The most overused acronym in sports is G.O.A.T. Fueled by debate shows on networks such as ESPN and FOX Sport 1, there is an ongoing argument and declaration that a person is the greatest of all time in his or her respective sport. We are now at a time where LeBron James is being talked about as the greatest NBA Player of all time and Tom Brady discussed as the greatest NFL Quarterback of all time. Though one plays football and the other basketball, sports fans and media frequently bring up Tom Brady when discussing LeBron James or vice versa to paint a metaphorical picture of what the GOAT should look like. However, the criticism clearly falls heavier on LeBron James and favoritism is always bestowed upon Tom Brady. Well here are my thoughts on the subject.
The Road to the Championship
LeBron James, playing in the weak Eastern Conference, has the easiest road to the NBA Finals every year. This is my favorite argument to listen to only because it’s so lame and lazy that it just sounds like an excuse for why LeBron can’t be the G.O.A.T. Getting to the NBA Finals every year is impressive no matter how you look at it. The way I see it, many notable NBA free agents stay west or join a western conference team to avoid LeBron James until absolutely necessary, which is in the NBA Finals. It will be interesting to see how many players start to move East if he goes West this offseason.
So LeBron James gets all of this criticism about the “easy” road to the finals but no one ever examines Tom Brady’s road to the Super Bowl. Let’s take a look at the teams that play in the same division as the New England Patriots: Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, and Miami Dolphins. All three teams have been absolutely terrible for as long as Brady has been in the league. And, yes, this includes the Rex Ryan led Jets that Pats fans were so afraid of. Each year, Brady has an easy road to the playoffs typically getting a bye week in the playoffs because his team is able to rack up wins against the three teams mentioned above during the season. So for the Divisional Round of the playoffs, they are usually facing one of the worst playoff seeds in the AFC. When you think about it, the usually well-rested Patriots’ first competitive playoff game is Conference Championship and then the Super Bowl.
Based on the path LeBron and Brady takes, Brady’s road appears easier than LeBron’s when you factor in how consistently poor the competition is in the AFC East and how well-rested the Pats are compared to the tough games the other teams have to endure beforehand as they vie for Super Bowl contention. In regards to LeBron, he does have an easy path but his greatness makes it look way too easy than it actually is.
One man has been accused of cheating and one has not
The worst LeBron may have been accused of is flopping, which is one of the more disgusting things players do to bait the referees into calling a foul. However, what can LeBron do if he is constantly driving to the basket and getting punched and slapped with no foul called. Overall, it is on the referees to determine what is a flop versus an actual foul and make that call accordingly.
Tom Brady, on the other hand, has been mentioned with allegations such as Deflategate. This is actual cheating, but surprisingly it’s never compared to steroid use in baseball where players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will never fully get the credit they deserve because their names were mentioned with an ugly allegation. I’m not saying that Tom Brady shouldn’t be a Hall of Famer, but no G.O.A.T. should ever be mentioned in the same sentence as cheating.
Take LeBron off the Cavs / Take Brady off the Pats
Take LeBron James off the Cleveland Cavaliers. We’ve seen it. They are in the lottery every year. Let’s go further. Take him off the Miami Heat. Their chances of winning the championship are reduced to zero percent. What we do know, which ever team he is on, they are instant contenders in a star-studded league.
Take Tom Brady off the New England Patriots. We’ve seen it. 2008 with Matt Cassel. Matt who? In a year where Brady went down with injury, Matt Cassel stepped in and had arguably his best year as a pro. Matt Cassel, by no means, will go down as one of the greats but he was able to fill such a role when his number was called. And then most recently, when Brady was suspended for Deflategate, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett (two young QBs) were able to step in and earn some wins. The only constant in this matter is Head Coach Bill Belichick, who should be given the most credit for the Patriots success over the years. It makes one wonder, what would Tom Brady’s career look like if he played under anyone other than Bill Belichick?
Greatest of All Time
LeBron James and Tom Brady, statistically, are two of the best to play in their respective sports and both will be missed when it is time for them to depart the game. However, I would label neither as the G.O.A.T. because of reasons mentioned above.
I would take only one player over LeBron James and that is Michael Jordan. Jordan never had an easy road to the finals, and faced multiple (at the time) future Hall of Famers before getting to the finals and winning every time he got there. Many proclaim Jordan as the G.O.A.T. in basketball and I most certainly agree, but it’s really hard to compare him to centers like Kareem Abdul Jabbar or Bill Russell since they played different positions and the role of a center versus a shooting guard is a drastic change.
I would only take Brady if he and Belichick came as a packaged deal. They are the greatest Head Coach/QB duo in sports. Other than that, there are many other quarterbacks I would take over Brady from Joe Montana to Bret Favre. From Peyton Manning to Aaron Rodgers. I’m sorry but Brady lost to Nick Foles and Eli Manning (twice!) in the Super Bowl. The guys I just mentioned lost to QBs such as John Elway, Drew Brees, and Russell Wilson.
This idea of a player being a G.O.A.T. is thrown out so easily that it really defeats how sacred the term should actually be. Growing up, the amount of times I heard Kobe Bryant being mentioned as the greatest basketball player of all time and even having to listen to the whispers regarding Stephen Curry being compared to LeBron James and Michael Jordan the year he won unanimous MVP was just ridiculous.
It’s okay if sports fans make these preposterous declarations because most of us sports fans really don’t know anything. But to tune into a show and listen to analysts, who get paid to do research and provide accurate and compelling information to viewers, make statements that are downright insulting to the game really shows how much a “prisoner of the moment” even members of the media become as they watch the game. This notion of being a prisoner of the moment is part of sports, but it’s hard to take anyone’s opinion/information seriously if one week they make an argument then the next week they say something that completely contradicts their previous statement. With the Pats most recent Super Bowl loss, hopefully we’ll cool it with the Tom Brady G.O.A.T. talks for a while.
I’ll leave with this. In order for someone to truly be the greatest, a la Muhammad Ali, the term can’t thrown out so loosely because it ultimately undermines its value. Let’s wait to see how players end his or her career and see how it compares to the greats before boldly and irresponsibly associating terms like G.O.A.T. with their name.
Until next time,