What does GOAT mean in sport? Why Tom Brady and Jimmy Anderson have both been called the GOAT

Tom Brady is widely regarded as the GOAT of American football (Getty Images)Tom Brady is widely regarded as the GOAT of American football (Getty Images)
Tom Brady is widely regarded as the GOAT of American football (Getty Images)
Tom Brady and Jimmy Anderson have both been called the GOAT of their sport this week

On February 7 a 43-year-old Tom Brady threw three touchdown passes and steered the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to their first Super Bowl championship for almost 20 years.

The championship would be his seventh and his first without the New England Patriots. He now has more rings than any team in the NFL.

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NBA star Lebron James reacted to the news by labelling Brady a “GOAT”.

Two days later on February 9 cricket star Jimmy Anderson, 38, bowled one of the finest ever overs in test cricket history, delivering a masterclass in reverse swing and clinching two vital India wickets which paved the way for England’s victory in the first test of the test series on the subcontinent.

England captain Joe Root reacted to the display by describing Anderson as "the GOAT of English cricket".

But what exactly does GOAT mean?

What does GOAT mean?

GOAT is an acronym which stands for Greatest Of All Time.

The label is reserved for players who are regarded as the best in their sports or for their teams. To qualify for the title a player must be regarded as not only the best player of their era but of every era before and after them.

In team sports a player who is regarded as a GOAT is someone who has consistently performed at the top of their sport while carrying their team to titles.

In individual sport the moniker would be reserved for players who have claimed the most victories in major tournaments. Special consideration is given to players who played in eras alongside other great players.

The term has been popularised in recent years with fans typically responding to a great play or an achievement by a player by using the emoji of a goat.

The idea of a ‘greatest of all time’ was popularised by legendary boxer Muhammad Ali who described himself as the greatest following his victory over George Foreman in 1974.

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He said: “I told you today, I’m still the greatest of all time. Never again defeat me. Never again say that I’m going to be defeated. Never again make me the underdog until I’m about 50 years old. Then you might get me."

Which sports stars are regarded as GOATs in their sport?

In American football Tom Brady has long been in the conversation as the GOAT. By sealing his seventh ring on Sunday at the age of 43 he not only took himself two wins ahead of the next player, but one ahead of the most successful teams in NFL history. The difference in skill sets between each position in American football makes it difficult to declare a single player a GOAT – for instance some may label wide receiver Jerry Rice as the greatest - but Tom Brady can undoubtedly be regarded as the greatest quarterback of all time.

In basketball Michael Jordan is the outstanding choice. During the 1990s he led the Chicago Bulls to back-to-back-to-back on two occasions and was the standout player in all six finals. Jordan was also credited with elevating the players around him to a higher standard.

Andy Murray labelled Serena Williams the GOAT when quizzed on the best tennis player of all time - and it’s hard to argue with the Dunblane tennis star. The American tennis player has dominated the women’s game for two decades winning 23 Grand Slam titles just one behind Australian tennis legend Margaret Court. Williams has shown incredible longevity and is chasing her 24th slam at he age of 38.

The debate over the greatest in football is heated. For years the debate centred around Brazilian Pele and Argentinian Diego Maradona, but the emergence of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo has complicated the issue. Pele led his country to three world cups, playing an instrumental role in each tournament. During his club career he scored 1,283 goals, but 526 of those came in exhibition fixtures. Diego Maradona meanwhile single handedly led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup. His compatriot Lionel Messi has cored 651 goals in 757 games for Barcelona, claiming six Ballon D’ors and leading his club to ten La Liga titles and four Champions League wins. Ronaldo has won seven league titles, five Champions League trophies and, crucially to the GOAT debate, has led Portugal to a European Championship. Across four different leagues he has scored 661 goals.

Other players regarded GOATs of their sport

Baseball: Babe Ruth

Boxing: Muhammad Ali

Cricket: Don Bradman

Darts: Phil Taylor

Golf: Tiger Woods

Gymnastics: Simone Biles

Ice Hockey: Wayne Gretzky

Rugby Union: Richie McCaw/Jonah Lomu/Gareth Edwards

Skateboarding: Tony Hawk

Swimming: Michael Phelps

Track and field: Usain Bolt/Jackie Joyner-Kersee

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