From Dixie Dean's 60-goal season to Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game, these incredible records still stand today.
Dixie Dean – 60 league goals in a season
The 30-goal-a-season striker is the most sought-after player in football. The 40-goal-a-season striker was barely a concept until Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo came along.
The 60-goal-a-season striker just doesn’t exist. Except for Dixie Dean.
Back in 1928, when England was the undisputed home of football and Everton were the greatest team in the land, Dean completed the greatest scoring season this country has ever seen.
He broke George Camsell’s record of 59 goals in a single campaign, bagging seven in the last two matches to set a mark that no one has come close to matching ever since.
When asked if his record would ever be broken, Dean said: “I think it will. But there’s only one man who’ll do it. That’s the fellow that walks on the water. I think he’s about the only one.”
Over to you, Jesus.
Don Bradman – Test average of 99.94
At the Oval in 1948, Don Bradman came to the crease for the final innings of his Test career needing just four runs to maintain an average of 100.
However, following a standing ovation from the crowd and three cheers from the fielding English team, Bradman was bowled on the second ball having failed to score.
A story circulated suggesting the Australian couldn’t see because there were tears in his eyes, but while Bradman admitted he was moved by the reception, he denied crying and instead gave bowler Eric Hollies full credit.
The desire to make excuses for Bradman illustrated how unthinkable it was that he could simply get out at that moment, such was the aura he had built as the greatest batsman of all time.
Though he fell short of three figures, Bradman’s final Test average of 99.94 is a seemingly impossible mark. No batsman was close to it at the time, and none have approached it since.
Australian Marnus Labuschagne’s average of 63.43 is the second-highest ever, and he has only played in 14 matches, 38 fewer than Bradman.
Wilt Chamberlain – 100 points in an NBA game
Wilt Chamberlain possessed a rare blend of overpowering physicality and extreme pettiness.
The NBA hall of famer was criticised during the 1966/67 season for being too selfish. His response? Leading the entire league in assists the following season.
Chamberlain’s sheer size and athleticism in comparison to his peers meant he could do anything he liked on the court, and extremely selfish acts that were also undeniably impressive were his trademark.
While arch-rival Bill Russell won 11 NBA titles and was a consummate team-mate, Wilt stuffed stat sheets and set records that still stand.
The most famous of those came on 2 March 1962, when he scored 100 points in a single game against the New York Knicks.
That some teams have failed to average 100 points per game over the past few years demonstrates the absurdity of his feat.
Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game in 2006 is the closest anyone has ever come to the record, and the late Lakers legend put it best when he said Chamberlain’s achievement was “unthinkable… exhausting to think about”.
Byron Nelson – 11 consecutive PGA Tour wins
There’s a reason Byron Nelson has a PGA Tour event named after him.
In 1945, the American pulled off the most dominant single season in the history of golf.
Nelson won 18 of the 30 PGA Tour tournaments he played in that year, including the Texas Victory Open – the event that would later bear his own name.
Most impressive of all, though, was that he managed to win 11 events in a row.
To put that into context, Tiger Woods, who completely overpowered his opposition throughout the 2000s, has never won more than seven successive events (which, to be clear, is still ridiculously impressive).
Winning a golf tournament takes a huge amount of focus and resilience. That mental exertion – rather than the physical side of the game – is what makes winning back-to-back events extremely difficult.
For that reason, Nelson’s 1945 season looks almost superhuman in retrospect and will surely never be surpassed.
Preston North End – The perfect double
Step aside, Arsenal. These were the true Invincibles.
In the first ever season of the Football League, Preston North End pulled off what only one side has managed to do since.
They went unbeaten for the entire league season, topping the table by 11 points in a 22-game campaign.
They did so with swagger and style, too, scoring 75 goals at an average of over 3.3 per game.
Arsenal, of course, went undefeated for a 38-game season in 2004, which has led to Preston’s achievement being somewhat overlooked.
But while the Gunners’ detractors can point to defeats in all three cup competitions, no such criticism can be levelled at Preston.
That’s because they also won the FA Cup in 1889 without conceding a single goal in the competition, completing an unrivalled perfect double that, with modern football’s gruelling schedule, is surely impossible to replicate.
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