As Tom Brady gears up for his fifth Super Bowl ring for the New England Patriots, he is receiving comparisons to other all-time greats.
Yesterday, The Big Lead editor Jason McIntyre wrote about how Brady has surpassed Michael Jordan as the greatest athlete who played a team sport in the modern era.
The biggest difference between Jordan and Brady is that the Patriots quarterback has not had the profound impact on football Jordan had for basketball. Jordan was at the center of the marketing strategy for NBA players, branded with Nike and the Jordan brand.
Brady simply will not have that effect, despite his dominance.
As such, a more fair comparison for Brady in the modern era of sports would be what Kobe Bryant did for the Los Angeles Lakers.
With Kobe and Tom, neither are freakishly athletic (at least judged against their freakishly athletic peers) but both have incredible focus and work ethic in their sport. Ben Roethlisberger is bigger and Russell Wilson is faster and Aaron Rodgers has more of a cannon, Brady is more of a “winner” for the Patriots.
Here’s what Brady said about Bryant when the Lakers star retired last year (via The Hollywood Reporter):
“Football is so important in my life and I make a big commitment year round to try and be the best I can be for my teammates when it really matters and he’s one of the those guys too. You can see how much he loves the game and how infectious his spirit is and I think that’s what I’ve always appreciated about him — there’s no off time for him.”
The same, however, can be said about the legendary Patriots quarterback.
In the NBA, there were many other stars during the twenty-year stretch that Bryant played.
LeBron James is more athletic, Vince Carter was a more impressive dunker and Allen Iverson had better handles. But Bryant was always known as the player with the championships.
Both Bryant and Brady are polarizing players and are either beloved or despised as “villains” in the league.
Whether that’s because of their involvement in controversies or because they’re legendary winners in big markets, every sports fan has an opinion on these two players.
Folks didn’t have the same hatred for Tim Duncan that they did for Bryant.
Similarly, Peyton Manning was a more accessible NFL player for fans when he was off the field due to countless commercials. People didn’t root against Manning the way they root against Brady.
Fans either absolutely loved Bryant or couldn’t stand the guy. But it would be near impossible to not respect what he did during his time in the league. The same can be said for Brady.
Success and Longevity
When you look at their performance in the postseason, the evidence becomes even more clear.
Bryant won five championship rings and appeared in two other NBA Finals, making his record when playing for a ring 5-2. Brady is currently 4-2 — with a chance to make his Super Bowl record 5-2 this season.
Kobe won three championships when he was young, then won two later in his career.
As McIntyre noted in his article, Brady has made seven appearances in fifteen years. During his first fifteen seasons, Bryant made the exact same total trips to the championship.
Michael Jordan, however, was 6-0 when the Chicago Bulls were playing for a title. He was also named Finals MVP in all six appearances. Brady has won three Super Bowl MVP Awards while Bryant won two NBA Finals MVP Awards.
In the regular season, meanwhile, Bryant won the NBA MVP Award just once while Brady received the honor only twice. Jordan was the league’s most valuable player five teams, including once in 1988 and once in 1998.
When the New England Patriots play the Atlanta Falcons in the 2017 Super Bowl, Tom Brady has a chance to pass Joe Montana for most NFL titles from a quarterback.
No matter what happens in Houston in the Super Bowl this year, Brady will be remembered as one of the all-time greats.
While it doesn’t take away from his incredible accomplishments, Brady is not MJ. In terms of historical significance, he aligns more with Bryant as one of the greatest of his time and one of the biggest winners in sports history.