The discussion around Patrick Mahomes has changed. Winning three Super Bowl rings before the age of 30 will do that. No longer is the Chiefs quarterback being mentioned solely as the best QB in the league, but where he already ranks in league history. The natural comparison is Tom Brady, the GOAT, and how Mahomes stacks up against Brady at the same point in his career — but there’s another comparison that feels more apt.
Patrick Mahomes is Michael Jordan.
This was something raised by Kevin Clark on Twitter following the Chiefs’ win — and honestly, it’s difficult to argue with.
The reason I think Mahomes is Michael Jordan is because Jordan relegated so many would-be legends to minor characters. He left literally no breathing room for anyone else and shaped the legacies of basically all his contemporaries. We might be seeing it again. He’s on his way.
— Kevin Clark (@bykevinclark) February 12, 2024
Mahomes has changed the way we discuss quarterbacks in the NFL in a way nobody ever has — including Tom Brady. When it comes to ranking players at the QB position in the current NFL, talk always begins with Mahomes, then a gap, then debate begins. He’s a player beyond comparison, a tier of his own, a fusion of production and success unlike anything we’ve seen since Brady’s peak — and yet, this still feels different.
No matter how brilliant Brady was, there was always discussion. Debate at the top. Brady vs. Manning, then Brady vs. Rodgers. Sure, time has born out that TB12 was the greatest of his contemporaries — but there was room for discussion. With Mahomes there simply isn’t. You can try to make a pitch for Lamar Jackson or Josh Allen, but they’re destined to be hollow, swallowed by the black hole that is Patrick Mahomes.
This is why Mahomes is now a Jordan-esque figure. This is why Clark’s assertion that Mahomes has altered the landscape in such a profound way is completely accurate.
We are aging out of an era where a majority of sports fans ever saw what Jordan did in his time. It’s difficult to even fully convey the gravity of what MJ did to basketball in his era. If you’ve only been introduced through YouTube highlight reels or debates of “MJ vs. LeBron” it’s difficult to ascertain the impact the man had on the NBA.
Here was a man who entered the league at the tail-end of the Magic vs. Bird rivalry, and for the better part of a decade caused the legacies of everyone in the league to be sucked by his gravity and obliterated. The NBA in the early 90s was rich with some of the greatest basketball players we have ever seen, and every single one of their legacies was altered because they happened to play in an era with Michael Jordan.
You don’t need to look far beyond the 1992 Dream Team to see this in action. We’ll remove Magic and Bird from the equation for now, since they had their time to flourish in the 80s. These are Jordan’s contemporaries, all Hall of Fame players, who simply don’t really feel “special” in hindsight because of No. 23.
- Charles Barkley
- Clyde Drexler
- Patrick Ewing
- Karl Malone
- Chris Mullin
- Scottie Pippen
- David Robinson
- John Stockton
That’s eight players whose legacies are the stuff on legend on their respective teams, but in the greater perception of the era they don’t hold a candle to Jordan. Hell, Shaquille O’Neal had been averaging over 26 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks for ALMOST A DECADE and he was still a minor character until Jordan’s career slowed down, at which point Shaq finally got his due when he moved to the Lakers.
The thing about Jordan during this time is that you could easily make the argument he’s been surpassed. There are dozens of strong, factually correct reasons why LeBron James has passed Jordan when you compare their careers — and yet it still feels different. LeBron has been bending the league to his will for 20+ years. His strength, tenacity, and leadership is to be lauded.
Night in, night out we see how hard LeBron works to be the best. The effort he puts in is unmatched.
Jordan, on the other hand, like Mahomes — make it look effortless. Let’s be clear: I’m not saying that Jordan or Mahomes didn’t give it their all while becoming champions, but rather they share this quality where they play like they’re at 80 percent, always with another gear they could reach if needed, but don’t have to. Whether it’s MJ gliding through the lane for an off-balance layup like a ballerina in the paint, or Mahomes casually throwing the ball 50 yards downfield with the same motion people use on the beach, there’s just the inescapable quality to their respective games that it’s all too easy for them.
Mahomes now has three rings at the age of 28. If he continues down this path, if the Chiefs can eventually handle the retirement of Andy Reid, well… Pat could have another five when this is all said and done. The comparisons to Brady are now locked, and will forever be how Mahomes is evaluated from here on out — but the fact that we’re already pitting him against the greatest QB to ever play the game underscores how Mahomes has transcended his own era.
Nobody in the NFL is in in his orbit. Nobody currently playing the game has earned the right to be compared to Patrick Mahomes. That is the level of impact the Chiefs’ QB is having on the game, and why he’s more like Michael Jordan than any athlete we’ve seen since No. 23 suited up for the Bulls.