The “greatest football player of all-time” debate seems settled at this point. But as great as he’s been for so long, Tom Brady is not the greatest team-sport athlete ever.
The accomplishments are undeniable, and oddsmakers believe the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback has a chance at Super Bowl title No. 8 as the NFL playoffs begin this weekend.
For over two decades, Brady has dominated the gridiron like few others. On top of the rings, Brady has basically given the entire league record book a makeover. The slinger has done it all, and he’s the football GOAT.
Yet even if Brady adds another title (truly possible) and MVP crown (possible, but unlikely) this season, it wouldn’t be enough for him to become the GOAT for all-time team sports.
Tom Brady’s case as greatest team sport athlete ever
Brady’s compelling case for greatest team sport athlete of all-time spans a hardware-filled 22 years:
- 7x Super Bowl Champion
- 5x NFL Super Bowl MVP
- 3x NFL MVP
- 15x Pro Bowler
- 7 major NFL records
Brady’s position is also a huge consideration. As a quarterback, he is directly involved in every single offensive possession.
A quarterback is the brain of the entire attack, perhaps the most complex and demanding position in all of sports. Quarterbacks uniquely impact offensive outputs, which obviously play a huge role in outcomes.
Thus, because Brady has won more than nearly any other team sport athlete ever – he must be the greatest. So they say.
The paradox of being the greatest player in a team sport
Football is the ultimate team sport. Brady’s case fades because of that.
No matter how great a thrower is, he can only impact one side of the ball. Brady has zero influence on defense and special teams.
He plays offence, and then he sits. Half the game, or more, is played with TB12 on the bench.
Meanwhile, sports such as basketball and soccer allow for players to go the full match.
Those sports have produced icons such as Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi, whose resumes don’t shrink in comparison to Brady’s.
None of this comes as a slight to Brady’s play: He is spectacular at what he does.
But his sport inherently disqualifies him. Other athletes are simply able to impact their teams in a much greater way.
Globalization of sports, worldwide competition works against Brady’s case
Another factor to consider is the competition Brady sees on the field.
The NFL is North American-centric, specifically catering to Americans.
Because of this, the global development and participation of football has lagged behind other major team sports.
Consider in the 2021 season, the NFL reported 69 international players out of 1,696 (4%). By comparison, the NBA had 109 out of 450 (24%).
Meanwhile, in a sport like soccer, similar calculations can’t even be quantified. As the most popular sport in the world, soccer has multiple powerhouse leagues.
There is so much global talent in the sport that there is no singular “top-level” league, similar to an NBA or NFL.
The English Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga and many more are all elite. Each contains swarms of international players.
So sure, Brady dominates the NFL. But he is dominating an NFL that has a much smaller competition pool than other sports.
Michael Jordan still GOAT team sport athlete
Like football, there are other sports where impact is limited by the nature of the game.
Baseball is more driven by statistics, but a fielder only makes and a handful of plays a game, and at-bats are divided between nine in a lineup.
In volleyball, athletes are similarly at the mercy of teammate performance.
Meanwhile, with only five players per team on the court in basketball, a single hooper’s influence is quite significant. Soccer enjoys a similar dynamic with 11 on the pitch.
Jordan, a six-time NBA champion, still holds the title of the greatest team sport athlete ever. You could also make a strong case for Maradona, the famed Argentinian soccer magician.
Canadian sports bettors readying for NFL playoffs
Regardless of how history shakes down, Canadian sports bettors will have a close eye on Brady as he go for more.
The Bucs open the postseason Saturday as the Philadelphia Eagles visit.
Proline Plus sportsbook in Ontario and PlayAlberta sportsbook listed Tampa Bay as 7.5-point favorites as of Tuesday afternoon in that one.
Proline is offering 8.5x payouts (+750 equivalent) for the Bucs to win the Super Bowl, tied for third-highest odds on the board of the 14 playoff teams.
Those sportsbooks are government-run, and it’s all Canadians will have for a legal market this NFL postseason.
While originally scheduled in late 2021, the launch Ontario’s competitive sports betting market has been delayed. It’s unlikely to be launched by the Super Bowl.
The good news is grey markets are no longer needed for millions of Canadians hoping to get action down.
The NFL playoffs start Saturday with the Super Bowl set for Feb. 13.