The biggest trending topic in sports media lately has been the Michael Jordan-Tom Brady comparisons. I would have to say that this debate reminds me a little bit too much of busy work, and a classic example of apples to oranges comparisons.
First, I always found it be kind of dumb to compare athletes from two entirely different sports. Hell, sometimes you can’t even compare two guys in the same sport. You can’t compare pitchers to position players and you can’t compare football players at totally different positions ie. a Wide Receiver to a Quarterback. Now that Tom Brady is regarded by many football fans and experts as the GOAT, a much more interesting debate has emerged, Brady compared to Jordan.
This debate is quite stupid and kind of a waste of time. Why should we take two different all-time greats from two different sports and try to say who’s better? Let me be clear, I’m not one of those debate shunners who says “just appreciate greatness.” Hell, the greatest appreciation of greatness is passionately debating who is better! However, there has to be a logical foundation for any kind of debate to be productive and worthwhile, which this debate lacks.
The biggest problem with this discussion, in general, is how do you define better? Is it based off of titles, pure relative ability, athleticism, dominance or value? The bottom line is, Brady never has the same intrinsic value as Michael Jordan, or any all-time great basketball player for that matter, no matter how the conversation is twisted. Jordan was one of five guys on his team on the court at once and played both ends of the floor. Brady is one of 11 on the field at once and only plays one side of the ball. Virtually everything that happened in any game could’ve been attributed to Michael Jordan somehow. During segments of the games in which he sat out, the results of the team are largely reflective of Michael Jordan’s impact on the court. The same can’t be said about Tom Brady. His ability to take snaps under center has absolutely nothing to do with the defense. In fairness, his ability to not turn the ball over on offense reflects the defense, but that’s about it. It’s not like Brady has the ability to play defense.
Not to mention, football is a more complex sport. There are all different members of a coaching staff, all different complicated plays and all sort of situations that can go wrong for either team on the field that can either go unexpectedly right or devastatingly wrong. This is why I say football is an off mix of a crap shoot and a lab experiment. It’s impossible to know what will happen consistently. Basketball is more about superstars dominating teams and changing the league, while football is more about formulas changing the league. As great as Jordan was, he did change the NBA. So did Magic, Bird, Wilt, and LeBron. Brady didn’t change the NFL in the same way. This isn’t at all a knock on Brady, it’s just not possible for Brady to be as impactful as an all-time great NBA in his respective position.
Let me take this a step further. Imagine, for a second, you’re a GM in either the NBA or the NFL. Who do you think is a more impactful draft pick or signing? Tom Brady or Kobe Bryant? Anybody would obviously answer Kobe, not much of a comparison, for all the aforementioned reasons. That being said, Kobe wasn’t as great as a basketball player as Brady is as a quarterback, not even close. Brady is at least in the conversation as the best ever at his position, and in many people’s estimations, the best ever. Kobe isn’t even arguably a top-5 all-time NBA great, not even close. Yet, having Kobe on your NBA team is more impactful than having Tom Brady on your football team, I’m sure anybody reading this would agree with both of these statements. So, where do you draw the line? Do you just look at greatness relative to his position, or do we implement a one-size fits all approach that would unfairly favor basketball players over football players? If you were to poll 100 people on that question, chances are, the result would be around 50-50. This is why this stupid, elbow-licking argument will only go around in circles.