Patrick Mahomes is the son of a MLB player and is the best NFL player on the planet. But when he won his third ring as Super Bowl MVP for the third time on Sunday, he’s made the crossover to being compared a lot to an NBA legend.
There might be some debate on who’s the best all-time to ever play basketball, there’s no question that Michael Jordan is the modern GOAT in winning championship. Jordan’s six titles in eight year with the Chicago Bulls is the run of dynastic dominance every professional team sports athlete is chasing now, more than 25 years later.
Tom Brady, with his seven Super Bowl rings in 23 seasons as a NFL QB, did win more titles than Jordan in the end. Although Brady has been mentioned in the same breath with Jordan in the past, it’s gone to a whole new level with Mahomes only halfway to Jordan’s championship total.
Consider what CBS color analyst Tony Romo said on national TV right after the Mahomes and the Chiefs defeated the 49ers 25-22 in an overtime thriller:
“He is the best. He is the standard. Michael Jordan wins it again.”
That’s not just a comparison. That’s a transcendent metaphor. Many had a similar sentiment among NFL pundits, including two notable voices from ESPN, Kevin Clark and Damien Woody.
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
“We’re in the Michael Jordan era for Patrick Mahomes.”
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) February 12, 2024
Ranging from the profound to the simple, chalk with an unintentional apt Taylor Swift reference, there is merit to these argument for Mahomes on the field being the long-awaited true sequel for Jordan on the hardwood. From the statistical to the empirical, here’s why comparing Mahomes to Jordan makes sense:
Patrick Mahomes is in his prime at the same time as Michael Jordan
Mahomes just finished his sixth year as an NFL starting QB at age 28. He won’t turn 29 until after the 2024 season starts in September. He’s been named MVP of his league twice. He rose in the league with the Chiefs just as the Patriots’ dynasty was fading. Several future Hall of Fame Super Bowl-winning QBs also were nearing the end, including Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger.
Jordan, minus one injury-riddled second year, was in his seventh full-time NBA season as the Bulls starting shooting guard at 28. He had been then named MVP of the league three times. He rose in the league with the Bulls as the Lakers, Celtics and Pistons no longer were positioned to add to multiple titles. Jordan also usurped two other legends, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, to become the new clear face (and silhouette) of the NBA.
Jordan had just won the NBA scoring title for a sixth of what would be seven consecutive seasons. Since Mahomes’ MVP breakout in 2018, he’s been considered the best QB in the league, a shade off Aaron Rodgers to be its overall most efficient passer, too. Mahomes has a long window of greatness ahead, given Jordan was starring well into his second decade in the league, in his early-to-mid 30s.
Patrick Mahomes is ahead of Michael Jordan’s championship pace
Mahomes has three Super Bowl rings in six seasons as a starter. Jordan had two NBA championships through age 28. He added his third right away at 29 with a Bulls winning a third consecutive title to open the ’90s. Mahomes is now chasing that feet for ’25. it took just a little longer for Jordan to turn his elite play into elite winning because he wasn’t attached to the right coach and didn’t have right key complementary player until the end of the ’80s.
While Jordan had to wait for Phil Jackson and Scottie Pippen to give him the schematic and and trusted support he needed on the court, Mahomes got that right away attached with Andy Reid and Travis Kelce on the field.Reid’s play-calling gave Mahomes his triangle offense from the jump, Steve Spagnuolo has given the Mahomes the complementary defense, something Jordan and Pippen could help provide for themselves for the Bulls.
Jackson and Pippen joined Jordan in Springfield. Reid, Kelce and Chris Jones will join Mahomes in Canton. There is similar championship makeup for Jordan and Mahomes with the Bulls then and the Chiefs now. The individual talent is one thing, but the infrastructure with the teams made sure multiple rings were guaranteed for Jordan and Mahomes.
Patrick Mahomes, like Michael Jordan, doesn’t need too much else to get it done
The Bulls had some good supporting teammates for Jordan beyond Pippen. They did their job when asked, but ultimately looking at how different they were from the first “three-peat’ to the second one, they were mostly interchangeable role players.
Mahomes did get his first ring throwing to both Kelce and Tyreek Hill. But he’s been just fine making makeshift wide receivers work the past two Super Bowls minus Hill. He’s had shaky offensive linemen a few times. He’s played with a solid defense, a below-average group and a great one. He masks key offensive injuries and he’s meshed with a wide range of running backs as his balance and outlet receivers.
Jordan had his share of key rebounders, imposing centers, adept passing point guards and 3-point specialists. He delivered with unheralded youngsters, fading veterans and versatile sixth men. The Bulls, like the Chiefs had their essential championship philosophy and core and trusted Jordan to do the rest of the big winning work. Mahomes is doing that again and it doesn’t matter who’s out there in many spots.
Patrick Mahomes, like Michael Jordan, stands out in an era of elites all around him
Johnson didn’t get past Jordan in the latter’s first Finals and the former’s last. In the NBA Finals, Jordan also denied Clyde Drexler and Charles Barkley in their best seasons. During the second championship run Jordan turned back Karl Malone, John Stockton and Gary Payton. Once Jordan was rolling, Bird was cut off rom any more trips to the Finals.
Mahomes has been beaten head-to-head by only two QBs in the playoffs: The since-retired Brady, twice and the Bengals’ Joe Burrow, once. That’s it. He’s 15-0 against the rest of his top QB contemporaries, which include Burrow, once, along with Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa, Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence.
Jordan shattered dreams of so many other talented NBA players. Mahomes is in the process of doing the same during the best era of NFL quarterbacks. Jordan did walk away to give Hakeem Olajuwon’s Rockets a short window for a repeat, and in the few more times Mahomes doesn’t lead the Chiefs to playoff victory, there will be a handful of more teams besides the Buccaneers and Rams to sneak away with intermittent rings.
Had Jordan played through for eight straight seasons, no one knows if he could have added tw more rings, but probably so. NBA foes knew then someone had to get through Jordan for anyone else to win. There’s same feeling with Mahomes.
Patrick Mahomes, like Michael Jordan, is the ultimate clutch magician
Mahomes and Jordan thrive through adversity like few athletes. They don’t mind going down to big deficits in playoff games or facing early series holes in a best-of-seven. They could be feeling off physically and turn into immune supermen, making all the big plays needed to win games as volume passers and shooters. Mahomes has plenty of his own air-defying stunts without leaving his feet. He too can hit the fadeaway at the buzzer, hit on well contested shots and make plenty out of nothing.
Much like the Jordan mystique, you just expect Mahomes to win the game with the ball in the end. It’s more shocking when he doesn’t come through with a improbable run or pass to keep a drive alive or finish one. It makes you want to throw your hands up and shrug, much like Jordan vs. Portland during a run of amazing 3s in the 1993 NBA Finals.
Patrick Mahomes leaves us in awe all the time like Michael Jordan did
What is all-time greatness? What is a dynasty? What is an unparalleled champion in today’s team sports? These are not just the correct responses should Mahomes or Jordan ever come up as a “Jeopardy!” clue in a notoriously easy sports category. These are not terms that are defined by the head, but known from the gut and heart.
Once you’ve believe in everything that Mahomes and Jordan have done being like few have done before, along with seeing things you’ve never seen before, that’s greatness, that’s a dynastic champion. It comes when you hate them for winning all the time but secretly love them because you know you’re watching special history.
However you compare Mahomes to Jordan, now and in the future, just enjoy Mahomes giving off the “His Airness” vibe that we weren’t sure was to happen ever again.