In a barbershop conversation released by UNINTERRUPTED last week, LeBron James made the case that Tom Brady cannot be considered the greatest athlete of all time -- and that he'd disqualify football players from the conversation because they only play on one side of the ball.
Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe reacted to LeBron's comments on Monday's episode of "Undisputed," and Bayless explained why LeBron is seriously underrating the five-time Super Bowl champion.
Geoff BurkeGeoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
LeBron James: Football players only impact one side of the game
“My only argument with a football player being the greatest athlete of all time is that they’ve only got to play one side of the floor. Brady is unbelievable. Brady is the greatest quarterback I’ve ever seen -- but he affects the game one way, and that’s by throwing the ball. And it’s great, it’s great. Brady could play 22 years, but he don’t have to worry about certain things … Just as a basketball player, the pounding that you take and running both sides. ‘OK, now I’ve got to do offense. Oh [expletive], I’ve got to get back on defense. Oh [expletive], I’ve got to get back on offense. …
"As physical as football is, and I know it’s crazy to the body. But for a quarterback, (Bill) Belichick has done a great job of implementing those five guys in front to protect that asset. That’s on Belichick, that’s not Brady.
"For us, every single night you have to know both sides. I’m not saying he’s not great. He’s the greatest football player of all time.”
Tom Brady is not even the greatest athlete to ever play football
“Why are you smiling, [Skip]? Because LeBron is saying everything I’ve always said?
"Skip, I’ve said this all along. First of all, Tom Brady’s not even the greatest athlete to ever play football. Let me ask you this, Skip, is he a better athlete than Deion Sanders? Is he a better athlete than Bo Jackson? No!
"And this is no disrespect. I’m trying to [remember], I keep going back -- because I had DVR’d the Super Bowl -- and I kept rewinding it because I wanted to see Tom Brady sack Matt Ryan and cause that fumble. It was still Dont’a Hightower!”
Stew MilneStew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
You can't be the 'greatest athlete' if you only do one thing
“For basketball players, because they affect the game both offensively and defensively, not only can LeBron score 30 but he can also steal the ball, he can block the shots. He can also D-up players. So when you’re comparing athletes - football players, basketball players, baseball players, tennis or golf -- if I’m going to give it to a guy or a woman who is in a team sport, you have to be able to do other things than throw the football or hand the football off. You must impact the defense.
"In ’96, Skip, you remember when Michael [Irvin] missed those five games, Deion [Sanders] caught 37 passes. He played offense and defense. He also was a dynamic punt and kick returner.
"Bo Jackson went to the All-Star Game in baseball, he went to the Pro Bowl in football in the same season. So those two guys, we’re not questioning their athleticism.”
Dan HamiltonDan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Tom Brady is a phenomenal quarterback, but in terms of athleticism this isn't even close
“Tom Brady is a great quarterback, and you can make the case that he’s the greatest football player -- but as far as athletes, when you branch out, when you talk about the Olympics and Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps, or you talk about boxing and Muhammad Ali, Floyd Mayweather, or you talk about basketball… . no Skip, Brady’s not. Tom Brady’s not even the greatest athlete on his own team. He’s not the greatest athlete to play in the NFL, and that’s no disrespect to what he’s accomplished.
"When you’re talking about athleticism, it’s not even close.”
Mark J. RebilasMark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Tom Brady plays the toughest position in sports better than anyone else
“So here’s the flashpoint of this debate: the word athlete. Is it possible that you can be a great athlete without being as athletic as other athletes?
"… [LeBron] cannot wrap his mind around the concept that Tom Brady -- who ran the ugliest looking 40-yard-dash in the history of the Combine, who did that awful-looking dance in Brazil or wherever he was -- that guy was athletic? He’s the greatest athlete ever?
"Well we have to look past that word athlete, because he is what he is. He’s a football player, right?
"To LeBron’s credit, he jumped right in and said, ‘Oh well he’s the greatest quarterback ever, there’s no debate about that.’
"But it requires some athleticism, if not a whole lot of athleticism, to play the hardest position to play in all of sports -- which is quarterback.”
Brady's job is much tougher than LeBron's
“I would submit to you and to LeBron that Brady’s job, as a one-way job, is far harder to do than LeBron’s two-way job of playing offense and defense during an NBA game.
"My point to you is the underrated, underestimated athleticism of the quarterback position is footwork. Tap dancing in the pocket to avoid what’s coming at you at all sides. You have to process what 11 people are doing on the other side of the ball -- four, five or six of them are trying to get you -- and you’ve got up to five people running different directions against however many people are trying to cover the pass. And it is happening like gangbusters before your eyes.
"So you’ve got to process that while tap dancing, and it’s subtle, but it’s footwork in the pocket, and then deliver an on-target, catchable pass … which nobody has ever done better than this guy consistently, routinely. It’s very hard to do because very few can do it consistently at the highest level that this guy has.”