National Football League
LeBron or Brady: Which athlete better defined the 21st century?
National Football League

LeBron or Brady: Which athlete better defined the 21st century?

Updated Feb. 3, 2022 4:14 p.m. ET

LeBron James and Tom Brady share innumerable calling cards.

Both are dominant winners, and both are often referred to as the GOAT (M.J. would like a word). And their respective accolades are the undisputed stuff of legend.

James has arguably been the best player in basketball for well over a decade, and his rampant run through the league that includes stops in Cleveland, Miami and Los Angeles has netted him four NBA titles, the same number of league MVPs, 13 first-team All-NBA appearances, and an NBA 75th Anniversary Team nod.


Brady on the other hand, brought a halt to his own preeminence over the NFL this past week with his retirement announcement. While he's no longer a part of the league, his stamp on football is one-of-a-kind: seven Super Bowls, three MVPs, 15 Pro Bowls and NFL records for passing yards, completions and TDs.

Both men are unequivocally the best of their respective generations.

But who is the more defining athlete of the 21st century?

According to Nick Wright, King James is the clear front-runner.

"What could be a more important individual record than the all-time scoring title?" Wright asked Thursday on "First Things First."

"Lebron will have [that]. Tom Brady won six Super Bowls with the greatest coach ever and won another one with a coach who had already been to a Super Bowl previously. LeBron James went to the Finals with Mike Brown, Erik Spoelstra, David Blatt, Ty Lue, then Frank Vogel. What all five of those guys have in common is that none of them ever sniffed a Finals before LeBron walked into their lives. Those were not all-time great coaches before LeBron got there."

"If we're going to do the ‘one guy won four titles and the other won seven,' was Tom Brady the driving force of the first Super Bowl, or did he have one TD the entire playoffs? The last Super Bowl he won with the Patriots, was Tom Brady amazing in that game? No, they scored 13 points, it was Belichick and the defense. Has LeBron James ever had the ability [to say] ‘I stunk, but we got the win anyway?’ If he's ever not excellent, his team doesn't win."

Chris Broussard split his evaluation into two categories: on-court actions, and off-court ones. For Broussard, James has the edge in the former category, but not the latter.

"Inside the lines, it's clearly Brady," Broussard said.

"I think that's inarguable. You could argue that LeBron was the better individual player, but just dominance of their sport, Brady owned the NFL. In records individually, he will retire with more than LeBron, and more significant records than him. And winning, he's won more Super Bowls than any franchise. LeBron has lost more [in the Finals] than he's won."

Chris Broussard on if the 21st century is better defined by Tom Brady or LeBron James

LeBron James reached out to Tom Brady, congratulating him on his retirement, and on a 'heck of a career.'

No two players have commanded their team sport quite like Brady and 'Bron. But does one have an advantage over the other career-wise?

Fans can revisit the topic whenever LeBron decides to hang 'em up himself.


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