Tom Brady and LeBron James are, without argument, among the greatest in their respective sports. Brady recently won his seventh Super Bowl championship with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while James got his fourth ring two seasons ago with the Los Angeles Lakers. They are both highly successful to this point in their careers, and it seems like age isn’t slowing them down in the slightest, even in the twilights of their careers. That poses an interesting question: considering Brady is 44 and James is 36, both on the older end of the spectrum in their physically demanding sports, who will have more success and the better career going forward: LeBron James or Tom Brady? That is the point of discussion in this week’s Point/Counterpoint.
Ajeeth: I’m going to start off this debate by saying that Tom Brady has built his playstyle around keeping himself playing football for years to come. Brady still has elite arm action and gets the ball out of his hand quickly while also having some of the best eyes this game has ever seen. His awareness in the pocket is also legendary, with him being able to sense pressure from a mile away, allowing him to throw the ball away to avoid putting himself at risk for injury. But the great thing about Brady is that he isn’t just any NFL quarterback, he’s still one of the best in the game. Some might even say that he’s been improving over the course of his career and still hasn’t slowed down. Best of all, Tom Brady still has the team around him to compete at a championship level for three, four maybe even five years. The Buccaneers vaunted defense combined with their highly-skilled and highly-versatile offense makes them a perennial threat to win it all every year. Tom Brady chose right when he chose Tampa two off-seasons ago, because it really does give him the best shot to succeed for as long as he wants to play.
Nick: I can absolutely agree that Brady has done a terrific job of picking the right destination to end his career in Tampa Bay. James has also done a similar job of setting himself up with a terrific core in Los Angeles. The addition of both Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook allows James to take nearly any offensive approach that he wants. He can be the primary scorer as a hyper-athletic slasher. He can also act as the primary ball handler creating shots for Davis, Westbrook or any other pieces of the Lakers roster. He even, albeit in a very small sample size this year, has taken a perimeter-shooter role shooting 9.7 triples a game and converting them at a nearly 50% rate. James has infinite possibilities for how to continue his career. This allows him to continue playing at a high level even when he’s missing shots on an off-night or several years down the road when his god-like athleticism begins to fade. Speaking of which, James has continued to prove doubters wrong every single year when the “Is LeBron washed?” articles start to flow in. He has shown very little signs of slowing down, and the core he has built around himself has allowed him to further preserve himself for years to come.
Ajeeth: I have some concerns for James going forward. As you mentioned, he’s a player that uses athleticism and strength to play at the level he does. He’s very good when he can do that, but how much longer will that last? I know James has been durable his whole career, but his style of play typically does not age well in the NBA. Even if he has taken great care of himself, age is not kind to those who jump and land hard frequently. Also, players who have long careers in the NBA tend to shoot well. James, however, has never been a great shooter; even if he’s got the hot hand right now, it would not surprise me if he regressed to his career averages by season’s end. Those combined with the frequent defensive lapses during the regular season and leadership issues like walking off the court before the end of an elimination game make me wonder if teams would really want him around for longer than a couple more years, especially if his physical attributes decline. Brady, on the other hand, has proven himself a leader, and has found a way to train in such a way that allows him to continue playing the game for the rest of his career. He’s carried some awful offenses, led some all-time comebacks and even moved from one franchise to another and found immediate success. Sometimes, you can’t help but believe that he is indestructible.
Nick: James has shown that the yearly concerns for a regression in his athleticism aren’t overly valid and that there is very little slowing him down. If Vince Carter was able to throw down dunks at 40, why can’t the even better athlete in James do so for another three, four or even five years? Brady is already 44 years old and has set up both his contract and personal goals that make it appear that he has this season and next season before possibly retiring. James has a minimum of three years to finish both his current contract, which has two seasons remaining and then fulfilling his goal of playing with his son Bronny in the NBA, who is likely to be a rookie in the 2024-25 NBA season. While James has his current core around for another two seasons and could look to keep them around past their contracts expiring, Brady’s Bucs has veterans like Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown reaching the end of their career, as well as younger players like Chris Godwin and Devin White due for massive extensions that the Bucs may not be able to afford. The main question is whether or not James or Brady will see more success from now until the end of their careers. James has the advantage of playing in the NBA where winning is nowhere near easy, but is easier than winning in the NFL, especially when your team is as stacked as the Lakers. While Brady has shown a decline in physical ability and slightly regressing arm talent, James has shown no signs of stopping. The teams around each player are both fantastic currently, but James’ core is likely to be around more long-term than Brady’s.