The greatest break in snooker history is Ronnie O'Sullivan's legendary 147 at the 1997 World Championship. He not only sank every ball with unmatched grace and force, but did so in a record-breaking 5:20s, some two minutes faster than the previous record. But Deadspin's Ben Tippett proves it was executed even faster than the books show.
The famous 147 break had everything: The white ball obeyed O'Sullivan's every command, every shot looked easy because he made it so through his honeyed cueing and Juno-level precision positional play, the break was fast—the fastest maximum break ever, by a long way—and yet he looked like he had oodles of time. O'Sullivan said at the time that he knew a maximum was on after the second red, and the result never looked in doubt. O'Sullivan moved around the table with grace and ridiculous ease, like a concert pianist preparing breakfast in his kitchen.
The 5:20 time was human error, based on the BBC's primitive chess-clock technology from the time. The Guinness Book of Records' bizarre retcon to make it work — the next player's break starts when the previous player's white ball last touches a cushion — is so weak it requires an event that doesn't even happen on many shots.
So Tippett offers two options as to when a player's shot (and therefore any resulting break) starts, yielding two possible times of O'Sullivan's still-unbeaten break:
1. 5m 06s : When the player takes his shot.
2. 5m 15s : When the previous player's shot comes to rest.