There is no argument that LeBron James and Tom Brady are the best players in the world at their respective sports, but which one is more valuable to their team?
LeBron has played in six straight NBA Finals and logged over 40,000 minutes throughout his career. But the most shocking stat of all is that the Cavaliers are 0-3 this season without LeBron in the lineup and have lost by a combined 34 points. Even more shocking is the Cavaliers 4-18 (0.22) record without him since he returned to Cleveland in 2014-15 after four years with the Miami Heat.
This season, LeBron is averaging 25.8 points per game, 7.8 rebounds per game (highest in a Cavalier uniform) and a career high 8.8 assists per game. The Cavs are 37-13 when he plays and are the clear favorite to win the East for a third straight season. He is averaging a career high in turnovers (4.2 per game) but this is because he has had to take on a much bigger role as a ball handler after losing backup point guard Matthew Dellavedova to free agency and not bringing in an “NBA ready” replacement.
Tom Brady is coming off of yet another record breaking season with the New England Patriots and won his fifth Super Bowl to stand alone as the winningest quarterback in the history of the NFL. At age 39, Brady seems to only be getting better and after 17 seasons there are talks that the Patriots will look to extend his contract following next season (Brady is signed through 2019). But is he as valuable to the Patriots as LeBron is to the Cavaliers?
Brady was forced to miss the first four games this season because of the absolutely ludicrous deflategate suspension but after he came back he was as good as ever. The Patriots went 3-1 without him by using both Jimmy Garoppolo and rookie Jacoby Brissett at quarterback, which was much better than many people expected, especially with two of the four teams being playoff teams (Texans, Dolphins).
In the regular season, Brady threw 28 interceptions and only two interceptions but his most impressive performance was on the biggest stage against the Atlanta Falcons. After a less than stellar first half, Brady rattled off five consecutive scoring drives to lead the Patriots to 31 unanswered points and an overtime victory to secure the franchise’s fifth Lombardi Trophy.
One thing that Brady and LeBron have in common is their ability to play well on the biggest stage. LeBron received a lot of grief early in his career because he would struggle to win big games, but in the last two seasons he has played his best basketball in the playoffs. After losing Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to injury, LeBron took over the 2015 NBA Finals averaging 1.2 assists shy of a triple double but fell short to the Golden State Warriors in six games. I compare this to the 2011 NFL season when Tom Brady led the Patriots to the Super Bowl with the 31st ranked defense in the league only to fall just short against the New York Giants. Like Brady in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LI, LeBron put the team on his back for the and brought Cleveland their first championship since 1964 in a Game 7 thriller on the road against the 73-9 Golden State Warriors. The most impressive thing is that the Cavaliers were the first team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 series deficit in the Finals.
By the true definition of “value” there is no question that Tom Brady and LeBron James should be in the MVP award conversation every single year. Their greatness has become so routine and casual that many people fail to appreciate how truly remarkable they are. In my opinion, basketball is a sport that is easier for one person to influence, and I think that despite Tom Brady being the best player in NFL history, LeBron James is more valuable to the Cavaliers’ success than Tom Brady is to the Patriots.
The major difference is Patriots coach Bill Belichick. It goes without question that Belichick is on the Mount Rushmore of coaches across all sports and he and Brady are the best player/coach combo in sports. Without Belichick there is no doubt in my mind that Tom Brady would still have multiple Super Bowls and a hall of fame career, but the amount of success he would have is up for debate. Compared to Brady, LeBron has had far better teammates in his career but I think if he played for a truly great coach like Gregg Popovich or Phil Jackson he would have been more dominant.
There are valid arguments to make for both of these legends and there is no true wrong answer. The one point that cannot be disproved is the fact that these are two of the greatest athletes of all time and their reigns should be celebrated.