Ranking the all-time GOATs: Where Tom Brady lands among greatest players in all 4 major North American sports – CBS Sports

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If there was any debate on whether Tom Brady was the greatest player in NFL history, that appears to have been settled. No player in the 101-year history of the National Football League has as many championships as Brady — who holds the record with seven. Brady also has five Super Bowl MVPs — the most in NFL history —  in addition to owning numerous league records, cementing himself as the greatest of all time. 

Brady has entered a stratosphere of elite athletes, well beyond the NFL. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers winning the Super Bowl elevated Brady into the conversation of the greatest winners ever, (we’re just going with the four major North American sports here) joining the likes of Michael Jordan (NBA), Yogi Berra (MLB), and Bill Russell (NBA). Where does Brady rank among the GOATs in the other major North American sports? We’ll rank winning championships and individual MVP honors as the two main factors toward success.  

This list is the elite of the elite, so buckle up as we enter uncharted territory. 

9. Gordie Howe (1946-1971, 1979-1980)

  • Championships: 4
  • Conn Smythe (postseason MVPs): 0 (award didn’t start until 1965)
  • Hart Memorial (league MVPs): 6

Nicknamed “Mr Hockey,” Howe had all the NHL scoring records before Gretzky showed up. He led the league in goals five times, assists three times, and points six times. His 801 goals are the second-most in NHL history and his 1,850 points are fourth. 

Like Wayne Gretzky, Howe has four titles — but all were with the Detroit Red Wings in the “Original Six” era. Howe won four titles in five seasons and appeared in 11 Stanley Cup Finals. He’s the oldest player (52 years, 10 days) to play in an NHL game. 

8. Mickey Mantle (1951-1968)

  • Championships: 7
  • World Series MVPs: 0 (World Series MVP didn’t start until 1955)
  • League MVPs: 3

Mantle was another catalyst on that Yankees dynasty in the 1950s, etching himself as one of the greatest baseball players ever. Mantle’s 18 home runs are the most in World Series history, as he played in 12 of them. 

Mantle led the American League in home runs four times, runs five times, and OPS six times — also winning the AL triple crown in 1956. He finished with 536 home runs and 1,509 RBI while hitting .298 for his career. 

7. Joe DiMaggio (1936-1942, 1946-1951) 

  • Championships: 9
  • World Series MVPs: 0 (World Series MVP didn’t start until 1955)
  • League MVPs: 3

DiMaggio missed three years of his prime to serve in World War II and still is one of the greatest players in baseball history. His nine World Series are second only to Berra — winning four in a row from 1936 to 1939 to begin his career and three in a row from 1949 to 1951 to finish it. 

Still the owner of the MLB-record 56-game hitting streak (1941), DiMaggio finished with a .325 batting average, 361 home runs and 1,537 RBI. He led the American League in home runs and RBI twice, and sits alongside Berra and Mantle as the only MLB players with seven World Series and three MVPs. 

6. Yogi Berra (1946-1963, 1965)

  • Championships: 10
  • World Series MVPs: 0 (World Series MVP didn’t start until 1955)
  • League MVPs: 3

The gold standard of MLB with his championships, Berra won a World Series ring for every finger. Berra was in 14 World Series, with his New York Yankees teams winning 10 of them (he even caught the only perfect game in postseason history). 

A career .285 hitter with 358 home runs and 1,430 RBI, Berra is one of the greatest catchers in baseball history. Berra is tied with Roy Campanella for the most MVPs by a catcher in MLB history — and the most in American League history.  

5. Wayne Gretzky (1979-1999)

  • Championships: 4
  • Conn Smythe (postseason MVPs): 2
  • Hart Memorial (league MVPs): 9

This is where the list became increasingly difficult, especially since Gretzky is still the all-time NHL points leader if you take away his 894 goals. No player in the major North American sports can claim the individual records like Gretzky. 

Gretzky is “The Great One” for a reason. While he only has four Stanley Cup titles, he owns every NHL scoring record. Gretzky has the most goals (894), assists (1,963) and points (2,857) in NHL history — winning a record nine Hart trophies as league MVP. He leads the NHL in assists per game (1.32) and points per game (1.92) — while having the most hat tricks (50), even-strength goals (617), and short-handed goals (73). 

Gretzky led the NHL in points 11 times, assists 16 times (13 consecutive seasons), and goals five times. He has 81 goals and 171 assists in 120 playoff games, the catalyst behind the Edmonton Oilers dynasty of the 1980s. Gretzky won four titles in five years with the Oilers and appeared in six Stanley Cup Finals overall — likely winning more if he didn’t spend the whole second half of his career outside of Edmonton. 

4. Bill Russell (1956-1969)

  • Championships: 11
  • NBA Finals MVPs: 0 (NBA Finals MVP didn’t start until 1969)
  • League MVPs: 5

Russell has the most championships of any athlete in the four major North American sports, winning 11 championships in 12 NBA Finals appearances. He made the NBA Finals in all but one of his 13 seasons in the league! 

Russell led the NBA in rebounds per game five times, averaging 22.5 rebounds per game in his career. Russell is second in NBA history in rebounds (21,620) and rebounds per game (22.5) — while earning a reputation as arguably the greatest defensive player in league history. His five MVP awards are tied with Michael Jordan for the second-most in NBA history. 

The Wilt Chamberlin debate will rage on forever, but Russell’s championships put him into the GOAT conversation. Hard to envision any player making 12 NBA Finals, especially a player winning eight in a row. 

3. Tom Brady (2000-Present)

  • Championships: 7
  • Super Bowl MVPs: 5
  • League MVPs: 3

Brady is the greatest winner the NFL has ever seen — and the greatest quarterback. His 581 passing touchdowns are the most in NFL history, while his 79,204 yards are second. He has the most Super Bowl MVPs in NFL history, while he’s the only NFL player with seven championships.

What Brady has accomplished past the age of 37 is a Hall of Fame career in and of itself, proving longevity in the NFL solidified his GOAT status. No disrespect to Jerry Rice or Jim Brown, but Brady is the greatest player in league history. 

For everything Brady has accomplished, it’s still hard to put him past the two titans of North American sports. Brady is right with them with all the NFL records he’s set, and can even pass them if he continues this torrid pace throughout his 40s. 

2. Babe Ruth (1914-1935)

  • Championships: 7
  • World Series MVPs: 0 (World Series MVP didn’t start until 1955)
  • League MVPs: 0 (current iteration of MVP didn’t start until 1931) 

Ruth isn’t just one of the greatest baseball players ever — he’s one of the greatest athletes ever. If there were the current version of the MVP award in the 1920s, Ruth would have won every year. He led the American League in runs eight times, home runs 12 times (twice past the age of 35), RBI five times, and walks 11 times. A career .342 hitter, Ruth ended his career with 714 home runs and 2,214 RBI. He’s fourth all time in runs scored (2,174), third in home runs and second in RBI. He holds the all-time record in slugging percentage (.690) and OPS (1.164). 

Ruth played in 10 World Series (winning seven of them) and had a career .326 batting average with 15 home runs in the World Series. He also had a ridiculous 0.87 ERA in the World Series (dead-ball era). Ruth makes it to the Hall of Fame as a pitcher, earning 94 wins in 140 starts and a 2.28 ERA — most of which was in the dead-ball era. 

There’s a baseball GOAT, and it’s Ruth — no matter the time he played. Like Brady, Ruth was larger than life.

1. Michael Jordan (1984-1993, 1995-1998, 2002-2003)

  • Championships: 6
  • NBA Finals MVPs: 6
  • League MVPs: 5

Jordan is the greatest player in NBA history (sorry LeBron James fans). The Chicago Bulls have six championships in eight seasons because of Jordan’s dominance, the closest the NBA has ever seen to what the Boston Celtics did under Russell in the 1960s (Jordan retired for 18 months or the Bulls may have won eight in a row). Jordan averaged 33.6 points per game in the Finals and won six NBA Finals MVPs in six trips — the most in NBA history. The Bulls never played in a Game 7 in the Finals thanks to Jordan’s dominance. 

Jordan’s five MVP awards are tied with Russell for the second-most in NBA history (only behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). He’s a 10-time scoring champion (winning in the nine consecutive full seasons) and led the league in steals per game three times. Jordan was an All-NBA selection 11 times and nine-time All-NBA Defensive Team selection, winning Defensive Player of the Year once. 

Jordan averaged 30.1 points per game — first in NBA history — and his 32,292 points are fifth in NBA history. His 2.3 steals per game are fourth in NBA history and his 2,514 steals are third on the all-time list. There may be a debate on the NBA’s GOAT in some eyes, but Jordan’s playoff résumé (33.4 points per game in the playoffs) and his winning in the Finals separates him from the pack. That’s what we use for Brady, right? 

To close this segment, let’s take a look at where Brady ranks among the best “winners” in the four major North American sports. In the graph below, Russell, Ruth, Berra and DiMaggio aren’t included because there weren’t any championship round MVP awards instituted for the four major sports when they played. 

The reason Mantle is included in this graph is because a championship round MVP was awarded the majority of his career. 

GOATs Brady Jordan Gretzky Mantle

Titles

7

6

4

7

Finals MVPs

5

6

2

0

Regular-season MVPs

3

5

9

3

Seasons

21

15

20

18

Since turning 35, Brady has won four titles, three Super Bowl MVPs, and one regular-season MVP in nine seasons. Jordan, Gretzky, and Mantle have none in eight combined seasons — allowing Brady to make himself the “winner of winners” for athletes after they turned 35. 

Brady, Berra, DiMaggio and Russell are the only athletes to win seven championships and three regular-season MVP awards in the four major North American sports — etching their place among an elite fraternity that may never be topped by another athlete (keep in mind the other three on this list played in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s).

Brady is in a class of his own and should be recognized for his incredible feat. There may not be another NFL player that wins like Brady again. 

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