The “Iron Man” Streaks From The “Big 4” Pro Sports Leagues

Joe Dimaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, UCLA Men’s Basketball 88-game winning streak, the Boston Celtics 8 consecutive NBA Championships(1959-66). Those are just a few of the greatest streaks to grace the sports world in the past 100 years.

There’s a different streak, that you don’t see a lot anymore. That’s the streak of consecutive games played. Also known as the “Iron Man” streak. Through all of the “Big 4” Pro Sports Leagues in the USA(NHL,MLB,NFL,NBA), there is an impressive “Iron Man” streak. And these guys deserve a kudos that they don’t seem to get often enough. Below, is each player from their respective league that can be called their league’s very own “Iron Man”.

Joe Thomas, OT (Cleveland Browns, 2007-17)

The former University of Wisconsin Badger was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame just a couple weeks ago. For 11 years, Thomas dominated opposing Defensive Lines/Linebackers. Only allowing 30 sacks in 6,680 pass-blocking snaps. Which helped him garner 10 Pro-Bowl and 6 All-Pro selections.

An interesting tidbit, is that Thomas blocked for more QBs than any other O-Lineman in NFL history. The Browns carousel of QBs hit an astounding number of 20 during Thomas’ HOF career.

Opposing defenses almost never got a break from seeing him across from them on the field. From September 9, 2007 to October 22, 2017, he was on the field for every offensive snap the Browns played. 10,363 consecutive snaps later, his “Iron Man” streak, came to an end by way of injury. After tearing his left tricep against the Tennessee Titans. The former #3 overall pick would be placed on Injured Reserve, putting the incredible streak to an end, and ultimately his career. As Thomas would announce his retirement in March of 2018.

Cal Ripken Jr., SS/3B (Baltimore Orioles, 1981-2001)

From 1939 to 1995, Lou “The Iron Horse” Gehrig held the MLB record for consecutive games played (2,130). Gehrig’s streak was unfortunately ended due to the complications of ALS, making it near impossible for him to play the game of baseball, even close to the level he had for 14 seasons.

Cal Ripken Jr., started his career in 1981 and only played 23 games that year. Once the 1982 season started, you would see him on the field every game for 16 years. On September 6, 1995, Ripken was the man to finally break, one of the streaks thought to be unbreakable. That day he played his 2,131st consecutive game.

The Maryland native would then go on to play 501 more consecutive games until his streak ended on September 19, 1998(2,632 games). A little over 3 years after he broke the record. For the last 3 seasons of his career, Ripken would play at least half the games each season. Until his retirement after the 2001 season.

The Orioles legend ended with one of the most decorated careers in all of baseball. His accolades include: 1982 Rookie of the Year, 19 All-Star selections, 2 MVPs, 2 Gold Gloves and 8 Silver Slugger awards. I see Ripken’s record sticking around for longer than Gehrig’s did.

Phil Kessel, RW (5 Teams, 2006-Present)

A former Masterton Trophy winner, Kessel has continued his streak with different franchises. Unlike the two aforementioned athletes on this list. That isn’t to say it means less. His streak comes with two accomplishments in one.

As it sits today, the former #5 overall pick by the Bruins, has played 1,064 consecutive games. Which is an accomplishment in it’s own right of course. But Kessel is also the only player in the History of the NHL to play over a 1,000 consecutive games. Which is just an added bonus accomplishment with his streak.

The 35-year old Right Winger, said he has no plans to retire at the moment. So it’s to be seen how long the 3x Stanley Cup Champion’s “Iron Man” streak will continue for.

A.C. Green, PF/SF (4 Teams, 1985-2001)

A 3x NBA Champ (all with Lakers), Green’s “Iron Man” streak started in November of 1986 and lasted all the way until the last game of his career, at the end of the 2001 season. That includes playing all 50 games of the lockout shortened 1998-99 season. Ending with an astounding 1,192 consecutive games played.

While his stats/accolades don’t jump off the page at you(9.6 PPG and 1 All-Star nod). Green was still a major part of the mid-late 80’s lakers, and gave everything he had for every one of the 1,192 games of his streak. He was also known for proclaiming to be a virgin bachelor throughout his whole career. Even abstaining from drugs and alcohol. Going as far to not even spray champagne during championship celebrations.

The closest active player to Green’s “Iron Man” streak is Brooklyn Nets SF Mikal Bridges, who currently sits at 392 games. At only 26 years old, Bridges has plenty of time to keep his own streak going.

While Robert Downey Jr. was a great Iron Man, I like to think these other “Iron Men” deserve more recognition for having these streaks in their respective sports.




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