What does G.O.A.T. stand for in Sports?

The abbreviation G.O.A.T. stands for the Greatest of All-Time. The term, G.O.A.T., has been used more and more in recent years to discuss the stellar performance of Ex-Patriots Quarterback, Tom Brady, as he continues to dominate the NFL, despite a very, very brief retirement.

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Tom Brady addressing the media
Tom Brady, the GOAT

Note: GOAT made the banished words list for 2023.

Plenty of capra hircuses - the Latin name for the animal - existed prior to Brady though. Names like Michael Jordan (NBA), Muhammad Ali (Boxer), and Tiger Woods (Golf) come to mind. Same goes for Serena Williams, who, in utter disbelief, ours, that is, turned pro one year before Tom Brady joined the NFL, doing so in 1999.

The primary place where the acronym GOAT is used in the world of sports, as the arts are far more subjective and much harder to compare than who wins a game and who loses. That didn’t stop rapper, LL Cool J from releasing an album entitled G.O.A.T. back in 2000. So the term G.O.A.T. technically exists in the music world.

Back to sports, there’s a lot of Boston on this list.

Debating the G.O.A.T.s

There was always someone first. Pele before Lionel Messi. Bobby Orr before Gretzky. Rocky Marciano and Joe Louis before boxer Muhammad Ali. Mark Spitz won a ton of olympic medals before Michael Phelps won more. Arguing who is the best at their respective sport has kept many a bar owner in business.

What’s crazy about the G.O.A.T. debate is when it goes from who is the best at their given sport, to who is the best athlete of all-time. Because even G.O.A.T.s have to have a G.O.A.T.

And, how do you compare across sports? Comparing the athleticism of Lebron James and Cristiano Ronaldo is fair. But how do you compare a boxer with a tennis player like Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal?

Do you really think Brady, whom broadcasters lovingly referred to as The Clydesdale, won Super Bowl after Super Bowl with his speed? That’s the challenge in determining who is the greatest of all time, you have to establish a balance of speed, strength, intelligence, and even luck, not to mention winning and record-holding, because nothing elevates a candidate’s status like a couple of trophies or rings. Just ask Eli Manning.

Speaking of Brady, even Sam Adams pays tribute to the ol’ Goat Stand of a QB with their beer, Greatest of Ale Time.

Examples of True G.O.A.T.s

True examples of GOAT status are when you’re so far out in front of everyone that it’s not even close. You have to own rings and records. Your career had to span several presidential elections. You need the greatest combo of athleticism, skill and luck. And, in order to be CEO of G.O.A.T. Inc, your name needs to be the only answer when the question is asked.

Ok, two things. One, G.O.A.T. Inc is Muhammad Ali’s company that was set up by Lonnie Ali. And two, some people still debate these people’s status because they have an inherent need to debate for the sake of debate itself. Especially if they're drinking at a bar.

No, Aaron Rodgers is not the G.O.A.T. of the NFL. Stop it. A GOAT means business in the playoffs, where Rodgers is a pedestrian 11-11.

A close-up of Tom Brady, Quarterback of the New England Patriots, throwing a pass
Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady

Tom Brady

Owner of perhaps more social media goat emoji’s than anyone else in history is the incomparable Tom Brady. Brady racked up a better career in his late 30s and early 40s, at a time when most pro careers are over, than many Hall of Fame players in their prime.

You could even make an argument that Brady has lived 3 Hall of Fame careers all by himself. He’s played nearly 3 whole seasons in the playoffs (47 games), where a loss means you’re done for the year.

He moved the New England Patriots from the basement of the NFL to its model franchise, allowing them to hold a share of the most championships in the NFL. In fact, Tom Brady owns more rings than any other team, something that no other player in the four major sports can claim. And, he did it in one of the hardest sports to excel in.

Check it out.

Michael Phelps swimming in his lane
Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps

Phelps has 10 more medals than the next Olympic competitor, Larisa Latynina, a gymnast from the Soviet Union, holding the edge 28-18. So not only is Phelps far and away the best swimmer, he’s the best Olympian. Further, those aren’t third place medals that make up the majority of his trophy case, no, no those are gold medals, 23 to be precise.

Similar to Brady, Phelps has lapped the competition - unintentional swimming pun. The G.O.A.T. abbreviation definitely applies here.

Examples of Probable/Most Likely G.O.A.T.s

Serena Williams making a groundstroke on the hard court
Serena Williams

Serena Williams

Serena’s resume is stellar. Her dominance in Tennis is unquestioned, including her Olympic medals. But Margaret Court and Steffi Graf just aren’t too far off when it comes to overall record, with Serena wedged in-between them with 23 Grand Slam tourneys won. In all likelihood, she’s the best, but a debate could be had. That’s all we’re saying.

Wayne Gretzky in an Edmonton Oilers 99 sweater
Wayne Gretzky

Wayne Gretzky

Take away half of The Great One’s stats and he’s still in the lead. Gretz handed out assists like John Stockton and scored like Jordan. He was unquestionably the face of Canada's National Sport.

So why isn’t he a no-doubter?

A bolt of lightning named Bobby Orr got injured often enough to cause some doubt. Every sport has its could-have-been-the-GOAT players. That was Orr for Ice Hockey. The problem was that he just wasn’t more. So we hand it to Gretz on this one.

Examples of Should-Have-Been G.O.A.T.s

The Ted Williams statue outside of Fenway Park
Ted Williams Statue at Fenway Park

Ted Williams

The numbers that Red Sox - a team that doesn't end in S - legend Ted Williams put up are Hall of Fame worthy.

500+ homers, an incredible .344 career average, and an even more incredible .482 on-base percentage, to say nothing of the ~1,800 Runs and RBI ... it’s stunningly clear that he is an all-time great.

So why include him if we’re staying away from coulda/woulda/shouldas?

Because he left to fight in the war. He wasn’t caught with a bong like Phelps or suspended for steroids like some sluggers in the late 1990s/early 2000s. He missed out on a run at the all-time record books because he was serving his country.

That’s gotta be worth several hundred runs and RBI, along with 150 homers or so? And that doesn’t even count him being a pull hitter in a wide open Right Field park.

If Williams plays in the sandbox that was Yankee Stadium instead of Fenway Park, like the esteemed Yankees greats, and, doesn’t miss time for the war, Williams breaks 1,000 homers and no such debate is ever had as to who the best player ever was.

Ted Williams.

André René Roussimoff, aka, Andre the Giant, about to wrestle
André the Giant | Photo Credit to WWE

Bonus G.O.A.T.

Andre the Giant.

No human drank more beers in one sitting than Andre the Giant. Not even the great Wade Boggs - told you there was a lot of Boston on this list - could compete. And definitely not the U.S. open chugging girl, even though that was rad.

References & Sources