Who is the Classiest Pro Athlete of the Last 25 Years? Jeter, Brady, Tebow or Mariano?

Congratulations to Tim Tebow on his marriage, congrats to Derek Jeter on his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame, congrats to Mariano on his 2019 unprecedented, unanimous election to the Baseball Hall of Fame and congratulations to Tom Brady on losing in the Wild Card round of the AFC playoffs.  


The question is simple, which one of these athletes has had the classiest run as an athlete? Some people will dismiss Tim Tebow and this is a mistake. From an accomplishment standpoint, Tim has the slightest resume but this is not the question. The question is, what modern famous athlete has been the classiest? Accomplishment here is not irrelevant which is why Mo, Jeets and Brady are on the list. These three athletes are famous for their accomplishments. Tebow made the list because he’s unquestionably classy, is a winner and is one of the most famous people on Planet Earth.


Tim Tebow won a National Championship in College Football, a Heisman Trophy and beat the mighty Ben Roethlisberger in an AFC playoff game. Tim Tebow was never given a fair shake in the NFL because of his unorthodox throwing style, being a lefty and let’s be real about this, his overt religious mission. There are a ton of NFL QB’s working today that don’t have a playoff win, Tebow does and is toiling away in the Mets farm system instead of playing in the NFL.


Tim has always been a class act from High School, to College, the NFL, MLB minor leagues, to the College football analyst chair and as a motivational speaker. Tim Tebow is class personified and his consideration on this list should not be taken lightly.


Derek Jeter was just named to the MLB Baseball Hall of Fame in near unanimous fashion, falling one vote short of 100%. Derek played 19 years for the greatest organization in all of sports, in the toughest media landscape in all of sports. He did this time in the spotlight without one legitimate embarrassing moment. Derek is the consummate teammate, a true professional who represented the New York Yankee organization in the way the organization demands. Derek Jeter never called out a teammate, placed blame on another or embarrassed the franchise.


Hindsight is both revealing and self-assuring for any Yankee fan as it relates to Derek Jeter. There was a time and place in the baseball dialogue where Derek’s name would be argued against the other best shortstops in the game, Alex Rodriguez and Nomar Garciaparra. In those years, anti-Jeter people could make strong, frustrating, statistical arguments against Derek Jeter. Now, with years to look back we know Derek sustained greatness over decades and far surpassed the other two. Alex was an unlikeable cheater and Nomar failed to have long term success.


Derek Jeter shines brightest, on the biggest stages, when the stakes were the highest. Derek was steadfast in quelling the criticism of his teammates, Derek continually thanked the fans and the Steinbrenner’s for pushing him. If anyone has the right to take credit, be arrogant of be self-first, it’s Derek Jeter and he never went that way. When he was voted one-short of unanimous for the Hall of Fame yesterday, Derek did not talk about it, at all. Instead, he talked about how being part of the 1% of the greatest, to ever play the game was a humbling experience. Derek Jeter is class.


Mariano Rivera is the only unanimous selection in the history of the Baseball Hall of fame and for good reason. Mariano is the all-time saves leader by a lot and a vetted, classy human being. If you use the Patriots “Do your job” philosophy, Mariano may be the greatest athlete to ever “do his job.” In 16 years as a Major League pitcher, 13 as a closer, Mariano pitched for the most high-profile organization in all of sports. In that spotlight, Mariano has a 0.70 post season ERA while appearing in 32 series in the playoffs. This metric is untouchable. In New York Yankee baseball, you are defined by your post-season record and Mo’s is near flawless.


For his career, Mariano started in 1115 games and has an ERA of 2.21. Mariano is a five-time World Series Champion, a thirteen time All-Star and won the World Series MVP in 1999. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Mariano twice. One time, I shook his hand, another I was able to play softball against him in a charity event and converse with him. My story will sound the same as every story you have ever heard about Mo, he’s humble, kind and unassuming. Mariano Rivera is a classy human being by all accounts and an extremely accomplished athlete.


Tom Brady has appeared in 9 Super Bowls, won 6 of them and is unquestionably the greatest QB to ever play the game. His list of accomplishments is never ending and Tom Brady’s legacy will be one of excellence.


Tom Brady also does not belong in this conversation. While Tom would easily be considered a classy athlete among casual sports fans, the rest of us know the truth. He’s either been active in or a party to many documented scandals. The Patriots dynasty is riddled with scandal, lies and cheating. Tom Brady does not get a pass on these matters. Whether it’s Spy-gate 1, Spy-Gate 2, Deflate-Gate, Gate-Gate, Massage-gate or the tragic tale of Aaron Hernandez, not one high ranking member of the Patriots organization will ever get a free pass from History.


History will mark this franchise’s unprecedented run as the greatest in sports but with an asterisk. The Patriots have lied, cheated and stolen their success. Tom Brady does not belong mentioned in this group. Derek Jeter, Tim Tebow and Mariano Rivera are above reproach, Tom Brady is a pro-sports criminal. Brady’s will to win and work ethic are unquestionable, his actual, human ethics are seriously questionable. It’s “win at all cost” and we all know the cost now, his reputation will forever be tainted because of the blatant disrespect for opponent and fair play.