'I just want to play every game': Nets' Mikal Bridges is more than NBA's Iron Man, he's determined (2024)

NEW YORK — Mikal Bridges was frazzled.

It was Feb. 9, and the Brooklyn Nets were minutes away from hosting the Chicago Bulls. Bridges was trying to make his way to the court.

“I got to get out there,” Bridges said. “I got to get out there.”

“Calm down, man,” Cam Johnson replied. “It’s pregame.”

Bridges’ destination was not the hardwood, but a pair of courtside seats. In the first game after the Nets had traded Kevin Durant to the Phoenix Suns, Bridges and Johnson, the two players received in return, were unable to play while the deal was still being finalized.


For Bridges, who has played in every game of his five-year career, it was the equivalent of canceling Christmas. Johnson said his close friend and longtime teammate “was shaking.”

“I think that was a little hard for him,” Johnson said during the duo’s introductory press conference.

Just weeks before the trade deadline, Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said he wanted to be able to pen, not pencil, his players into the lineup the way the Orioles could with Hall of Fame shortstop Cal Ripken Jr., who in 1995 famously broke Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played in baseball. By trading Durant and Kyrie Irving, the Nets ended an era defined by lack of availability by landing Bridges, whose 385 consecutive games played streak makes him basketball’s version of Ripken in the load management era.

Since arriving in Brooklyn, Bridges has shown that he’s more than just the league’s “Iron Man.” His consecutive games streak has become secondary to his improved production, as he’s averaged nearly 27 points per game on 50 percent shooting since the trade.

“It’s a good feeling,” Vaughn said of Bridges. “Some things as a coach you don’t want to think about and that’s one of the things. Like you want your dudes to be available on a nightly basis and Mikal Bridges is a guy that takes pride in that, he’s done it his whole career. So when you’re thinking about game-planning and what’s next for the team when you can pen a guy in on a nightly basis, that eases the mind of a coach and what he brings so far has been phenomenal as a human being and as a player.”

Even though he had to watch his first NBA game from the sidelines on Feb. 9, Bridges’ streak is still intact. Because his trade was still pending, it didn’t technically count as a missed game. In fact, as Johnson pointed out to Bridges that night, he’s actually on pace to lead the league outright in games played.


“When we got traded (Johnson’s) over here looking at the schedule and was like, ‘Well if you do miss this game, you’ve already played one more game than them,’” Bridges said. “‘So if you look at it, you might actually finish playing 83 games this year, have a little bonus maybe?”

“I was trying to keep the spirits up,” Johnson said.

A year ago, Bridges was one of just five players to play in all 82 regular-season games, the fewest number to do so since 2017. This season, just eight players are on pace for 82, including Golden State Warriors’ center Kevon Looney, who holds the second-longest active streak at 187 consecutive games, his teammate, Jordan Poole, and Julius Randle among others. Aside from Randle, none are as important to their teams as Bridges is to the Nets, which puts his run in a higher category. If Bridges plays 83 games, he’ll be the first to do so since Josh Smith in 2014-15, who, after being waived by the Hawks joined the Rockets.

Bridges’ streak extends beyond his pro career. At Villanova, he never missed a game, playing in 116 over three seasons while winning two national championships with the Wildcats. At Great Valley High School in the suburbs of Philadelphia, he missed just two games according to his coach, Jim Nolan, both because of illness.

“There’s guys that are injury-prone and there’s guys that are not,” Nolan said. “He’s not an injury-prone kid.”

Aside from a preseason elbow injury his rookie year, which cost him some exhibition games, Bridges has never had enough of a reason to miss time. He doesn’t go home and drink a magic elixir or force the medical staff to lie about his condition. In college, he did the routine cold tub after practice or a game and has followed the wisdom of the medical professionals around him, whether it’s about lifting or diet.


He attributes his availability to a combination of routine, genetics, a desire to play – and luck.

“Always just been blessed,” Bridges told The Athletic. “I think my body might get hurt, heals a little faster. Everybody’s body is a little different, but my body will hurt and next day the swelling will go way down. And every time I did get hurt it’s been in the preseason or offseason, I was like in high school or stuff so that kind of helps as well.”

While he’s exterminated the injury bug through the first five seasons of his career, the streak has been in jeopardy. Bridges said he’s played sick throughout his career and has had some close calls. On March 20, 2022, he played a career-high 50 minutes in an overtime win against the Sacramento Kings while battling flu-like symptoms. He felt himself coming under the weather the night before and medicated himself to get in front of it. Cameron Payne, his teammate, got ill that morning with similar symptoms and had to miss the game.

Early in that game, Suns coach Monty Williams approached Bridges during a timeout and said he didn’t like what he was seeing from the 6-foot-6 forward. “C’mon now,” Williams told him. “I need that energy.”

“I’m not going to tell him I’m sick,” Bridges said. “But the staff knows I’m not feeling well. But I’m not going to tell my coach I can’t do it because I’m sick. I played through the game (and) we won.”

Bridges’ streak might not have been as impressive a decade or two ago, when playing 82 games was an expectation and not a goal. Vaughn came into the league with the Utah Jazz in the late ’90s, who were led by Karl Malone and John Stockton, two of the league’s most reliable stars of their time. Malone holds the NBA record for games started at 1,471. Now, Vaughn is resting players who are returning from injury on the second half of back-to-backs and playing guys on minute restrictions during certain stretches of the schedule. He played Bridges for just one quarter in the team’s March 9 loss in Milwaukee, which was the front end of a road back-to-back.

Vaughn called the light workload for Bridges that night “a negotiation tactic” and added that he’s realistic in conversations with players in regards to the team’s interest in protecting them. But his NBA roots make load management a line Vaughn is still learning how to walk.


“There is a balance to saying I want you to play but I’m also going to protect you at this time of the year with some nagging injuries,” Vaughn said.

Bridges isn’t against load management. He understands why it exists, but said it can get excessive. He added that he often thinks about the fans who pay good money to come see the players, but said life isn’t fair sometimes.

“There’s sides,” Bridges said. “There’s 82 (games)… people coming off injuries, we play so much, we’re traveling — I get it health-wise. I sometimes think in perspective just resting just because … I don’t think so. I just feel like if it’s injury-wise that makes the most sense obviously you’re not going to force somebody to play injured. Coming off injury, you want to calm it down. I think if the guy is fully healthy, I don’t think so.”

To some of his friends and coaches, Bridges’ streak doesn’t make for a good conversation topic.

“I don’t like to talk about it too much because I feel like I’m going to jinx him,” said Josh Hart, a Knicks forward and Bridges’ Villanova teammate.

“I hate talking about it,” said Jay Wright, who coached him at Villanova.

But Bridges isn’t superstitious about the streak. He’s realistic. When asked about A.C. Green’s NBA record of 1,192 consecutive games, which went from 1986 to 2001, the 26-year-old quickly shot down his odds despite being almost a third of the way there.

“I don’t think I’m going to make it there,” Bridges said. “That’s a lot of games. That’s untouchable.”

While Bridges has been available for the early stretch of his career, he’s aware that there will come a day where something happens that could change that, whether it’s injury, sickness, a personal matter or age. It’s why chasing Green’s record isn’t a priority to him. His concern is longevity over attendance.


There’s a world in which Bridges can pursue both, but he’s thinking about his body long term so that he has a lengthy career.

“I just want to play every game,” Bridges said. “That’s my thing. Even if I’m banged up and I’m hurt a little bit, if I feel like I can go, I’m gonna go.”

Half a decade into his career, he’s stayed true to his word.

(Photo of Mikal Bridges: Nathaniel S. Butler / NBAE via Getty Images)

'I just want to play every game': Nets' Mikal Bridges is more than NBA's Iron Man, he's determined (2024)


Has Mikal Bridges ever missed a game? ›

Bridges has not missed a game since he came into the league six years ago, even playing in 83 games in 2022-23, when he was traded from Phoenix to Brooklyn.

What are Mikal bridges known for? ›

Nicknamed “the Warden”, Bridges holds the active record for the most consecutive games played, having not missed a game in his NBA career since being drafted.

Who has played the most consecutive NBA games? ›

A.C. Green. The Iron Man streak king for more than two decades now is three-time league champion A.C. Green, who established the record of playing in 1,192 straight games from 1986 to 2001.

What is the NBA Iron Man record? ›

That's why Green is considered as the NBA's Iron Man. From Nov. 19, 1986, until he retired from the NBA on April 18, 2001, Green played in 1,192 consecutive games. That's the longest streak of consecutive games anyone has ever played in NBA history.

Who missed the most NBA shots? ›

K. Bryant

How many 20 point games does Mikal Bridges have? ›

Mikal Bridges had 38 games played with 20+ points this season.

How many 3s does Mikal Bridges shoot in a game? ›

Mikal Bridges hit 2.7 three-pointers per game this season.

Has Mikal Bridges been an all-star? ›

Bridges has never been an All-Star, though he's morphed into a consistent 20-point scorer since landing in Brooklyn.

How many blocks do Mikal Bridges average? ›


Who is the youngest Finals MVP in NBA history? ›

Magic Johnson is the youngest Finals MVP in an NBA Finals. He was 20 years old in his rookie season.

Who has the most 70 point games in NBA history? ›

In NBA history, 10 players have achieved this feat on 14 occasions (Wilt Chamberlain had six such games). Below is a look at every 70-point game in NBA history.

Who has the most 50 point games in NBA history? ›

Wilt Chamberlain had the most games with 50+ points, with 118 games.

What is the longest active streak in NBA history? ›

Mikal Bridges and his run of 434 consecutive games played... but the record is almost impossible to beat
  • Mikal Bridges, forward and star of the Brooklyn Nets, has played 434 consecutive games - and counting. ...
  • Bridges has played 434 games in a row, including 42 in the 2023-24 season.
Jan 22, 2024

What is the biggest beating in NBA history? ›

Biggest NBA Blowout Ever

The most largest victory in NBA history was achieved by the Memphis Grizzlies against the Oklahoma City Thunder on the night of December 3, 2021, with a margin of 73 points (final score 152-79).

How many games has Mikal Bridges played in a row? ›

Mikal Bridges and his run of 434 consecutive games played... but the record is almost impossible to beat. The Brooklyn Nets small forward still hasn't missed a game since he landed in the NBA, but he's still far from AC Green's 1192.

What is Mikal Bridges free throw percentage? ›

Mikal Bridges
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How many assists did Mikal Bridges have last game? ›

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Bridges amassed eight points (3-8 FG, 2-5 3Pt), two rebounds and one assist across 25 minutes during Sunday's 107-86 loss to the 76ers.

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