'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)


How many games has Mikal Bridges missed in his NBA career? ›

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. 2. His 15,479 regular-season minutes are the most for any player over the past six seasons.

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.

What is the NBA Iron Man record? ›

Iron man streak

Green's 1,192 consecutive games played streak began on November 19, 1986, when the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the San Antonio Spurs in San Antonio. The streak ended with the last game of his career on April 18, 2001, when the Miami Heat defeated the Orlando Magic in Orlando.

Did Mikal Bridges miss any games in college? ›

Bridges is a unique case in a sport full of rest casualties. He already had a history behind him, as he didn't miss a single one of his 116 games in college for Villanova.

Who never missed an NBA game? ›

career. You won't believe the secret recipe that has. kept the Association's Iron Man streak alive for over 5.

Who has the most missed NBA? ›

K. Bryant

How many 3s does Mikal Bridges average? ›

Mikal Bridges has made 2.2 threes per game in his last 5 games in his career.
1M. Bridges2.4

Is Mikal Bridges a good player? ›

He's a top tier 3 and D player and very consistent.

Who won the Mikal Bridges trade? ›

The NBA offseason never disappoints. On the eve of the 2024 NBA draft, the New York Knicks are acquiring Mikal Bridges and a second-round pick from the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Bojan Bogdanovic, 6 first-round picks and a 2025 second-round pick — according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

What is the biggest beat in NBA history? ›

73 Points – Memphis Grizzlies 152, Oklahoma City Thunder 79 (Dec. 2, 2021) In the biggest blowout in NBA history, the surprising Grizzlies set franchise records for most points in a game and highest shooting percentage (62.5%) … and they were missing star point guard Ja Morant.

Who has the most NBA MVPs? ›

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won the award a record six times. He is also the only player to win the award despite his team not making the playoffs in the 1975–76 season. Both Bill Russell and Michael Jordan won the award five times, while Wilt Chamberlain and LeBron James won the award four times.

Why is Mikal Bridges good? ›

Strength: Varied shot chart. Bridges has a wide range of ways to score, and his shot chart backs that up. Shooting 43.6% from the field in 2024, the Villanova product can pull from just about anywhere, even in the mid-range where many players don't dare to shoot from.

Was Mikal Bridges a starter? ›

A fan favorite, Bridges developed into a starter in Phoenix and was part of the Suns team that reached the 2021 NBA Finals and won a franchise-record 64 games the following season.

Did Mikal Bridges leave the Suns? ›

Former Phoenix Suns wing Mikal Bridges headed to New York Knicks in trade with Brooklyn Nets. Mikal Bridges is on the move again. The former Phoenix Suns fan favorite who was traded to Brooklyn in the blockbuster Kevin Durant deal is now headed to the New York Knicks right before the 2024 NBA Draft.

How many games has Kevon Looney played in a row? ›

Warriors center Kevon Looney's streak of 290 consecutive games played came to an end after the big man did not record a second of playing time in the loss to the Bulls.

How many years has Mikal Bridges been in the league? ›

Summary. Mikal Bridges has played 6 seasons for the Suns and Nets. He has averaged 14.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 474 regular-season games.

Who did Sixers trade for Mikal Bridges? ›

After selecting him with the 10th-overall pick, the Sixers, in one of the team's most infamous draft day decisions, traded Bridges to the Suns on draft night for Zhaire Smith and a 2021 first-round pick (that was later sent to the Clippers in the Tobias Harris trade).

Who did the Knicks trade for Bridges? ›

Reports: Knicks to acquire Mikal Bridges from Nets for haul of picks, Bojan Bogdanovic. New York reportedly will send Bojan Bogdanovic and five 1st-round Draft picks to Brooklyn in exchange for Mikal Bridges. Veteran forward Mikal Bridges averaged 19.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists for Brooklyn last season.

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