re on the number 50. We might as well state that no one is also touching Chamberlain’s mark for highest scoring average in a season. He averaged 50.4 points per game in 1961-62 and no other player has even averaged 40 PPG in a season.
Players: Nate Thurmond, Alvin Robertson, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson
Years: 1974 (Thurmond), 1986 (Robertson), 1990 (Olajuwon), 1994 (Robinson)
Teams: Chicago Bulls (Thurmond), San Antonio Spurs (Robertson/Robinson), Houston Rockets (Olajuwon)
Bottom Line: 1 Quadruple-Double
Seeing as there have been just four of these in NBA history, and all by different players, it’s safe to say that no one is going to break this record and record two quadruple-doubles.
What makes a quadruple-double so tough is getting at least 10 of one of the defensive statistics. You can chase stats in terms of points, rebounds and assists, but chasing after blocks and steals is much harder.
The closest anyone has come to a quadruple-double in recent memory is Draymond Green in 2017. He had a triple-double in rebounds, assists and steals but fell short of a quadruple-double by missing out on the easiest stat: points. Green scored just four points in that game and had more blocks with five.
11 NBA Championships Won as a Player
Player: Bill Russell
Years: 1957, 1959-66, 1968-69
Team: Boston Celtics
Bottom Line: 11 NBA Championships Won as a Player
Tom Brady leads all NFL players with six Super Bowl rings, and Yogi Berra leads all MLB players with 10 World Series rings. But Bill Russell tops both of them with 11 NBA championships in his 13 NBA seasons.
The NBA had a much different landscape in the 1950s and '60s, which helped Russell and the Celtics. Teams only had to win two series to win the championship until the 1965-66 season when it became three series.
The changing playoff format, in addition to increasing parity and players not sticking with teams their entire careers, all contribute to this being an untouchable record.
The most rings for a player who wasn’t on that Celtics dynasty is Robert Horry with seven NBA Finals wins.
37 Points in a Quarter
Player: Klay Thompson
Team: Golden State Warriors
Bottom Line: 37 Points in a Quarter
The record for most points in a quarter increased incrementally over the years as it went from 31 (Wilt Chamberlain in 1962) to 32 (David Thompson in 1978) to 33 (George Gervin in 1978 and Carmelo Anthony in 2008). But Klay Thompson just kicked down the door and leapfrogged all of them.
In the third quarter of a 126-101 Golden State Warriors win over the Sacramento Kings on Jan. 23, 2015, Thompson scored 37 points (of the team's 41) on a perfect 13-for-13 shooting. His Warriors teammates sensed they should just abandon their game plan and feed Thompson, who took the last seven shots of the quarter and 11 of the final 12.
He also knocked down nine 3-pointers during that quarter (also a record) and finished the game with 52 points.
88 Games Played in a Season
Player: Walt Bellamy
Teams: New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons
Bottom Line: 88 Games Played in a Season
Just reaching 82 games played in a season is cause for celebration in today’s NBA, but Hall of Famer Walt Bellamy had fortuitous timing to play in 88 games during the 1968-69 season. Obviously, Bellamy didn’t play in that many games with one team — a midseason trade enabled him to reach that total.
He played in each of the Knicks’ first 35 games of the season and was then traded to the Detroit Pistons, who had only played 29 team games when he joined them. That difference of six enabled Bellamy to add six games to his schedule and reach 88 total.
The rules regarding trades were much less stringent in the '60s, and players could play immediately after landing with a new team. Now with trades, every single player involved in the trade has to pass their physical before any of the players can suit up, which often causes delays and missed games.
Fastest Disqualification Due to Personal Fouls — 2 Minutes, 43 Seconds
Player: Bubba Wells
Team: Dallas Mavericks
Bottom Line: Fastest Disqualification Due to Personal Fouls — 2 Minutes, 43 Seconds
Bubba Wells played 39 games in his entire NBA career, but one of those 39 makes him infamous.
Wells was instructed by Mavericks coach Don Nelson to essentially employ the Hack-a-Shaq strategy on the Bulls' Dennis Rodman and foul him every chance he got. Thus, Wells lasted all of two minutes and 43 seconds before picking up his sixth foul and being disqualified.
The plan also backfired on the Mavs as Rodman, a career 58 percent free-throw shooter, knocked down 9-of-12 free throws (75 percent). That shooting tied a record for the most free throws Rodman made in a game, while Wells did not foul out in any of his other 38 career games.
107 Points in a Half by a Team
Team: Phoenix Suns
Bottom Line: 107 Points in a Half by a Team
The 1990-91 Phoenix Suns were the fourth-highest scoring team in the NBA and averaged 114 points per game. But on Nov. 10, 1990, they nearly reached that average in the first half alone, scoring a record 107 points against the Denver Nuggets, who allowed the most points per game.
The Suns scored 50 points in the first quarter and then somehow topped that with a staggering 57 points in the second. They led 107-67 at halftime, and the game wasn’t even as close as the score indicated. The Nuggets clipped the deficit slightly in the second half as Phoenix scored just 66 points after the break and won the game 173-143.
The 173 points tied the 1959 Boston Celtics for the most points scored by a team in a non-overtime game.
33-Game Winning Streak
Team: Los Angeles Lakers
Bottom Line: 33-Game Winning Streak
For 33 games, and 65 days (Nov. 5, 1971, to Jan. 7, 1972), the Lakers didn’t suffer a loss in what is the longest winning streak in the 70-plus year history of the NBA.
The team was led by the aging duo of Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain, and they had a record of 39-3 when the streak ended. The second-longest streak of the season for the Lakers was just eight games, and they never lost more than two games in a row.
The second-longest win streak in NBA history is 28 games by the 2015-16 Warriors, but it may have been one that the team regretted. Coach Steve Kerr felt the team put too much into keeping the streak alive in the regular season, which may have played a part in them falling in the NBA Finals.
With that knowledge, future teams are unlikely to even strive for the streak knowing the potential ramifications down the line.
62,046 Attendance at a Game
Teams: Chicago Bulls at Atlanta Hawks
Venue: Georgia Dome
Bottom Line: 62,046 Attendance at a Game
From 1997 to 1999, the city of Atlanta was building what is currently the Hawks' home arena, and thus they split their home games in two arenas. One was on Georgia Tech’s campus and had a capacity just under 10,000. The other was the Georgia Dome, which sat over 62,000.
When the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan were in town, almost needless to say, the Hawks held the games in the Georgia Dome and set an attendance record of 62,046 on March 27, 1998.
Jordan didn’t disappoint with 34 points in a Bulls win, but the NBA doesn’t seem to have any plans to return to a football stadium even temporarily.
2 Consecutive Games Scoring 50-Plus Points in the Playoffs
Player: Michael Jordan
Team: Chicago Bulls
Bottom Line: 2 Consecutive Games Scoring 50-Plus Points in the Playoffs
This record is similar to Johnny Vander Meer's record of throwing two no-hitters in a row in baseball. Someone may equal Michael Jordan’s record of two straight 50-point playoff games, but it’s hard seeing someone break it.
Jordan scored 50 in Game 1 of the 1988 first round and came back with 55 points in Game 2. Unsurprisingly, the Cleveland Cavaliers were Jordan’s victims, and they "held" Jordan to an average of 40.3 points per game over the last three games of the series.
Since Jordan’s back-to-back 50 burger, Allen Iverson is the only other player to have multiple 50-point games (three) in the playoffs although they weren’t consecutive.
39 Free Throws Attempted in a Game
Player: Dwight Howard
Years: 2012, 2013
Teams: Orlando Magic (2012), Los Angeles Lakers (2013)
Bottom Line: 39 Free Throws Attempted in a Game
In 2012, Orlando’s Dwight Howard attempted a record 39 free throws in a game. Just over one year later, he was playing for the Lakers and tied his own record in a game — against his former team, the Magic. Howard made 21 free throws in the first record game and 25 in the second as #HackADwight became a trending topic on Twitter.
This record is unlikely to be broken because the rules on away-from-the-ball fouls have changed since then. Away-from-the-ball fouls now reward a team with a free throw plus possession of the ball whenever one is committed in the last two minutes of any quarter.
That rule was previously only applied to the last two minutes of the fourth quarter.
136 Consecutive Games With 100-Plus Points by a Team
Team: Denver Nuggets
Bottom Line: 136 Consecutive Games With 100-Plus Points by a Team
For nearly two calendar years in the early 1980s, the Denver Nuggets scored at least 100 points in every single game. That streak — which started on Jan. 21, 1981, and ended Dec. 8, 1982 — lasted 136 games and came during the NBA’s era where defense was optional.
The Nuggets, coached by Doug Moe, went 74-62 during the streak, and while they made the playoffs during it (and scored 100-plus), they never won a playoff game during the streak.
The second-longest 100-plus point streak is 117 games, held by the equally defensive-aversive Spurs just a few years earlier.
There hasn’t been a streak longer than 37 games in the last 25 years.
15,806 Career Assists
Player: John Stockton
Team: Utah Jazz
Bottom Line: 15,806 Career Assists
John Stockton has the most career assists in NBA history (15,806) and holds the all-time steals mark (3,264). But he has a little more distance between himself and second place (Jason Kidd, 12,091) with the assists record.
Stockton led the league in both total assists and assists per game for nine straight years. He also holds the top four single-season assist marks. And compared to when Stockton played, offenses are run differently now. There are multiple ballhandlers on each team instead of just one person dominating the ball.
A notable exception is James Harden, but his highest assist season is 907, while Stockton had nine seasons with more assists than that.
7,382 Career Offensive Rebounds
Player: Moses Malone
Teams: Buffalo Braves, Houston Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers, Washington Bullets, Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, San Antonio Spurs
Bottom Line: 7,382 Career Offensive Rebounds
There’s always been a joke that Moses Malone would intentionally miss layups so that he could grab his own rebounds and pad his stats. Whether or not that is true, Malone is head and shoulders above everyone else in the statistic.
The difference between Malone’s record for most career offensive rebounds (7,382) and second place (Artis Gilmore, 4,816) is about the same as the difference between second place and 72nd place on the all-time list (Chris Dudley, 2,234).
Malone, who was nicknamed "Chairman of the Boards," also benefits from the fact that offensive and defensive rebounds weren’t tracked separately during the early days of the NBA, so we only have the total rebounds for guys like Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.
29 Minutes in a Game Without Any Points, Rebounds, Assists, Steals or Blocks
Player: Joel Anthony
Team: Miami Heat
Bottom Line: 29 Minutes in a Game Without Any Points, Rebounds, Assists, Steals or Blocks
The phrase "Club Trillion" was coined for players who receive minutes in a game, but just have a bunch of zeros after "minutes played" in the box score. Joel Anthony is the king of that club.
No player in NBA history has played more minutes in a game without making any statistical impact. Anthony logged 29 minutes in a 107-100 Miami Heat win over the Trail Blazers on Jan. 9, 2011, and made virtually no statistical impact.
He just ran up and down the court for 29 minutes, collected four personal fouls, and had a negative plus/minus (-9).
98.1 Single-Season Free-Throw Percentage
Player: Jose Calderon
Team: Toronto Raptors
Bottom Line: 98.1 Single-Season Free-Throw Percentage
For 28 years, Calvin Murphy’s free-throw percentage of 95.81 stood as the all-time mark. Until Jose Calderon came along and obliterated it.
Calderon was just an 85 percent free-throw shooter prior to the 2008-09 NBA season. Then, he made 151 of 154 free throws (98.1 percent) to set the new record, and the percentage distance between him and second place (.0224) now is the same as the distance between second place and 13th place (Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, 93.53).
Calderon came back to earth the following season. His percentage dropped to 79.8, and despite having the single-season record, Calderon’s career free-throw percentage isn’t even in the top 20 all-time.
23,334 Career Points Without a Made 3-Pointer (in 3-Point Era)
Player: Robert Parish
Teams: Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Chicago Bulls
Bottom Line: 23,334 Career Points Without a Made 3-Pointer (in 3-Point Era)
We have to include the caveat of the 3-point era. Of course, Wilt Chamberlain and those of his time never made a 3-pointer because they didn’t exist until 1979-80.
For those that played since then, "The Chief," Robert Parish, holds the record and by a wide margin. He scored 23,334 points and attempted six 3-pointers, but never made one. With the way that everyone on the court, including centers, are shooting 3-pointers nowadays, Parish will hold this record for quite a while.
The active player with the most points without a 3-pointer is Tyson Chandler, who is approximately 14,000 points behind Parish.
1,192 Consecutive Games Played
Player: A.C. Green
Teams: Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, Miami Heat
Bottom Line: 1,192 Consecutive Games Played
"Load management" wasn’t even an NBA phrase until Gregg Popovich and the Spurs popularized it this decade. But now practically every team routinely rests its players to keep them fresh for the long haul, and entering the 2019-20 NBA season, Joe Ingles' 304 games was the longest active streak in the league.
A.C. Green, who maintained his virginity throughout his 16-year career (which may have played a part in his streak), missed three games during his second season in the league and then played 1,192 straight games until he retired.
There may not be any more virgins still in the NBA, and there definitely aren’t any players who will challenge Green’s record.
Team: Utah Jazz
Bottom Line: 36-Point Comeback
On Nov. 27, 1996, the Jazz overcame a 36-point first-half deficit against the Denver Nuggets to win 107-103. That’s a 40-point swing.
Utah was down 70-34 with 20 seconds left in the first half before outscoring Denver 73-33 over the rest of the game. There is only one other comeback in NBA history of at least 30 points.
What makes this even more amazing is the fact that Utah was down, at home, by 36 points to Denver. The Jazz went on to post the West’s best record that year and make the NBA Finals, while the Nuggets posted a 21-61 record.
This game was the eighth straight win for Utah and was a part of a 15-game winning streak. The loss kicked off a 10-game losing streak for Denver.
68-Point Margin of Victory
Team: Cleveland Cavaliers
Bottom Line: 68-Point Margin of Victory
You know when a big-time college basketball program plays a Division II school early in the season and blows them out by 50 points? Well, on Dec. 17, 1991, the Cavaliers playing the Miami Heat was the NBA’s version of that. Except Cleveland stomped Miami by an NBA record of 68 points.
Cleveland won 148-80, and the game wasn’t even as close as the score indicated. The Cavs had just a 20-point lead at halftime, and then the wheels completely fell off for Miami.
The Heat were outscored 75-27 in the second half, and the Cavs' bench finished with more points than the entire Miami Heat team.
41 Technical Fouls in a Season
Player: Rasheed Wallace
Team: Portland Trail Blazers
Bottom Line: 41 Technical Fouls in a Season
Rasheed Wallace also holds the all-time NBA career record with 304 technical fouls, but his 41-technical season in 2000-01 is nearly on par with Wilt Chamberlain averaging 50 points a game.
The season prior, Wallace had 38 technical fouls to establish a new record, and then he broke it the following season. He played in 77 games in his record-breaking year, so he averaged roughly a tech every two games.
In subsequent years, the NBA has changed its rules to reduce player technicals. A 16th technical foul now results in a one-game suspension. For every two technicals received after that, the player’s suspension increases by one game.
Thus, the increased penalties should detract anyone from touching Rasheed Wallace’s record.
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