The Greatest Athlete Ever in All Sports? Brady and Jordan Have Company
By Cam Giangrande
I hear Britney Spears singing in my head, “Oops, he did it again”. Of course I’m talking about Tom Brady. This has gone from the ridiculous to the sublime. Maybe 40 really is the new 30, or 20 for that matter; because what he’s doing on a football field just isn’t normal at any age. He’s on his way to his eighth Super Bowl in 16 seasons. He’s spent half of his career going to the big dance. And, he’s played in the AFC Championship game a remarkable 12 times, (75% of the time).
A few years ago, the debate was Brady or Manning, Manning or Brady. A case could be made for both men, but then Brady won his fourth Super Bowl. So then, the debate became Brady or Montana, Montana or Brady. Each had Super Bowls under their belts, with the Montana crowd citing his undefeated record in the ultimate game, while Brady did have those two blemishes against the Giants. But then Brady won his fifth Super Bowl last season. With seven appearances and five victories, the debate is over; Brady is the best quarterback in NFL history: THE GOAT. Some have decided to expand the debate to include players at other positions, like Jerry Rice or Lawrence Taylor; but if we’re being honest, especially heading to number eight; Brady is the greatest player in NFL history; at any position.
If the debate is over comparing him to his NFL peers, it needs to be expanded to include the all-time greats, from all sports. Baseball doesn’t have one great player who is considered head and shoulders above the rest. Ted Williams may be considered the greatest hitter who ever lived, but he certainly wasn’t the greatest winner the game had ever seen. That distinction goes to Yogi Berra, whose Yankees won 10 World Series titles, and he’s certainly not baseball’s best ever. Hockey’s greatest is truly great; Wayne Gretzky is hockey’s all-time greatest player, but he wasn’t hockey’s most prolific winner; that distinction goes to Henri “Rocket” Richard, who won 11 Stanley Cups. Although Gretzky did win four Cups with the Edmonton Oilers, some argue that Mark Messier had as much to do with the victories as Gretzky did.
The most logical comparison and debate comes from the NBA; and Michael Jordan. Yes, Bill Russell (11) won more than Jordan (6) did, but there were far fewer teams to defeat to win a title back then, and Russell never took time off in his prime to pursue baseball, the way Jordan did. Jordan went to six NBA Finals, and won all six. By any measure and standard, he’s the greatest basketball player of all time.
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) January 26, 2018
For Brady to truly be in this discussion, he’ll have to match Jordan’s six titles with a victory in Minnesota next week. Others have brought athletes who play individual sports into the debate. They bring up boxers like Muhammad Ali, golfers like Tiger Woods, swimmers like Michael Phelps, tennis players like Roger Federer, or even race car drivers like Richard Petty.
The one thing I never hear; is a female athlete mentioned in this debate.
Especially now, in this #METOO, and #TIMESUP culture, it is important to include women in the debate. Not because they’re women, for the sake of political correctness; but because they are worthy of this discussion. Women golfers like Mildred “Babe” Zaharius and Annika Sorenstam, soccer star Mia Hamm, basketball players like Lisa Leslie and Cheryl Miller, are all super talents, and in many ways trailblazers.
Of course any discussion related to “best ever” must include tennis stars like Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf. But, the best female tennis player of all time is Serena Williams. So far, in her 15 year career, she’s won more Grand Slam titles than any other woman, with 23 singles victories. Overall, her record in Grand Slam Finals is 23-6. She’s also won 14 Grand Slam doubles titles with her sister Venus, going an amazing 14-0 in those final matches. She’s been the top ranked tennis player a whopping eight times, with one stretch running 186 weeks, (over 3.5 years consecutively). In 15 years, she could have won 60 Grand Slam titles, she’s been in nearly half of them and won 38% of them. After taking time off with the birth of her child, she plans on coming back this year. I for one am excited to see her return and see if she can regain her form.
There will always be a debate between athletes who play on teams and individual stars, as to who is greater. An argument can be made from each side of the aisle. An individual has no one else to blame if they don’t do well. They also don’t have anyone else to pick them up if they don’t have their “A” game. Someone on a team can have the game of his life, only to have a bad call from the bench, or teammate who fumbles, or a kicker who misses a chip shot field goal ruin it all.
One thing is certain, any debate surrounding the best athlete ever, must include Serena Williams.
Are Bonds and Clemens truly the best of the best in MLB? Fantasy analysts think so.