Brady is Kareem, not Jordan
Brady is Kareem, not Jordan
Yes, I said it. I believe the only comparison to be made between Tom Brady and anyone in NBA history is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Some will attempt to compare Tom Terrific to Air Jordan, there’s no comparison. If we’re talking championships, records and all of that stuff sports writers love, Brady’s comparable is Kareem. Some might look at this as a knock on Brady, not at all.
From the very beginning, Jordan made a show out of the NBA. He flew up, pulled off incredible dunks and layups and could average 35 points a game while shutting down the opponent’s top scorer. Jordan changed the NBA because he shifted the focal point of a team from its center to the guard position. It’s been that way ever since for the most part. How many centers have won MVP since Jordan entered the league in 1984? Three. Hakeem Olajuwon (‘94), David Robinson (’95) and Shaq (’00).
Jordan’s effect on the game was that the NBA changed its rule to make it more exciting and easier for him to score. Defenders couldn’t stay in the lane for more than three seconds. They outlawed hand-checking and defensive contact a great deal. This gave other players in the league the means to relentlessly attack the basket the way Jordan did.
Here was an average sized NBA player putting up numbers that even the best centers couldn’t. The last player to put up the kind of numbers Jordan did was Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Unlike Jordan, Kareem’s position was the focal point of his time in Milwaukee and Los Angeles, even when Magic Johnson first arrived.
For 20 years, Kareem’s grace, understanding of the game, his conditioning and of course the sky-hook, terrorized the NBA. From 1970-1980, Kareem was the best player in the NBA and the focal point of his team’s success. This was amplified when Magic Johnson arrived in Los Angeles. Many believe Magic’s passing to be the key to ShowTime but ShowTime’s rhythm started with buckets down low to Kareem…who finished as a six-time NBA champion and the league’s leading scorer.
Now, there’s a great debate between Kareem and Jordan for the GOAT in Basketball. I’d have to give the nod to Jordan because of how he shifted the focus of the game but the debate between Tom Brady and Michael Jordan shouldn’t be had. Yes, both are clutch. Yes, both are American Sports Icons. Yes, both will their teams to victory but did Tom Brady shift the focus of Football away from the Quarterback? No! He is the Quarterback!
A comparison to be Jordan would be had if Brady could run a 4.2-forty and could run the ball like Barry Sanders and Jim Brown could, while putting up the passing numbers he does. Unless someone comes along at a different position and makes that the focal point of Football, the game will live and die with its Quarterbacks much like the NBA lived and died with its centers.
Tom Brady and Kareem’s debate is a much evener keel, let’s begin:
Let’s take a look at their stories, the polar opposite stories they are. From a very young age, Lou Alcindor was a prodigy. He was the best High School and College player in the country and won the National Championship three times in a row. He was drafted first overall by the Bucks and won his first championship in his second year and would then change his name to Kareem Abdul Jabbar.
Alas, the good times in Milwaukee did fade out and trade to Los Angeles was requested. The tough times would continue for Kareem until Magic Johnson arrived in 1979. Add in Pat Riley, Michael Cooper, and James Worthy, Kareem would win five more championships on the downside of his career but would still be considered the best center in the NBA until his last two or three years in the league.
He retires in 1989 with Six MVPs and Championships, two NBA Finals MVP’s, 19 all-star games, 15-postseason all-star teams, 11 all-defensive teams, and the NBA’s all-time leading scoring record which he holds to this day. When discussing the greatest all-around Centers and/or Basketball players of all time, one cannot go wrong discussing Kareem.
Then there’s Tom Brady.
Among the many “what-if” questions found throughout history, what if Tom Brady had chosen Baseball over Football? What if he was drafted by Montreal? Would he have had the kind of success with them as he had the Patriots? Would Baseball have replaced Hockey as the dominant sport in Quebec? What if he stayed in Cali? Would he have been a Padre? A Giant? An Angel? A Dodger?
Well, Tom chose Football. He also chose to leave his home state of California in favor of Michigan, well outside of his comfort zone. They say life begins once you leave your comfort zone and Brady’s life began here. He split time as the starter with Drew Henson, even though apparently every man on the roster felt Brady was the better QB.
Flash forward to the 2000 NFL draft. Brady, who’d had a solid college career, waited and waited and waited…and waited until the sixth round where he was picked 199th overall by Robert Kraft and the New England Patriots. As Brady would later tell the Patriots owner, it was the best decision the franchise would ever make.
Mo Lewis is the reason Brady took the starting job in the first place, as he knocked out New England’s million-dollar man in Drew Bledsoe. Although young and used primarily as a game-manager beginning in week three, Brady led the Patriots to an 11-3 record. Thanks to a questionable rule (or non-rule) and an excellent team effort on the road, the Patriots found themselves in Super Bowl 36 against the heavily favored (and turnover prone) St. Louis Rams.
We all know the story.
Having blown a 17-3 lead with 1:30 left in the game, Tom Brady let the failure slide as he led the Patriots down the field with no time-outs to a game-winning field. It was the perfect coming out party for the Icon Tom Brady is. Since that time, he’s won six Super Bowls. He’s on pace to shatter every passing record there is and is widely considered the greatest QB ever…which makes him the best player in NFL history.
Unless a Quarterback (maybe Mahomes, maybe not) comes along that can change the game by means of passing like Brady but running like Mike Vick, Brady will be the GOAT in the NFL for many. Neither Brady nor Kareem changed their positions but no one has played them better. Kareem is the classic center while Brady is the classic quarterback.
So who had the better career?
Brady’s been to nine Super Bowls won six. Kareem went to 10 NBA finals and won six of them. That’s about even keel but Brady’s numbers may rise. Kareem finished as the all-time leader in NBA scoring and watched the sport he loves become insanely popular by the time he retired. Brady entered the games most popular sport and has dominated for two decades. No one has done it better.
Brady never had to sit through the frustrations Kareem did, from his situation in Milwaukee to the dark ages of the NBA. Brady’s had the same coach and playbook since his arrival in Foxboro. Kareem had Larry Costello in Milwaukee and then three more coaches in Los Angeles. That’s four different systems Kareem played under whereas Brady’s comfort level is at an unfair level with his.
Yet, Brady’s gone from being a game manager to one of the purest passers in NFL History. He’s a general on the field, comparable to that of Napoleon or George Patton. Brady’s never had the comfort of playing with the likes of Magic Johnson. He’s thrown the ball to Randy Moss, Rob Gronkowski, Chad Johnson, Julian Edelman, Wes Welker, and Troy Brown but never had the chemistry or longevity Magic and Kareem did.
Also, Brady can only control one side of the field where Kareem was a master at both ends. Could Tom Brady go out on defense? No. It’s not a fair comparison but some Quarterbacks today are fast enough to be on defense. Despite their youth and athleticism, Brady continues to be one of the games best because of his dedication.
The diets, the workouts and the countless hours of preparation have allowed Brady to play well past his prime. He was named NFL MVP at the age of 40, I mean Jesus Christ! I know a lot of players were hurt that year but doesn’t that make it all the more impressive? Speaking of impressive, how about Kareem making the First Team All-NBA team at the age of 39. He’s the oldest to do so and it’s pretty comparable to what Brady’s accomplished.
Jordan was out of the league by 39 while the second oldest player to do that was Karl Malone at 36. Malone also won the MVP that lockout-shortened 1999 season. Tom Brady and Kareem both were the best at their position around age 40, insanity. Both were winning championships in their 40s and the debate is making me pull my hair out of my head.
One thing I will give Brady credit for, although it’s decaying, is how he’s been so productive so late. Kareem fell off big-time toward the end of his career, with All-Star nods appearing to come more like tributes than actual reward. Brady’s been able to take great care of himself and while age is starting to get to him, he’s been great in his late age.
Still, age couldn’t account for Kareem’s performance at the age of 38 or 42. After being chewed out by Pat Riley and the rest of the media, Kareem went on a tear against the defending champion and archrival Boston Celtics. He was rewarded with the NBA Finals MVP at the age of 39! Then a few years later, he bailed the Lakers out big-time with late free throws against the Pistons.
Who knows what happens if he misses one.
As far as hardware and decorations, I’d give the nod to Kareem. I’d give the moments to Brady, although Kareem had many great moments too. I just can’t get over that Super Bowl against Atlanta. The way TB took that beating. The way he held the Patriots in there and led that amazing comeback. That late fourth-quarter drive and the drive in OT to victory in the Super Bowl, not to mention the countless records he set in the process? No one in Sports History has done that. Not Michael Jordan or Kareem.
Statistics is a draw for me. They’ve both put up great numbers consistently but I’d have to give that nod to Brady as well. I haven’t seen Brady hold up the Patriots the way I read Kareem did. Kareem played in the 1989 Finals but was swept by the Pistons in what ended up being his final game. I don’t think the Patriots would get slaughtered if Tom Brady was either injured before or during a Super Bowl but I don’t see this happening if he’s in it and the time I did…it was Super Bowl 51.
Overall, I’ll have to give this one to Brady. Kareem’s career was terrific but one wonders what happens if he doesn’t go to Los Angeles or the Bulls get Magic instead. Then again, Magic needed Kareem just as much. Brady’s been able to do much with many different roster changes. He’s the only man in the NFL still playing from the 2000 NFL draft.
Truth be told, it’s a toss-up. Kareem does have more decorations and the better basketball career overall. Brady didn’t have the storied college career that Kareem did so it all evens out. At the end of the day, you can’t go wrong with either choice. Brady grew up in Cali as a Lakers fan so he might faint at the sound of even being compared to Kareem.
Let the debating commence.
-By: Thomas P. Braun Jr.