February 1st, 2023 is a day that will live in my mind forever. It is the day that Tom Brady officially retired from the NFL. Everyone already knows that Brady is considered the GOAT of the NFL. But I firmly believe that he has even surpassed guys like Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky as the GOAT of professional team sports in American history.

Keep in mind that I am not saying that Brady is a better athlete than either Jordan, Gretzky or hundreds of others. We all remember his combine film. We know Brady is not a specimen physically. But that actually works in his favor in this argument, as do so many other of his attributes.

Before I dive into the reasons I believe Brady to be the GOAT, I must note that I am only comparing him to team sport athletes. Athletes like Serena Williams, Tiger Woods and Mohammad Ali were equally outstanding and decorated. But I believe you are comparing apples to oranges when crossing individual with team sport athletes.

So, here is why I believe Tom Brady is the GOAT of American team sports history.

Tom Brady not physically gifted like Jordan, Gretzky

As I referenced above, Brady is not an amazing athlete physically. He was essentially mocked by fans and TV personalities alike after that NFL Combine video was released. Because of that, Brady dropped all the way to the 6th round of the NFL Draft at pick #199.

He is far from the only great player to go under-drafted. Lots of athletes have used that as fuel to keep that competitive fire burning. But the legendary quarterback took that to another level. He has often talked about how much motivation he always drew from being doubted and slighted early on.

Whereas athletes like Jordan and Gretzky were physical specimens. Jordan’s agility, quickness and overall athleticism was like nothing the world had ever seen. If you don’t remember, just watch game film of him. His athleticism transcends time.

Gretzky’s hand-eye coordination, quick hands and endurance set him apart from the legends of hockey. If you are wondering why I am including him alongside Brady and Jordan, go look at the record books. He has essentially lapped the field statistically like almost no one ever. He also won four Stanley Cup trophies in five years.

They won thanks in part to their incredible physical gifts. Brady did not have that luxury.

Tom Brady did more with less

Most of the greatest team sport athletes played with either other legendary players or coaches. I’m not crazy enough to claim that isn’t at least somewhat true with Brady. He did have Bill Belichick as a coach and Rob Gronkowski as a tight end. But have you looked at what Belichick has done before and after Brady? Also, Gronk played with Brady for half his career. What about the other half?

I am going to make the case that the surrounding cast was less prevalent in his success than most other legends.

Magic Johnson, who I personally have as the fourth greatest basketball player ever behind Jordan, LeBron James and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, was lucky enough to play with a team full of Hall of Famers. Jordan himself never found any success until Scottie Pippen joined him. If you are too young to understand how great Pippen was, you missed out. He was actually my favorite basketball player as a child. I used to manually track all of his stats every Sunday night when the Bulls were on NBC. To this day, I stand by the sentiment that Pippen is the best on-ball defender in the history of basketball. They were coached by Phil Jackson too. We can’t overlook that.

Gretzky played alongside Mark Messier and Jari Kurri, two of the other top 10 greatest players ever. That Edmonton Oilers team was unbelievably loaded.

People blatantly misperceive what Brady worked with throughout his career though. He won his first Super Bowl with Troy Brown as his leading receiver and Antoine Smith as his running back. He turned so many players who could barely land roster spots elsewhere into elite players. Julian Edelman, a college quarterback, was turned into a borderline Hall of Fame player (I don’t have him in). Wes Welker was a nobody in Miami, got to New England and set all sorts of slot receiver records. Mr. Glass, Danny Amendola, became relevant and healthy. The list goes on and on.

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Randy Moss, the best weapon Brady ever played with, played two seasons and a few games with him. Yup, that’s it.

There were so many receivers that people have only ever heard of because of Brady. The same cannot be said for most other legendary sports figures.

Tom was an unbelievable motivator with an insane level of focus

Brady has been known to raise everyone’s game around him. He is a fantastic leader and teammate.

Peyton Manning was surely more talented. But did you ever notice how Manning would sit on the sidelines after a playoff interception or if things weren’t going well. He usually had his head hung low, sulking. Brady, on the other hand, you see getting in players’ faces, firing them up, instilling belief.

That belief and confidence in his teammates that Brady instilled were what created magic. Do you really think the Patriots players would have played as well as they did that final quarter and change in the crazy Super Bowl comeback if Brady wasn’t their quarterback? Of course not. They knew that with TB12 under center, they always had a chance.

LeSean McCoy played with Brady when the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl a couple years ago. After news of Brady’s retirement broke, McCoy expressed in detail the kind of teammate he was on television. McCoy pointed out that during the playoff run, Tom would text all the offensive players each week, pointing out things he noticed on game film. He talked about how he had never played with a player with that level of focus, intensity and preparation before, saying “he was on another level.”

McCoy is far from the only former teammate to recognize Tom Brady’s mental aptitude.

Longevity matters

It’s truly insane when you think about the fact that Brady has had three separate Hall of Fame careers. His 20’s, his 30’s and his 40’s would each put him into the Hall of Fame by themselves.

What Brady has accomplished after turning 40 is particularly special. We’ve seen a handful of legends play into their 40’s. Gordie Howe and Brett Favre come to mind. But they didn’t win titles and still play as an elite of the sport.

LeBron James is the closest comp in this regard. It’s for that reason that some people don’t even have Jordan as the GOAT of basketball. But everyone knows who is the NFL’s GOAT.

The final feather, going to the franchise with the worst record in the history of American team sports, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and winning a Super Bowl at age 43, is flat out ridiculous. Notice I made this case without even mentioning all of the winning. The seven Super Bowl titles, 10 conference championship wins, practically every record imaginable, all feats I didn’t even talk about.

Tom Brady is the greatest of all-time in American professional team sports.