NBA Stat Central #5: Records Not Meant To Be Broken

Welcome to NBA Stat Central, where we take a deeper look into NBA statistics for the 2012-13 season and many before. Each Friday we go with a different theme, so come back every week to see something new.

This week, our theme is entitled “Records Not Meant To Be Broken.” We’re going to look at some NBA records that will stand the test of time.

One of the most hallowed records in basketball is the 100-point game that Wilt Chamberlain posted back in 1962. We’re not going to put that one on the list because I truly believe someone will get hot, as Kobe Bryant did in his 81-point game.

Bryant missed 18 shots in that game. There could definitely be a game that goes into a few overtimes when a player is hot and I believe at some point that record will be broken. Let’s get to the unbreakable ones.

We’re going to look at only the 1979-80 season until today (the three-point era), because the game was so different before then. Let’s take a look at Wilt Chamberlain to show why the game was so different.

Wilt Chamberlain’s Points Per Game, Free-Throw Attempts, Field Goal Attempts And Minutes Played Per Game In A Season

1961-62 25 PHW NBA 80 48.5 20.0 39.5 .506 10.4 17.0 .613 25.7 2.4 1.5 50.4
Career NBA 1045 45.8 12.1 22.5 .540 5.8 11.4 .511 22.9 4.4 2.0 30.1
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 11/16/2012.

The holy grail of basketball seasons was the 1961-62 season posted by Wilt Chamberlain. He set two records that will never be broken with an average of 50.4 points per game and a ridiculous 48.5 minutes played per game.

Consider that a regulation basketball game lasts 48 minutes. That means he played just about every single minute of basketball, including overtime games. It’s amazing, and it will never even be approached again.

Chamberlain played in a different era, and it showed with his 1363 free-throw attempts. No other player has gone over 1000 free-throw attempts in a game. Shaquille O’Neal and Michael Jordan each came close once, with 972.

His field goal attempts were also off the charts, with 3159 attempts. In Michael Jordan’s most prolific shooting season, he took just 2279. Those records are never, EVER coming down.

And now, the modern records that won’t be broken.

George McCloud‘s Three-Point Attempts In A Season

1995-96 DAL 79 2846 530 1281 .414 257 678 .379 180 224 .804 379 212 113 38 1497
Career 766 17429 2469 6140 .402 920 2573 .358 1067 1318 .810 2342 1769 593 190 6925
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 11/16/2012.

The three-point shot isn’t dying, but it’s definitely changing. The league isn’t taking as many threes and players are being held to a higher standard. McCloud’s 1995-96 season saw him attempt 678 threes, which is a ton of shots.

For reference, the 2011-12 New Orleans Hornets took 777 as a team and the leader in the league, Ryan Anderson, took just 422. Nobody has eclipsed 600 attempts in seven years.

Alvin Robertson‘s Steals In A Season

1985-86 23 SAS 82 2878 562 1093 .514 260 327 .795 516 448 301 40 1392
Career 779 24669 4412 9245 .477 1822 2451 .743 4066 3929 2112 323 10882
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 11/16/2012.

This record has stood since the 1985-86 season, and remains the only time a player has gone over 300 steals. Defenses have changed and since the game is much less physical, players aren’t allowed to make the kind of contact needed to get this many steals.

Steal totals in general have gone down steadily over the last 20 years, with Chris Paul (217 in 2007-08 and 216 in 2008-09) and Allen Iverson (225 in 2002-03) as the only players to go over 200 steals in a season since 1996-97.

Mark Eaton‘s Blocks In A Season

1984-85 28 UTA 82 2813 302 673 .449 190 267 .712 927 124 36 456 794
Career 875 25169 2072 4526 .458 1072 1653 .649 6939 840 368 3064 5216
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 11/16/2012.

We’ve seen some dominant shot blockers in the NBA, but Mark Eaton’s 1984-85 season stands the test of time. He blocked 456 shots, good for 5.6 blocks per game.

Eaton was a 7’4″ beast who was one of the most underrated shot blockers in NBA history. No player has even come close to this one, as Theo Ratliff is the only player in the last 17 years to even crack 300 blocks. No player besides Eaton  in recorded history has gone over 400.

Dale Ellis‘ Minutes Played In A Game

Back on November 9th, 1989, Ellis and the Seattle SuperSonics lost 155-154 to the Milwaukee Bucks in a five-overtime game. These rarities only come along so often, and playing 69 minutes in one game illustrates the difference between yesterday and today’s game.

Dana Barros and Avery Johnson played just four minutes each in this game, and considering it was just the fourth game of the season, I can’t see the record ever being eclipsed.

Ellis scored 53 points on 18-for-39 shooting, with seven rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block.

Thanks for visiting! We’d love to hear your opinion in the comments section below!

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Monday – NBA Awards Watch
Wednesday – NBA Power Rankings
Friday – NBA Stat Central
Sunday – Your NBA Fix Podcast

Tags: Alvin Robertson Dale Ellis George Mccloud Mark Eaton NBA Nba Stat Central Wilt Chamberlain

  • David

    Nice! I would also mention these records as those which will never be broken:

    1) Total rebounds in a season: 2149 (Wilt Chamberlain)
    2) Total rebounds career: 23,924 (Wilt)
    3) Rebounds per game, season: 30.2 (Wilt)
    4) Rebounds per game, career: 24.87 (Bill Russell)

    • Michael Dunlap

      Good call, David. Thanks for the extra info. Chamberlain was a beast, for sure. I still can’t believe he took 39.5 shots per game in that 1961-62 season. How boring was it for the other players on the court?

  • tall paul

    I’m of the opinion that Wilt’s 55 rebounds in a game will never be broken. No one player is so dominant at rebounding that he’ll ever get that many—nevermind more THAN 55—in one game. 55 rebounds today, is an impressive # for an entire team, let alone for one player. I personally think that Wilt grabbing 55 boards is far more impressive than his 100 point game. The 100 I could imagine being broken, but not that 55. I wonder how many guys—at ANY level—have gotten 55 or more rebounds in ONE

    • Michael Dunlap

      You’re 100% right. There almost has to be a Wilt record book, and an everybody else record book. Imagine being 8 feet tall today and as athletic as any other center. That’s basically the advantage Wilt had back then. Crazy.

      • deusdarkjaws

        Dude, if Wilt were in the league today he’d have a field day, his height compared to someone like a Kevin Durant is so mind mindbogglingly different (the difference between a Wilt Chamberlain and a Dwight Howard/Kevin Durant in terms of height is even bigger than the gap between Lebron James and Dwayne Wade). He’d destroy this league as easily and dominate it as well as Lebron does.

        I absolutely hate it when people like yourself say his advantage back then was so much higher BACK THEN but that somehow today it wouldn’t be (with no reasoning behind it other than to state that players are more athletic (and this is said implicitly as if everyone should know this), but Wilt was better than everyone not just because of his athleticism but because of his HEIGHT AND ATHLETICISM AND WINGSPAN AND HAND SIZE). He’d have an even bigger advantage today, and you can take to the bank. The lack of anyone of the right size and talent of a Wilt Chamberlain today would mean he would dominate it. No Nate Thurmonds (HUGE wingspan, probably the biggest of anyone who’s played in professional sports), no KAJ, no Bill Russells.