MINNEAPOLIS -- The question stumped many of the Pro Bowl players last week in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., bringing contemplative thought to the minds of others. Most grew up in the Michael Jordan era, the "Be Like Mike" Air Jordan icon that many wanted to be as kids.
Who didn't want to fly through the air in the coolest sneakers around as you won championships and staked the claim as the world's biggest celebrity athlete?
So when posed with the question as to whether Tom Brady has now surpassed Jordan as the greatest individual in a team sport, it seemed to bring on some sort of torment for many of the players.
"Better than Mike?" Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward said. "Better than Mike?"
"Man, that's a tough one," Baltimore Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley said. "Comparing anybody to Mike is tough. It's hard, too, because they play different sports. Let's keep Brady in football and Jordan in basketball."
Brady has the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl this week for the eighth time in his career. He's won it five times, and if he beats the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday in Super Bowl LII, it will tie him with Jordan with six championships each.
Neither will push Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell in terms of titles since he won 11 in 13 years, but he did it with an all-time great team in an era where it didn't take much to win a title.
Hockey purists will make a case for Wayne Gretzky as the greatest of all time in any sport, but he won only four titles.
That's why the debate for me as the GOAT in any team sport comes down to Jordan vs. Brady, and if Brady wins this week, which he is favored to do, then he will pass Jordan in my book.
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Winning titles in the NFL is a lot harder to do than in the NBA.
"It's way harder," Baltimore Ravens safety Eric Weddle said. "There's so much parity in the NFL. In the NBA, a player like Jordan could take over a game. In the NFL, you can nullify a guy and he has to have 10 others on offense and 11 on defense playing well to win. It's a lot tougher in the NFL."
Jordan won six titles and never lost in the Finals. Brady is 5-2, with two close losses, but all of his Super Bowl victories have been close as well.
Jordan won six championships, but he missed two years when he abruptly retired to try baseball. He won three, missed two years, and then won three more. If he didn't leave the game for a few seasons, would he have eight in a row? If so, the debate between Jordan and Brady wouldn't exist, but it didn't happen, and it does.
Brady will be making his eighth Super Bowl appearance in his 18 seasons in the league. But take out his rookie year when he barely played and the 2008 season when he missed all but one game with an ACL tear, and it's really eight in 16 – so half his seasons starting at quarterback.
In an era of free agency, where rosters change every year, that is simply amazing. Think about this: The Patriots won one of their titles after the 2004 season by beating the Eagles. That day Brady threw a touchdown pass to linebacker Mike Vrabel, who just became the coach of the Tennessee Titans.
Yet here's Brady still going strong at the age of 40.
The amazing thing is that Brady still keeps going with a ton of roster turnover every year. Consider this: There are 14 players left from the team that beat Seattle in 2015, and only five will be starters in this Super Bowl. The teammates change, but the success doesn't.
"Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback to play," Arizona Cardinals corner Patrick Peterson said. "But to see some of the things he's been able to do, and still having new pieces all the time, it's hard not to put him in that conversation as the greatest in a team sport. They change guys every year, and they find a way to make it work. Is he better than Michael? That's a great question."
As Peterson talked, Minnesota Vikings corner Xavier Rhodes stopped by and jumped into the conversation.
"Has Brady moved past Michael Jordan as the best individual in a team sport?" Peterson asked Rhodes.
"That's a great question," Rhodes said. "In my era, Tom is the king. I pick Tom. If he wins this one, I would say he is for sure."
Others were not so sure, citing the difference in the sports.
"I don't think you can compare the two," Vikings safety Harrison Smith said. "It's two different sports. Let's just say they're both great."
They are for sure, two icons of their spots. But we love these debates in sports, which is why it's a fun topic.
For years, I've been Team Jordan, his high-flying, no-prisoners style being the best I've seen in any sport. His assassin-like mentality was always there in the big games, in the big moments.
Brady is the same way. He is clutch at the right times, starring in the big moments, which is why he has four Super Bowl MVPs. Jordan has six Finals MVPs, so the edge there goes to Jordan.
"If he gets his sixth ring, those two are neck and neck," Jaguars cornerback A.J. Bouye said. "Tom is doing it in football. That makes it even harder. He's on the Mount Rushmore for sure."
At 40, there's no reason Brady can't do even more. Jordan was 39 in his final season with the Washington Wizards and averaged 20.0 points per game. Good, but not Jordan-like standards.
Brady is playing at the same level now as he was a decade ago.
"I believe him when he says he can play to 45," Peterson said. "He can do it. He's the same Brady right now as he's been for a long time."
For a long time, I used to think Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice was the greatest football player ever. That's manly because I think he was that much better than any player at his position.
Brady isn't that much better than some of the greats at his position, but he certainly is better than them all. The hardware shows that. That's why, for me, it's between Jordan and Brady now as the best individual ever in a team sport.
"Let's rank them No. 1 and No. 1 in their sports," Hayward said. "It's hard to win in football, but Tom has made it look so easy. But Mike went there six times and never lost. That's going to be tough to do in any sport. Right now, I am going Mike. But Tom is right underneath him."
Come late Sunday night, it might not be that way anymore.