23. San Jose Sharks vs. Vegas Golden Knights (2021)
Gordie Howe set an insane number of records during his storied hockey career. He played the most games in NHL history with 1,767 between 1946 and 1980. Furthermore, he was 52 when he played his final game for the Hartford Whalers. Nobody expected anybody to overtake him on the all-time list but Patrick Marleau did. The Sharks forward made his 1768th appearance in 2021 (via Reuters).
This was also his 44th game of the season. Marleau first stepped onto the ice in 1998 with the Sharks. Then, he spent a couple of years with the Maple Leafs before a return to San Jose. Next, he had a year with the Penguins before he rejoined the Sharks again. It was an amazing achievement because of his longevity. However, Howe played 419 games in the World Hockey Association in the middle of his career.
Stafford spent 12 seasons with the Detroit Lions before moving to L.A. in 2021. The Rams quarterback is one of the most efficient passers in the NFL and broke records from the beginning. First, he achieved the most passing yards attempts in a season with 727 in 2012. Then, he became the fastest quarterback to 25,000 yards. However, one of his most impressive records came in 2016 (via ESPN).
The former Lions star broke the best-ever passing yardage mark through a quarterback’s first 100 games. Dan Marino held the record with 26,961. But Stafford shattered this in a game against the Chicago Bears. He claimed the top spot in the second quarter. In the end, he had 27,089. Stafford may never win a Super Bowl but he’s still one of the best quarterbacks of his era.
Holloway is one of the UFC’s most popular fighters. The Hawaiian has a fan-friendly style with a ludicrous striking output. He holds the records for the most significant strikes in UFC history as well as the most landed significant strikes. One of his most impressive performances came against Calvin Kattar because he took the Boston native apart. Holloway landed an unreal 445 strikes in the fight (via Bleacher Report).
This broke his 2018 record of 290 against Brian Ortega. Meanwhile, it was more than the combined totals of the next two fighters on the all-time list. Holloway’s striking is interesting because he pours on pressure. He doesn’t throw bombs every time but overwhelms the opposition with sheer volume. ‘Blessed’ is the former UFC featherweight champion but lost twice to current champion Alexander Volkanovski.
2021 was a breakout year for Shohei Ohtani. The Japanese star put in some unbelievable displays on the mound. He broke multiple records on his way to the AL MVP award. One of his most impressive achievements came against the Red Sox in July. He hit his 32nd home run in the fifth inning and made history. Ohtani overtook Hideki Matsui with the most home runs by a Japanese MLB player in a single season.
Matsui hit 31 homers for the Yankees in 2004. Ohtani’s new record was even more impressive because he achieved it in just 81 games. Meanwhile, Matsui spread his homer across 162 games (via Sports Illustrated). Matsui sent his congratulations to his younger countryman after the game. This was a touch of class from another fellow Angel. Ohtani also made his first All-Star appearance this season.
The 2021 U.S. Open was one of the most exciting in history. It saw the first all-teen match-up since 1999 as Raducanu faced Fernandez for the title. In the end, the British athlete claimed victory after an entertaining game. This was a momentous occasion that saw Raducanu break a stream of records. She became the first qualifier ever to win reach and win a Grand Slam final.
Meanwhile, she became the first British woman to win a Grand Slam since 1977. This instantly made her a hero in her home country. Raducanu was also the youngest woman to win a major since Maria Sharapova in 2004. Immediately, fans projected a great future for the teenage star. She went from relative obscurity to global fame in an instant but it was well-earned (via Republic World).
In many people’s eyes, Lionel Messi is the greatest soccer player ever. He is also one of the most prolific goal scorers in history. The Argentine forward broke records left, right, and center. He scored the most goals in La Liga with 474 before his move to the French League. Meanwhile, he broke the South American international goals record in 2021. Messi scored against Bolivia to take his total to 79.
This also brought him above Brazil legend Pele in the history books. Furthermore, he became Argentina’s most-capped player with his 153rd appearance in the same game. Messi has won almost everything possible in the sport. His achievements at the club level with Barcelona were incredible. Then, he moved to PSG in 2021 in pursuit of further riches and glory (via ESPN).
Mike Trout is the greatest MLB star of his generation. However, half of America doesn’t know who he is. It’s one of the strangest situations for a great Major League Baseball athlete. There’s no denying Trout’s brilliance because he is a phenom. It’s just too bad that the Angels aren’t good enough to contend for the World Series. He’s only made a single foray into the postseason in his career.
In 2020, he hit the 300th home run in his career. The achievement came in a game against the Houston Astros. He was also the quickest player in franchise history to reach the mark. He surpassed prior Angels legend Tim Salmon, who previously held the accolade (via ABC News). Trout holds numerous franchise records and continues to set high standards. Perhaps one day, he’ll achieve the dream of a World Series ring.
Jon Jones has had a strange career. The UFC legend has broken countless records but remains a highly controversial character. He became the youngest champion in history when he defeated Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua. Then, he remained undefeated and routed the light-heavyweight division. Remarkably, he is a four-time champion despite never losing a title fight. The UFC stripped him on multiple occasions for various breaches of conduct.
However, Jones is like a cockroach because he is seemingly indestructible. In 2020, he defeated Dominick Reyes for his 14th UFC title win. Jones holds all the records in the 205-pound division (via MMA Fighting). But he also challenges fellow greats like Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre in the all-time lists. If he remained disciplined and fought consistently, he’d be the undisputed greatest ever.
Kyle Larson had a rough end to 2020 after one of the stupidest mistakes ever. He was competing in a televised e-race when he dropped a racial slur. However, he didn’t realize that the microphone was still live. Chip Ganassi Racing fired their driver and NASCAR suspended him. In the end, he returned to the sport with Hendrick Motorsport. From there, Larson went from strength to strength.
It was probably the best thing that ever happened to him. Hendrick was a ruthless, winning machine and Larson won the NASCAR Cup Series Championship. They also broke multiple records along the way. Larson won the Coca-Cola 600 in May and handed Hendrick their 269th team victory. This also propelled them above Richard Petty Motorsports in Cup history (via Reuters).
The Williams sisters changed the face of women’s tennis. They genuinely faced multiple challenges in their early days because of the sport’s culture. However, their mutual brilliance ensured their rise to the top. Venus had a magnificent career but Serena was even better. In 2017, she defeated her sister to claim her 23rd Grand Slam title. This also placed her above Steffi Graff on the all-time list.
The sisters faced off in the final of the Australian Open. Venus lost but she also made history as the oldest athlete to play in a Grand Slam final. She deserves immense respect because she continued playing with an autoimmune disease. It was a beautiful moment for both women because they made so many sacrifices to arrive at this point. Furthermore, Serena called her sister her ‘toughest opponent’ (via PBS).
Louie Barry wasn’t a spectacular soccer player but he was very consistent. That’s why he achieved the record for the most appearances in Premier League history. First, he played for Aston Villa and made his debut in 1998. He spent 11 seasons at Villa Park before a move to Manchester City. This was his most successful period because Man City was on the rise. Barry won a Premier League title as well as an F.A. Cup.
Next, he moved to Everton where he spent five seasons and made his 600th Premier League appearance. Ryan Giggs held the record for most games in the league (632). But Barry shattered this after his final transfer to West Brom. He finished his career with an incredible 653 Premier League matches on his resume. Barry retired in 2020 after a career that spanned 22 years (via GiveMeSport).
Adam Vinatieri spent a remarkable 24 seasons in the NFL. It’s easier for placekickers to play for longer because they absorb less damage. However, he was old enough to be his teammates’ father when he retired. Vinatieri maintained a remarkable level of consistency throughout his career. Furthermore, he only played for two NFL franchises in the Patriots and the Colts.
In 2018, Vinatieri broke one of the greatest NFL records ever. He overtook Morten Andersen’s all-time mark for field goals when he scored against the Texans. This kick took Vinatieri’s total to a remarkable 566 (via USA Today). Vinatieri, Andersen, and Gary Anderson are the only kickers in history with more than 500 field goals. This takes a remarkable competitive spirit and desire.
Mayweather was one of the best defensive boxers ever and maybe the best. He fought some of the world’s top fighters including Manny Pacquaio, Oscar De La Hoya, and Juan Manuel Marquez. ‘Money’ was also a very canny businessman because he handpicked opponents when they were vulnerable. He is the only man with an official win over Canelo Alvarez even though he fought the Mexican before he fully matured.
However, Mayweather was superb at avoiding damage. This increased his longevity. He broke many records throughout his career. This included one that Rocky Marciano held for a long time. Marciano retired in 1950 with a legendary 49-0 record. However, Mayweather went one further when he defeated Conor McGregor (via CBS Sports). His TKO victory took him to 50-0 and sealed a place in history.
Most people think that Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are the world’s most successful soccer players. It’s true that these men hold many records and also won a lot of trophies. However, the player with the most medals is a defender. Brazil’s Dani Alves won an incredible 43 major honors in his career. This takes him above his former teammate Andres Iniesta in the rankings.
Alves began his career with Bahia in Brazil but soon moved to Sevilla. He won several cups with both teams before he joined Barcelona. The right-back was part of one of Europe’s greatest-ever teams. They won everything in the game. Meanwhile, he had success with his country in Copa America (via AS). He continued winning trophies in France. These include the French League and Coupe de France with Paris Saint-Germain.
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer were the kings of men’s tennis through the 2000s. Then, in 2008, Djokovic came along and brought a new dimension to the game. He soared to the top of the sport and became the World No.1 after a stream of Major wins. In 2021, he had the opportunity to break multiple records. First, he went past Roger Federer’s 310 weeks as World No.1. This was the longest run of the Open Era.
Then, he had the chance to achieve a calendar-year Grand Slam. Rob Slater was the last man to achieve this difficult feat in 1969. After winning Wimbledon, Roland Garros, and the Australian Open, he faced Danii Medvedev in the final. However, Medvedev shocked the world and defeated the Serbian. But it sealed Djokovic’s World No.1 spot for a record seventh time. This took him above Pete Sampras in the all-time rankings (via EuroSport).
Many Formula 1 supporters witnessed history in Portugal in 2020. Lewis Hamilton won his 92nd race as he overtook Michael Schumacher in the leader books (via ABC News). Schumacher won the last of his races in 2006. However, most experts thought that nobody would win more. Unfortunately for the German, Hamilton makes it his business to break records. It was another notch on his belt on the way to a seventh championship.
Hamilton equaled or broke many of Schumacher’s other records. The pair have the same number of Driver’s Championship titles. But Hamilton has more podium finishes than his older rival. Meanwhile, Schumacher maintains the fastest laps in Formula 1 history with 77. It’s difficult to say one was better than the other because they faced different challenges in their careers.
Oliveira’s story is great because it’s so unlikely. The Brazilian MMA fighter joined the UFC as a young man. However, he struggled for consistency. He had a mediocre 10-8 record in his first 18 fights with the promotion. Oliveira showed flashes of brilliance but struggled mentally. In some fights, it appeared as though he gave up. Also, he missed weight on four occasions.
Then out of the blue, something clicked. He went on an incredible nine-fight rampage and won the lightweight championship. The BJJ expert broke many records on the way to the belt. First, he achieved the most submissions in UFC history. Then, against Michael Chandler, he went even further (via Sportskeeda). He knocked out the American and claimed the record for the most finishes in the octagon.
Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the most dedicated athletes in the world of sports. He’s a goal-scoring machine and an inspiration to millions of people around the world. Furthermore, he is incredibly focused on his performance. Even as he ages, he continues to focus on maximum recovery. In 2021, he broke the record for the most international goals in history when he scored twice against Ireland (via The Athletic).
This took the 36-year-old’s career total to 115. It was an incredible achievement because only one other player achieved more than 100 goals for their country. Ali Daei scored 109 for Iran but many of his goals came against limited opposition. However, Ronaldo’s Portugal consistently played the best teams in Europe and the world. This made it even more impressive because of the quality he faced.
Retirement isn’t easy for former NFL quarterbacks as Tom Brady keeps stealing all of the records. It can’t be easy for the likes of Peyton Manning to watch the former Patriot go down as the greatest in history. However, one record Manning still holds is the most 4000-yard season in NFL history. He went past Dan Marino in 2006 with his seventh successive 4000-yard year (via WTHR).
But Manning didn’t slow down. He continued to be a passing machine as he retired with an outstanding record of 14 4000-yard seasons. That’s one more than Brady, but nobody would bet against the Bucs QB overtaking him. Furthermore, since 2006, 10 quarterbacks matched or overtook Marino’s former record. This shows how the NFL has evolved in recent decades.
The Stars and Stripes played so often around Phelps that it could have been his ringtone. He was unstoppable in the pool as he broke countless Olympic records. Firstly, he became the most successful male Olympian in history. Fellow swimmer Mark Spitz held the record for 36 years with seven golds. But Phelps soared past this as he won his eighth in Beijing (via The Guardian).
Finally, he became the highest-achieving Olympian ever, overtaking Larisa Latynina. The Soviet gymnast won the last of 18 medals in the 1964 Tokyo Games. Phelps competed in London and Rio De Janeiro to put his medal count at 28. Meanwhile, Phelps is a world record-holder in many styles. He also won many awards throughout his career in recognition of his achievements.
In 2020, Alvarez topped the Forbes List of Highest-Earning athletes. The Mexican boxer became a superstar because of his dynamic and aggressive style. He set multiple records on the road to greatness. Several of these occurred in 2021 as he won multiple titles. First, he defeated Billy Joe Saunders in front of the biggest crowd boxing has ever seen (via CNN). He went even further in his next bout.
Canelo fought Caleb Plant for the undisputed super-middleweight championship. This was a glorious moment for the Mexican because it was a chance to seal his legacy. Plant made life awkward for Alvarez but finally suffered a TKO in the 11th round. It was an incredible moment for Alvarez because he became the first fighter to unify the division.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints (2021)
Drew Brees held almost all of the NFL passing records before he retired in 2021. In 2017, the Saints star became the quickest player in history to reach the 70,000-yard mark. When he hung up his cleats, he had the most completed passes ever. However, he sat back and watched Tom Brady gobble up his accolades. The Bucs’ QB broke Brees’ record and became the first 80,000-yard passer ever in 2021.
But the records keep coming. Brady also has the most touchdown passes as well as the most attempts. Furthermore, the Pats’ icon has the most Super Bowl rings ever. His total of seven wins is more than any individual franchise. That’s because the Steelers and the Patriots both have six Super Bowls to their names (via CBS Sports). Brady is a relentless winning machine who refuses to drop his standards.
1. Golden State Warriors vs. New York Knicks (2021)
Ray Allen maintained some incredible three-point records in the NBA. Before he retired, Allen hit 2,973 three-pointers in 1300 games. But he didn’t count on the rise of Steph Curry. The Warriors’ icon is the most prolific long-range shooter in NBA history. Curry broke Allen’s longstanding record against the Knicks, finishing with 2,977.
Even more remarkable is how he achieved this feat. Curry only took 789 games to become the all-time leader (via The New York Times). This is ludicrous and at 33, he shows no sign of slowing down. It seems unlikely that anybody will come along to overtake him. However, everybody said the same thing about Allen. In the end, records are made to be broken. Athletes improve over time and records are made to be broken, but this will take something special.