Unlike in basketball, where the GOAT debate between Michael Jordan and LeBron James will forever be fought out in theoretical arguments on TV and in the comment sections, the NFL’s battle between the greatest player of all time and the greatest player on the planet will actually take place on the field! And it will happen next Sunday.

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There are two reasons why Super Bowl LV boasts one of the most exciting matchups in recent history. For starters, a clash of two players of this magnitude that are also representing different eras on the biggest stage of the game is extremely rare. Michael Jordan never faced Kobe in the Finals. And neither did the Black Mamba face King James. (BTW: Here is why!)

The second reason is the fact that the result of the monumental matchup going down in Tampa, Fl. on Sunday, February 7th, will have a significant impact on the perception of the greatest football player of all time, regardless of which team ends up hoisting the Vincent Lombardi trophy that day.

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There is equally much at stake for both Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes, the two quarterbacks and unquestionable focal points of the game. Regardless of their current status, a win in SB LV – and therefore beating their respective opponent head-to-head on football’s biggest stage – will significantly alter either player’s legacy.

Tom Brady winning his seventh title at 43 years old would not only be the ultimate cherry on an already convincing NFL GOAT sundae (no other quarterback has won more than four) but would put him firmly in the conversation of greatest athlete regardless of his/her sport. Not only would he trump Jordan’s total of six, but seven wins in ten appearances easily beat LeBron’s Finals win-ratio.

On the other hand, Patrick Mahomes, at just 25 years old, has had close to the perfect start to his NFL career with an MVP trophy, two Super Bowl appearances, and one win already under his belt. With Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Russell Wilson all falling short of winning their second ring this year, Mahomes is in a prime position to establish himself as the only realistic (long-shot) option to someday eventually de-throne Brady.

“It’s pretty early in my career [to talk about the GOAT topic]. I’ve had a good start to my career, but to be the GOAT, you have to be consistent throughout your entire career and play at a high level. There are some other players in the NFL that have done it, so I still have a long way to go.”

Patrick Mahomes

If Brady wins his favorite ring, the GOAT debate is all but a done deal. Should Mahomes take home his second ring, he’d remain in the running for being “the goatling” while also securing the significant head-to-head win over Brady on the Super Bowl stage.

The GOAT vs. the goatling – Image by Dusan Veverkolog

Can Mahomes, the miracle-worker who overcame multiple double-digit deficits in last year’s Playoff (and SB) run, officially grab the torch from the player they dubbed “the comeback kid” earlier in his esteemed career? Or does Brady settle the debate once and for all? The world won’t find out until Super Bowl Sunday, but we all know that football legacy will be on the line come kick-off.

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