Americans Actually Agree About the Greatest Athlete of All Time

And it ain't Tom Brady

Michael Jordan clowns around with media in 1992.
Americans believe Michael Jordan is the GOAT.
AFP via Getty Images

When Tom Brady turned 40 in August of 2017, the New England Patriots brought goats to training camp to acknowledge that the then-five-time Super Bowl winner was the greatest of all time.

After turning 40, the “GOAT” won two more Super Bowls, one with the Patriots and one with Bucs, and played in a third. The NFL leader in nearly every major passing category and the league’s all-time winner, 45-year-old Brady retired last week as the greatest quarterback in league history. But is he the greatest athlete ever?

Survey says…no.

Though a new Morning Consult poll of adults in the United States did determine Brady is the GOAT among NFL quarterbacks with 33% of the vote ahead of Joe Montana (11%) and Peyton Manning (7%), he was not regarded as the greatest athlete in history by the majority of respondents. Per the survey, Michael Jordan (six titles) has Brady (seven rings) beat as the greatest athlete of all time even though he has one fewer championship.

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Taking home 16% of the vote, Jordan nearly doubled up Brady (9%) and came in well ahead of Muhammad Ali (8%,) Babe Ruth (7%) and Kobe Bryant (4%). Others receiving votes were Serena Williams (3%), Tiger Woods (2%), Wayne Gretzky (2%) and LeBron James (3%). Among self-identified sports fans, Jordan was even more dominant as nearly one in five (19%) said the former Chicago Bull and Washington Wizard was the best ever among the 31 other star athletes included in the survey. 

Aside from having Brady ranked below Jordan, the results are interesting for having MJ overwhelmingly above James, who surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer last night in a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Certainly there are some, including Bill Reiter of CBS, who would have that order reversed and list James as the NBA’s all-time great.

“It may take time for things to settle, for the zeitgeist to catch up, for the subjective but powerful currents of public opinion to go where they are inevitably headed. The debate will surely rage on, especially this week, but the deed is done,” Reiter writes. “LeBron didn’t just pass Kareem’s record. He eclipsed Jordan’s No. 1 status. LeBron is now the GOAT.”

We’re not sure Brady would agree, as it was always his goal to surpass Jordan and his six titles, not James and his four. Brady was able to accomplish that mission, but he still hasn’t passed Jordan as the GOAT, according to America.

For once, we’re right.

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