Every once in a while, in any sport played in the USA, there is a player who walks off the field in their final game and, metaphorically, straight into the Hall of Fame. Such players are not like Zach Thomas, who played with distinction for years in the NFL but was unfortunate to miss out repeatedly until he was inducted this year. A “first ballot” Hall of Famer, someone who after the mandatory five years of retirement is elected in his first year of eligibility, is rare - but we can be fairly sure that in 2028, Tom Brady will be one.
What is it that makes a player such an inevitable inductee into their sport’s Valhalla in this way? It differs between sports, from a statistical point of view. If people are heading to sinlicencia.org to find a betting site just so they can bet on one team, there is a fair chance it has a first ballot Hall of Famer on it. But there are certain characteristics about a player whose place in the pantheon of greats is guaranteed, and we’ll run through them here.
They can carry a team on their back
Not that they’ll usually need to, because the presence of such a player attracts other high-achievers and improves the players around them. But a player like Brady or Michael Jordan could go into a seeming fugue state where the sport happened through them, making clutch play after clutch play and delivering a team to the optimal success whenever they needed to. In 2017, Brady took the Patriots from 28-3 down at the half to win in overtime against the Falcons, securing yet another Super Bowl ring. And the scary thing about it was just how routine he made it look.
They are admired even by those who can’t like them
You could say that Brady and Jordan lacked a certain natural charisma that made people warm to them as people. This is often a trait in perfectionists and winners; they don’t always understand or value the idea of being liked. When it comes down to it, doing what they do to the highest possible degree is what matters to them. When they’re doing their thing, rival fans may be praying for them to come up short. But the main reason people are happy to see those rare failures is because they know that if a player like this gets in a groove, there’s nothing the opponent can do to stop them. We may not always love these players, but we can’t help but admire them.
They are talked about as future Hall of Famers before they’ve even retired
Zach Thomas is the perfect example of someone who deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, but had to wait years before he was finally inducted. There was uncertainty as to whether it would happen, because he was good, but there was a dispute over whether he was great. There is no disputing the greatness of a Brady, a Jordan, or a Wayne Gretzky. The closest thing we have to a future first ballot inductee in any sport right now is probably LeBron James - and to reach that level, look at the career he’s had to have.
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