By Mark Paulette,
This idea was posed as a Drive Poll on Monday, and as of the publication of this piece, the results are: 1. Tom Brady – 52.9%; 2. Bill Russell – 35.3%; 3. Michael Jordan – 11.8%.
- Yogi Berra – 14 World Series appearances, 10 championships (19 years)
For the majority of his career, Lawrence Peter, or the man known as Yogi, served as backstop for the greatest dynasty Major League Baseball has ever seen. Appearing in a record 14 Fall Classics from 1947-’63, Berra owns the record for most games played, plate appearances and doubles in the World Series, as well as ranking second all-time in runs batted in and third in home runs. However, many of these records are a product of simply having more opportunities than others. Only five times did Berra hit better than .300 in the series, and he served as a backup in his final two trips at the ages of 37 and 38, playing in just three total games and failing to record a hit as the Bronx machine roared on.
- Kobe Bryant – 7 NBA Finals, 5 championships (20 years)
Kobe played in 220 playoff games, making 13 trips to the postseason as a starter and averaged at least 29 points per game in over half of those trips. All five of the ‘Black Mamba’s’ titles came in succession, with the first three from ’99-’01 and the last two in ’08 and ’09. Bryant may have only appeared in as many Finals as LeBron James has in the last seven years, but 5-for-7 is better than 3-for-8. That’s why Mamba makes the cut and LeBron is nowhere to be found on this list.
- Babe Ruth – 10 World Series, 7 championships (22 years)
While I’m admittedly partial to ole’ Teddy Ballgame when it comes to crowning the greatest hitter to live, there’s no denying the accomplishments of the Sultan of Swat. Not only did Ruth lead the league in home runs 12 times, he set the Major League single season record for homers in 1919, only to go on to break and reset his own records another three times before calling it quits. Tallying 714 round trippers, single-handedly ending MLB’s dead ball era and setting in motion the original dynasty of baseball’s most storied franchise, entire articles can be written on his exploits (and I didn’t even mention his 94-46 career pitching record to go with a 2.28 era.) Now, it’s probably time we get to his postseason successes. Ruth posted a lifetime line of .326/15/33 in 41 career World Series games, including an average of one home run every 8.6 at bats. Add to that his 3-0 pitching record and just three earned runs in 31 innings pitched which equates to an era of 0.87, the fifth-best career World Series era of all-time. So, in conclusion, Ruth was the face of the greatest dynasty the game had witnessed during his day, and currently ranks second in Series’ history in homeruns while also owning the 5th-best career era. Yeah, he wasn’t too shabby.
- Joe Montana – 4 Super Bowls, 4 championships (16 years)
I’ve spent many an hour contesting the accomplishments of Joe Montana when his name is brought up in the same sentence as Tom Brady’s, but the fact to the matter is, when it mattered most, Montana was at his best. In his four Super Bowl appearances, Montana completed 83-of-122 passes (68%) for 1,142 yards, 11 TD’s-to-0 INT’s and a QB rating of 127.8. Montana engineered a 92-yard game winning drive to lead the 49’ers to a 20-16 victory over Cincinnati in Super Bowl XXIII, widely considered one of the best drives put together in league history.
- Bill Russell – 12 NBA Finals, 11 championships (13 years)
There’s a reason the Finals MVP award is named the “Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award.” Russell posted three 20/20 series and averaged at least 21 rebounds per game in 10 of the 11 series, with 1958 serving as the lone exception when Russell managed ‘just’ 19.3 boards per game. However, the flip side is that Russell ranked fourth or lower in team scoring in 10-of-12 trips to the Finals. He also dominated the game at a time when the average player served as an insurance salesman in the offseason. But not to further diminish his accomplishments, Russell was one of the most clutch players of his era, evident by his 30-point/40-rebound performance in the Celtics ’62 game seven overtime win.
- Michael Jordan – 6 Finals, 6 championships (15 years)
The man’s name has become a synonym for greatness. If you’re the top dentist in your town, you’re the “Michael Jordan of dentists.” Not only was he 6-for-6 in trips to the Finals, none of the six series ever went to a game seven. Jordan ranks fourth all-time in Finals scoring with 1,176 points, but again, played less games to greater success than the others around him on the list. MJ averaged 33.4 points per game in his playoff career, and in his six title winning seasons, averaged 31.1, 34.5, 35.1, 30.7, 31.1 and 32.4 ppg, throughout the playoffs with all six totals leading the league in their respective years. No arguments for MJ’s spot atop the mountain need be made; I just believe the argument for the next man proves slightly more deserving.
- Tom Brady – 8 Super Bowls, 5 championships (with the potential for 6) (16 years)
Five rings, four Super Bowl MVP’s, four fourth quarter/OT game winning drives, engineer of the greatest comeback the game has ever seen, and it took a pair of divine intervention throws to defeat him in his other two trips. The argument against Brady is that football is a team sport, someone must catch every pass he throws. Yet, when it comes to TB12, you can throw this notion out. No other player in his sport has time and again shown the ability to take over a game at its most crucial moment as Brady has. In the last three seasons alone, Brady has orchestrated three postseason comebacks when trailing by double digits in the fourth quarter. Since 2000, the other 31 NFL teams only have three comebacks in situations of the like. Michael Jordan’s six Finals appearances places him tied for 18th on the NBA’s all-time list for trips to its championship round. Brady, who is gearing up to play in his eighth Super Bowl, will have played in three more Super Bowls than the next closest quarterback and two more than the next closest non-QB. With no end in sight, Brady’s current postseason resume is already the most impressive the sports world has seen, as he owns every postseason record a QB can have. With father time fighting a losing battle, chances are Brady’s resume will need to be updated before he calls it quits.
Mark Paulette is the senior producer of The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show