Tom Brady, the greatest athlete ever? Come on.Illustration: Getty ImagesOnce Tom Brady won his seventh Super Bowl ring on Sunday, you knew people would gush all over the 43-year-old Tampa Bay quarterback.It was a natural.After all, it gave Brady more championships than any other franchise in the league. The Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots both own six championships, one behind Brady now.Many jumped at the chance to proclaim Brady was the Greatest Of All Time in the NFL — whether he was directly involved in his team actually winning the game or not.Brady has won more than half of his titles on the backs of his team’s defense, including this Super Bowl win over the Kansas City Chiefs.G/O Media may get a commissionFor the Brady fanboys, it didn’t matter. It was all about the ring total.Even if you didn’t fully agree, you could understand why some would make the case for him.Enter jumping the shark, going off the rails.The next leap was that Brady was the greatest team-sport athlete ever.Somehow, Brady had passed Michael Jordan now because Brady has seven rings to Jordan’s six.The notion just didn’t feel silly, it felt like there was more to the narrative, a sinister message, if you will.Plain and simple, it was the propping up of a white athlete over all Black athletes.Yes, it felt like the Great White Hope agenda. Especially to some in Black America.Some people, or so it seems, want the message to be that Brady, a former sixth-round draft pick, was not only the best player in a sport that is 70 percent Black, but the best in all sports.The leap isn’t logical at all.First of all, there’s Jordan, who was 6-0 in NBA Finals and won all six NBA Finals MVPs in the process.Then, there’s Bill Russell, who won 11 NBA championships in 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics.There’s LeBron James, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and many others.Heck, there are other white players who won in team sports more than Brady. The Yankee’s Yogi Berra won 10 World Series in New York.So it can’t just be a ring count that makes you the greatest.And even as great as Brady is, many will concede that he isn’t the best quarterback ever. Maybe, the most accomplished — because of all his records and titles — but hardly the greatest who ever played.Even Hall of Fame former Packers’ QB Brett Favre couldn’t co-sign that. Here’s what he said about Brady on a Boston radio show:“I think Tom Brady, his leadership, his competitiveness, you know, is he the most talented quarterback? I don’t think anyone would say that, but he’s got the It factor that you hear people talk about.”The “It factor” is a long cry from being the greatest team-sport athlete.This current over-the-top narrative feels like when Larry Bird came on the scene in the NBA. Fans and TV announcers talked about Bird’s play as if he’d invented basketball. There was the feeling that there was a narrative that the best player in an 80 percent Black league was white.Obviously, Bird was a great player. It wasn’t as if they were trying to push a bum.We’ve seen that in boxing with the likes of heavyweight Gerry Cooney, a made-up contender who never won jack.But the Bird hype put off some folks so much that Dennis Rodman and Isiah Thomas pushed back and called it out at the time.Rodman said in 1987 that Bird was overrated because he was white. “I don’t think he’s the greatest player,” Rodman said to the media back then. “Why does he get so much publicity? Because he’s white. You never hear about Black players being the greatest.”Both players were made to apologize for their comments. But they were legitimate and honest. Many Black fans sitting at home heard the same coming through their TVs.“The big controversy isn’t about my saying professional athletes are stereotyped,” Thomas told the New York Times. “The controversy is that I said Larry Bird, if he was Black, would be just another good guy. But I think you would all agree that stereotypes do exist.”For sure, Brady is a great player, hardly the greatest. It’s just some say he is in the hope of convincing others that he actually is. .
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