I know there are some that come to Suns.com in hopes of reading the latest in basketball news, but with the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl I’m afraid I’m going to have to start elsewhere.
Wilt’s 100-point game has been a sports record that has so far passed the test of time. (NBAE Photos)
I do this not because I am a long-time Colts fan, that’s not it at all. It is also in no way an attempt to gloat towards Patriots fans I know who have disgusted me for years, I’m much bigger than that (although not much). I’m doing it because in recent years the Colts have been viewed by some as the Phoenix Suns in cleats. Like the Suns, the Colts have had the reputation of being an offensive juggernaut who couldn’t win in the postseason because it is defense that wins championships. Quarterback Peyton Manning and company quieted naysayers on Sunday with one of the most impressive comebacks in NFL history, leading some to believe it only a matter of time before the Suns do the same. Yes, I believe defense does win championships and yes, I believe rebounds do get you rings. At the same time, however, there’s no denying that if you outscore your opponent you will win the game. And in the words of Chiefs Head Coach Herm Edwards, “You play to win the game.”
During practice today there was plenty of Super Bowl talk, primarily on the parts of Mike D’Antoni and Shawn Marion. Mike is a Colts fan and an admirer of Manning while Shawn is a Chicago guy who isn’t shy about being a Bears fan. There was also some talk about some streak I guess the Suns are enjoying, something about 13 games.
I’m following the lead of Steve Nash in being modest about the accomplishment, the truth is what the Suns have done is amazing. The team has won 32 of 34 games, the two losses including an overtime defeat at the hands of the Wizards and a tight contest lost in Dallas. Two losses by a combined seven points separate this team from challenging one of sports seemingly most unbreakable records.
Obviously you could play devil’s advocate and point to the games Phoenix pulled off by the most narrow of margins. Leandro Barbosa not making an incredible three-point shot in Chicago or Steve Nash not coming up clutch the next night in Toronto could have easily had those games going the other way. The fact of the matter is though, that those shots did go in and are responsible for Phoenix’s current streak which stands at 13. A streak which has people remembering an unforgettable record set by the 1972-73 Los Angeles Lakers. That team featured legends like Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West who ran off 33 consecutive victories on their way to a 69-win season and an NBA title. No team since has even surpassed 20 consecutive wins, and only eight teams have even gotten halfway there.
This leads me to my blog topic of discussion (just six paragraphs in, not bad): Which record is the Al Capone of the sports world? Which record is truly untouchable?
If I could veer away from basketball for just a moment, baseball truly has some spectacular records which I don’t think will ever be touched. Cal Ripken Jr. playing in 2,632 consecutive ballgames certainly comes to mind. The streak – in the words of broadcaster Dan Majerle – is inconceivable, especially when you consider baseball is generally played six days out of the week. Most impressive about that mark is the fact that it ever got any steam to begin with. Players taking a day off is nothing rare in the game (especially for Barry Bonds, he seems to do it three or four times a week). That said, it would’ve been no big deal for Ripken Jr. at around consecutive game 150 to say, “Hey coach, I’m gonna sit this one out.” I doubt he had the record on his mind at 150, and I doubt his coach would have had any problems with the future Hall of Famer taking a breather. But as Ripken saw it, if he could walk he could play and it’s why he’s one of baseball’s all-time greats. The other mark in baseball I’m constantly amazed by was accomplished by Vander Meer in 1938, a pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds who threw two consecutive no-hitters. To break this record, a pitcher would have to pitch three consecutive no-hitters!!! It’s a thought so improbable it demands three exclamation points, punctuation I’m not usually too generous with.
Back to basketball, the first record which usually jumps out at NBA fans is Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point performance against the Knicks in 1962. A feat you’re more likely to see in a farfetched Disney cartoon than accomplished on the hardwood again. But while the feat is nothing less than amazing, and while it may never be duplicated again, I wouldn’t say it was necessarily untouchable. Kobe Bryant went off for 81 last season against the Mavericks and that’s with Phil Jackson as his coach. Imagine if he had a coach who encouraged him to take every single shot from the start or if a great player actually game planned to do it. I’ve seen guys call a timeout to get a triple-double, I don’t think it too farfetched a guy would ask his teammates to help him reach the plateau.
On the other end of the spectrum is a record set by former Orlando Magic point guard and former Suns Head Coach Scott Skiles who dished out 30 assists in a 1990 contest against the Denver Nuggets. Again, a jaw dropping accomplishment, but one which is not untouchable considering Steve Nash has reached the 20-assist margin twice this season. No, 20 is not 30 but the argument is not whether or not a record is impressive, the argument is whether or not it is untouchable.
Known to some for his Lucky Charms-like hair, former defensive specialist Dennis Rodman was known to many as an unbelievable rebounder. So unbelievable that he actually led the league in the statistic for seven consecutive seasons. Chamberlain meanwhile once grabbed 55 in a single game against the Syracuse Nationals.
The numbers are preposterous, but to me none equal the accomplishment of that 1973 Lakers team. Chamberlain’s 100 point game will most likely never be touched, the chances of that 55-rebound game being approached perhaps even slimmer. But while they may never be broken, the fact is all it would take is one game. Not to downplay those marks, but it takes one really, really ridiculous game for the numbers to be surpassed. For that 1973 team to see their record shattered would take a total team effort for 34 consecutive games. Thirty-four consecutive games where a ballclub is able to stay healthy, stay consistently on the same page and pull out a victory. It’s a mark so impressive, the Suns have us talking about it and aren’t even halfway there.