Is Tom Brady the greatest athlete of all time?

Is Tom Brady the GOAT of all sports?

By: Jake Rajala

The bells have rung in Foxborough Tampa Bay and the NFL 2021 season is officially here. The rejuvenated Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys travel down south to square off against seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It is actually happening — Tom Brady will be lacing up his cleats to start in his 300th regular-season game tonight.

Brady is a staggering 44 years old and he still carries a heavy chip on his shoulder in year two as a Buccaneer. There’s a question that many fans, critics, and even his wife have for the former sixth-round draft pick. The question would of course be, “what else do you have to prove?”. Brady answered that question this offseason and no, it was not because he took it personally that Bruce Arians drafted Kyle Trask this offseason. The Buccaneers starting QB simply said, “I’ve got a little sickness in me that just wants to throw a freakin spiral“.

Brady clearly has a lot of talent left in the tank as he showed that last season with 40 passing touchdowns in the regular season en route to edging out Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Patrick Mahomes in the postseason. Brady may not be trying to be the best QB of all time, or keep pace with his former head coach Bill Belichick in Siberia New England. The long-lasting NFL QB may be pursuing to be the “GOAT of all sports”. Matter, in fact, Brady really is chasing to be the greatest sports figure of all time. All the way back in 2013, Brady said to his former WR Julian Edelman, “I ain’t going for Joe Montana, I’m going for Michael Jordan“. Heading into the 2021 season, Brady deserves to have that objective on his bulletin board.

So, the interesting question is: where exactly does Tom Brady stand among the greatest athletes of all time and how close is he to surpassing MJ? With that said, I’m going to outline the Top 10 athletes of all time as it stands, while outlining the obstacles ahead of Brady’s path to the top spot.

Let’s begin.

(10. Lawrence Taylor

I love Lawrence Taylor pinned as a Top 10 athlete of all time. He may not be as sexy of a selection as Jerry Rice, or Jim Brown, but he was undoubtedly the best defensive player of all time and he changed the game forever. Bill Belichick was the LBs coach and DC for the NYG when Taylor was in a Giants uniform. The once young Giants defensive coach helped Taylor grow and was able to witness him terrorize opposing gameplans single-handedly. Belichick once stated that “LT” was better than Brady, while Brady had five Super Bowl victories. Whether Belichick was half-serious in his remarks or if Taylor shouldn’t have been seen as a better all-time player then, It should now be a consensus that Brady is ahead of LT, as he’s collected an astounding seven Super Bowl rings.

Taylor has accumulated three Defensive Player of The Year awards, eight All-Pro honors, and he’s even changed multiple positions in the NFL. Teams across the league would change how they utilize the OLB spot because they saw how effective LT was in various spots. LT also literally changed the way NFL teams drafted OL talent. It was virtually impossible to block LT with an average talent at the blindside OL spot, so many teams had to start valuing OL in the draft. LT was a legend in the 1980s and 1990s, but that shouldn’t stop the NFL player from getting the praise he deserves a few decades later.

9) Tiger Woods

The golf legend Tiger Woods is tied for the most PGA tour wins and he is well regarded by many as the best golfer of all time. Woods hasn’t only been magnificent across this century, but he’s had an unimaginable comeback journey and he’s also been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. There have been other very gifted golfers, but Woods has been an elite, consistent force among the most brute of individual competition.

He has been the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year on numerous occasions and Associated Press granted Woods male athlete of the year four times. Woods successfully came back into the league, but now his career is on hold due to the tragic car accident he experienced last February. Woods’s career has been cut too short, but it’s beyond a pleasant scene to see Woods healthy and rehabilitating well. In addition, it’s very encouraging to see that Woods plans on getting healthy and potentially golfing again.

8) Babe Ruth

The legendary MLB hitter enjoyed a long period of dominance and fame. Babe Ruth flashed his dominance for 22 years with the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and Atlanta Braves. Ruth is undoubtedly the best hitter to play the game and most likely will hold up as the most impressive hitter to see the field. Tim Kurkjian, who’s covered baseball well for ESPN, nicely states Ruth’s 6.90 career percentage is even 82 points higher than Reggie Jackson’s best season.

There is some controversy about whether Ruth or Babe Bonds is the electric MLB player of all time. I would have to stand with Ruth, a player that introduced high performances in pitching, plus he was a versatile athlete. The baseball titan captured a whopping 123 bases in his career.

I would say that’s also worthy to mention that Bonds was prolific largely due to the fact that he used PEDs. It can be stated that many sports greats use PEDs or have cheated in different ways, but it shouldn’t garner him praise over a mount Rushmore-like baseball figure. It should also be said that we’ve seen very elite athletes, who were also very inspirational, such as Lance Armstrong, get almost entirely erased from sports history, for using PEDs. Bonds should be fortunate to just be in the same conversation as Ruth.

7) Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt, also known as the “world’s fastest man”, has crushed nearly every important Olympic sprinting record. Bolt has knocked down the 100-meter record (9.58), the 200-meter record (19.30), and he’s been in on the 4 x 100-meter record. Bolt is an amazing story, a better athlete, and truly a gifted talent in the world of sports. Even though the 35-year-old finished his career in 2017, his records still have held strong since. Bolt was truly a machine, despite the claim that he loved to eat Mcdonalds while training.

I do believe that Bolt is one of the greatest athletes to walk the planet, but I don’t believe he deserves to be in the Top 5. Indeed, he’s broken multiple records on the world stage. However, I believe his records will likely be broken in the near future. His 200 meter one may stand a bit longer, but the 100 one should be first to be erased. It’s such a high stature of performance, but there’s other unearthly success being generated in other sports and over unthought-of periods of time.

6) Serena Williams

Serena Williams is a woman on a mission — a mission not on this planet that is. Williams has registered more grand slam singles titles during her playing days than any man or woman. In addition to that feat, she jointly holds the record for the longest No. 1 ranked female tennis player and she also won a 14 grand slam double with Venus (sister). Sports Illustrated took note of her persistent success by naming her Sportsperson of The Year in 2015.

Williams had a very unfortunate retirement at age 39 in the Wimbledon Open. There’s been speculation that it was unjustifiable for her to be excused, but saying it would have been very questionable for her to be further allowed to compete with the gruesome injury would be an understatement. Serena is undeniably one of the all-time greats, but her wide array of accomplishments and long period of fierce domination put her among the all-time best sports players.

5) Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps has been a fantastic sight of guts and talent for Olympic audiences across the globe. Phelps is blatantly the most decorated Olympian of all time. The lengthy swimmer has accumulated a mountain of gold medals (23) and he’s still planning on being involved as a mentor to fellow Olympians. Phelps, who announced his retirement in 2016, has been very vocal about motivating younger athletes while being supportive of improving mental health on top of that.

Phelps has been reluctant about not coming back and he may not need to if he’s worried another Olympian will surpass his gold medal count. Phelps is first in career gold medals with 23, while the next career gold medalist holds nine gold medals. Yes, you read that right. Four Olympians share a gold medal count of nine, which is a tally that is less than half of Phelps’s gold medal accomplishments.

4) Muhammad Ali

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, his name is Muhammad Ali. The great fighter and incredibly self-confident boxer is a sports icon to the entire world. Ali was the first fighter to win the world heavyweight championships (three times overall), 1974 Sports Illustrated Person of The Year, and he’s well essentially well seen as the best boxer in boxing history.

Outside of boxing, Ali was more vocal about his beliefs than any other sports legend by a wide margin. Ali was very expressive about the issues in racism towards African Americans and he took a strong stance against serving in the war in Vietnam.

Ali was a very fierce fighter and controversial figure, but he deservedly represented as one of the utmost top sports figures in history. Ali’s record has been matched by other boxing figures, but his level of victory came against “much stronger competition”. Ali took down George Foreman and went 2-1 against Joe Frazier in the “fight of the century“.

3) Wayne Gretzky

Wayne Gretzky isn’t known as “Mr. Hockey”, but he is surely the greatest NHL player of all time. Gretzky was named NHL’s most valuable player from 1980-1987 and in 1989. The blazing forward was also the league-leading goal scorer in 1981-1987, 1990-1991, and 1994. To put it this way, Gretzky has the career goal record, career points record, and hat career tricks. Yes, nobody has managed to catch up to the greek god NHL player. The NHL player is just missing a dozen championships victories that other Sports titans hold.

Gretzky has to be in debate for every Top 3 athlete conversation for all of sports history, but it will be hard for him to gain praise as the greatest. There’s a couple of other sports legends that have a bit more of a “sports sickness”, particularly when it comes to postseason matchups.

2) Tom Brady

Tom Brady was once a Michigan Wolverine who ran a 5.28 40 yard dash at the NFL combine. This lengthy QB sat in the NFL Draft green room for numerous days until his name was finally called in the sixth round by the New England Patriots. This sixth-round QB went on to fill in the shoes as the starting QB when former Pats QB Drew Bledsoe horrifically suffered a hemothorax. Then Brady nervously marched onto the field and well, the rest is history…

Brady has been a Madden-like figure at the QB position with unmatched charisma since he started his early career in Foxborough. The Patriots turned Buccaneers QB has won MVP three times, Sports Illustrated Person of The Year once, and he’s won the Super Bowl seven times — two more than the second most individual Super Bowls won (Charles Haley). Well, what more can the reigning Super Bowl MVP literally do? The answer to that is: the former scrawny Michigan prospect can go down as the greatest sports player of all time. More importantly, Brady seems fixated on accomplishing his lifelong goal.

If Brady wins the Super Bowl this season and comes away with eight Super Bowl victories, I believe that he should be placed at the GOAT of all sports. If Brady has a quality season but comes up short of reaching the Super Bowl, I would keep him at the second spot. I would argue that Brady and Gretzky are even close in the GOAT conversation while acknowledging Brady’s ring tally gives him the slight edge. He will need another ring if he wants to aim to conquer the spot ensured by a championship connaisseur AND regular season juggernaut.

1) Michael Jordan

The true GOAT in all of sports history is none other than Michael Jordan. Similar to Brady, MJ has been through his own early life obstacles in sports. The basketball icon was actually cut from his high school team. After finding fuel and motivation to make the HS team, he proceeded to join the University of North Carolina, and then transform into a top-tier professional prospect. In the 1984 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls announced their selection of MJ third overall. Little did Chi-town know that they were given a basketball figure that would become arguably the greatest athlete of all time.

In Jordan’s professional career, he would go onto win rookie of the year, become a five-time NBA MVP, six-time NBA champion, and six-time NBA finals MVP. Jordan was notably a flat-out monster in the post-season by averaging 33.6 PPG. Not only was Jordan a scoring machine in his career, but he is the only player to win the scoring title and DPOTY in the same season. Jordan was simply unstoppable in all phases of the game and he was kryptonite in the postseason. He deserves to be respected right now as the greatest athlete of all time.

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