NBA PM: Unlikely Record Holders

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A good majority of the most important records in the book obviously are held by the game’s most important players. Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 points in a single game, for example, still holds up all these years later, as does his 55 rebounds in a single game. John Stockton is the all-time assists leader, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the all-time points leader and Bill Russell has more championship rings than anybody else in history. All of those records make sense.

Other record-holders are a little more surprising. There are plenty of players who have carved out spots for themselves in league history by breaking certain records, and the following are the most unlikely of them:

#5 – Nat Hickey, Tri-Cities Blackhawks (Atlanta Hawks) – Oldest player to play in a game at 45 years, 363 days old – Hickey played in three different decades: the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, but his last game came on January 28, 1948, two days before his 46th birthday. Granted, these games were all played with the ABL and NBL, but this record still counts in the NBA record book, even though he didn’t really do anything else of major significance in his life, other than serve as Stan Musial’s first minor league baseball coach with the Williamson Colts in 1938.

#4 – Steve Blake, Portland Trail Blazers – 14 assists in a quarter – There’s no question that Blake is an affable backup point guard, but he’s only averaged four assists per game for his career. That sort of makes 14 dimes in a single quarter all the more incredible, especially considering that 25 years from now Blake will probably be a mere footnote from this era of basketball.
(Note: Blake is tied with John Lucas for this record).

#3 – Donyell Marshall, Toronto Raptors – 12 three-pointers in a single game – Marshall may have been nothing more than a big, awkward forward in his heyday, but he loved to shoot the three ball when he was open (and sometimes when he wasn’t). Of all the great three-point shooters who could have gotten hot enough to nail 12 threes in a game, Marshall never would’ve been a guy you’d guess with your first 200 tries. Yet he’s the player who holds the record.
(Note: Marshall is tied with Kobe Bryant for this record).

#2 – Michael Williams, Minnesota Timberwolves – 97 consecutive free throws – A career 86.8 percent free-throw shooter, Williams actually ranks 26th all-time for career free-throw percentage, but of all the great free throw shooters in league history, he was the one who ended up setting the mark for more consecutive foul shots made. Technically, this amazing free throws made streak spread over the course of two seasons with the Wolves in the 1990s, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. Of course, Williams’ record doesn’t even come close to touching the one set by Guinness World Record holder Ted St. Martin, who once sunk an ungodly 5,221 foul shots in a row.

#1 – Larry Kenon, San Antonio Spurs – 11 steals in a game – Kenon averaged only 1.3 steals per game for his career, but on this magical December night in 1976, he made history by ripping 11 steals in a single game. It’s a record that still stands 35 years later, and most casual fans have no idea who he is. It doesn’t get a whole lot more improbable than that.
(Note: Kenon is tied with Kendall Gill for this record).

Honorable Mention:

Scott Skiles, Orlando Magic – 30 assists in a single game – This is probably the best-known record on this list, and it makes honorable mention not because Skiles was bad (he wasn’t), but because with guys like Steve Nash and John Stockton throwing out loads of dimes over the course of their careers, you’d think somebody else would’ve taken this record by now. As it stands, though, it looks pretty unbeatable.

Dale Ellis, Seattle SuperSonics – 69 minutes in a single game – Of all the players in league history, Ellis was the guy who played the most minutes in a single game. In this case, it was a quintuple-overtime game in 1989 that happened to keep Seattle’s big scorer on the floor for what equates to almost an entire game and a half.

Ben Wallace, Detroit Pistons – 20 free throws attempted in a quarter – This one appears odd on the surface considering Wallace is the worst free throw shooter in history, but it was simply a matter of employing the hack-a-Ben strategy. Fourteen of those foul shots happened in a three-minute span toward the end of the game, and the strategy apparently worked pretty well, as Wallace made only five of those 20 attempts in the fourth quarter.

Mark Eaton, Utah Jazz – 5.56 blocks per game over the course of a season – Eaton didn’t do a whole lot other than block shots, but he was really, really good at doing that. It’s not too often we see players block over five shots in a game, let alone average that number for an entire season. He’s not a big name, and a record for anything else would’ve been surprising. For blocks, though? Not quite crazy enough to crack the top five.

Sleepy Floyd, Golden State Warriors – 39 points in a half (and 29 points in a quarter) in a playoff game – On May 10, 1987, Floyd exploded offensively in the second half of a playoff game against the L.A. Lakers. Despite this legendary performance and even an All-Star appearance at one point in his career, he’s not generally considered one of the league’s more amazing players when looking at his work as a whole. That one night, though, the guy was unstoppable.

Derek Fisher, L.A. Lakers, Golden State, Utah, Oklahoma City, Dallas – 259 career playoff games – Derek Fisher obviously has his fair share of championship rings and played for plenty of good teams over the course of his career, but considering the successful postseason careers of players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Russell and even Tim Duncan, this record is a bit surprising. Teams haven’t always played as many postseason games as they do in the modern era, however, which helps explain Fisher got there. For the record (pun intended), Duncan is only 25 games back of Fisher. Two more years of deep playoff runs, and the record-holder here could be a little less surprising.

It’s nice to see some of the more unheralded players in league history get their spot in the record books. Wilt and MJ certainly have more than their fair share of them, but other guys deserve their moment in the sun, too. So for guys like Steve Blake and Larry Kenon—your contributions mattered, too. With any luck, your records will stand for a really, really long time.