Have a short memory. It's something you hear all the time in sports. If you make a mistake, you must learn from it and move on quickly. If you dwell on it and don't fully focus on the next play, you're more likely to make another mistake. And if you start sulking and playing tentatively, a bad play can turn into a bad game. Some of the greatest athletes of all time were masters at moving on from their mistakes and focusing on the next play.
Take Kobe Bryant, for instance. He's one of the best basketball players in history, but he recently set the record for most missed shots in an NBA career. But one reason Bryant has been so successful is because he never loses belief in his ability. No matter how many shots he misses, he always believes the next one is going in (learn five tips for boosting self-confidence). Bryant might not be proud of his record number of bricks, but he's not alone. Due both to longevity and the simple fact that no one is perfect, lots of legendary athletes have set records for inferior play. Here are 7 awesome players who had record-setting failures.
Cy Young Gave Up a Lot of Runs and Lost a Ton of Games
Yeah, it turns out the award given to each league's best pitcher is named after a dude who lost a boatload of games and gave up over 2,000 earned runs. Cy Young is unquestionably one of the greatest pitchers of all time with a 2.66 career ERA and over 500 career wins; but his extreme longevity allowed him to set a couple of unique records. Young's 316 career losses is the most in MLB history, and he is one of only two pitchers to have more than 300 career losses. To put that into perspective, Young lost nearly two entire seasons' worth of games (the MLB regular season is 162 games) throughout his career.
Young also owns the record for the most earned runs allowed in a MLB career with 2,147. To put that in perspective, the San Diego Padres scored only 535 runs in the entire 2014 season.
Of course, Young wouldn't have been able to set those records if he were not such a workhorse. He also owns the record for most career innings pitched with 7,356. If a rookie wanted to beat Young's innings pitched record as fast as possible, he'd have to pitch every single inning of every single game for more than five consecutive seasons.
Nolan Ryan Issued a Lot of Free Passes
Nolan Ryan might be the most dominating pitcher of all time. He holds the record for most career no-hitters with seven—and he's tied for the most career one-hitters with 12. He regularly threw above 100 mph. His 5,714 career strikeouts might be an unbreakable MLB record (the next closest guy, Randy Johnson, has 839 fewer). But that doesn't mean Ryan didn't struggle at times. He holds the dubious distinction of having issued the most career walks with 2,795 bases on balls. The next closest guy has 1,833.
Ryan also is second all-time in career wild pitches with 277. But what made Ryan different was his ability to refocus. Often when a pitcher loses his control, he loses it for the rest of the game. Ryan had the uncanny talent of zeroing in and throwing strikes when it mattered most.
Mr. October Was Also Mr. Whiff
Reggie Jackson was a 14-time All-Star and earned the nickname "Mr. October," because he regularly raised his level of play in the post-season. He once hit three home runs in a single World Series game. Sure, Jackson was clutch—but he also had a penchant for whiffing. Jackson holds the MLB career record for strikeouts with 2,597, K'ing an average of once every 3.8 at-bats. His many strikeouts are part of the reason his career batting average is only .262.
But Jackson's aggressiveness at the plate was also a big reason why he crushed 563 career home runs and knocked in over 1,700 career RBIs. The next time you strike out, don't hang your head. Just remember that Reggie Jackson did it 2,597 times, and he was still a first ballot Hall of Famer.
Brett Favre Was a Turnover Machine
No one can accuse Brett Favre of being conservative. He's a gunslinger, and he's either going to win the game or do something really stupid trying. An 11-time Pro Bowler and a surefire Hall of Famer, Favre holds the record for most career interceptions thrown with 336 (the next closest player has 277). Favre always believed he could make a play, which was both one of his biggest strengths and one of his biggest weaknesses. Sure, it made for spectacular plays like this. But it also made for heart-breaking plays like this.
Favre also holds the NFL career record for fumbles with 166, solidifying his status as a high-risk, high-reward player. But Favre was never one to dwell on a bad play, and that's a big reason he finished his career with 508 touchdown passes and nearly 72,000 passing yards. As any Favre fan can tell you, his unpredictability was a big part of what made him so much fun to watch.
The Mailman Often Delivered the Ball to the Opposing Team
Karl Malone, a.k.a. "The Mailman," was a two-time NBA MVP who holds career averages of 25 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. He certainly could score and rebound the basketball, but he also was pretty talented at another thing—turning it over. Malone holds the NBA career record for turnovers with 4,524, one of only four players to have more than 4,000 career turnovers. That's a lot of possessions to give up.
To put that into perspective, a player would have to turn the ball over five times per game, every game, for over 11 seasons to surpass Malone's record. Of course, his record wouldn't have been possible without Malone's longevity. He played a whopping 1,476 career games, playing fewer than 80 regular season games only once over his first 18 NBA seasons. Malone never let the turnovers stop him from being aggressive, and that's a big reason he's one of the greatest players ever.
Joe Fulks: The Hall of Famer Who Barely Shot 30 Percent
If you think Kobe takes a lot of shots, wait until you hear about Joe Fulks. One of the first players to be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Fulks was in many ways an offensive pioneer. But he also holds the dubious NBA record of lowest career field goal percentage—a measly .3024% from the field.
That sounds insanely low, but during Fulks's era, shooting over 30% was considered good. So he was a respectable shooter for his time, but looking back at some of his statistics is pretty amusing. In the 1947-48 season, for instance, Fulks averaged 22.1 points per game. Pretty good, right? But look closer and you find he did it while shooting .259% from the field and chucking up nearly 30 shots a game. The next time a Lakers fan complains about Kobe shooting too much, hit them with some of Fulks's stats.
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Marty Brodeur Has Given Up a Lot of Goals
Martin Brodeur is one of the greatest goaltenders of all time. He holds a number of records, including most wins, most saves and most shutouts. But when you face a total of 31,540 shots over your career, some are bound to get into the net. That's how Brodeur ended up holding the NHL record for most career goals allowed at 2,764.
That's more than three times as many goals as Wayne Gretzky scored over his entire career. But Brodeur never let a goal get him down, and that was a big reason for his success. NJ.com recently wrote an article citing Brodeur's amazing ability to refocus after allowing a bad goal. You don't win four Vezina Trophies by sulking.
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