The NFL season is over, which is good, because now we can start laughing at people who insist that Tom Brady is the greatest athlete of all time.

What Brady is, is the most accomplished modern player at the most important position in America's most popular sport. That's not the same thing as being the greatest athlete.

The Greatest Athlete of All Time is a category created to create debates, not end them, and that is fitting, because there is no rational way to compare men and women, those in individual sports and those who play for teams, and those who played in different eras.

You want to make a case for Simone Biles, Serena Williams, Muhammad Ali, Jerry Rice, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, LeBron or Willie Mays? You can.

You want to make a case for Brady? Put down the chowder and buy a TV.

If we're going to use the word "athlete," then we must measure athletic ability and how the athlete uses it. Brady takes a snap, backpedals a few steps, looks around and flicks his arm. He is not fast, and compared to those who play his sport he is not strong or agile.

Take any other position in any other major sport, and James would drub Brady, and if James had decided at a young age to become an NFL quarterback, he might have revolutionized the position. Or dominated another.

When James was a junior in high school, longtime recruiting analyst Tom Lemming rated him one of the 10 best receiving prospects he had seen in 20 years.

James could have excelled at quarterback, receiver, tight end, edge rusher or linebacker.

Can you imagine Brady in the NBA? As something other than a referee?

On Tuesday night, James and his Los Angeles Lakers visited Target Center to face the Timberwolves, and it's a shame that fans couldn't see him in person. He's 6-9, 250 pounds and as well-conditioned as he ever has been. At 36, he is coming off his fourth NBA title, achieved with three different teams, and entered the game averaging 25.5 points, eight assists and eight rebounds per game.

Tuesday night, on a trip to the frigid tundra, to play just another game against just another losing team in his 18th season, James displayed his repertoire. A catch-and-shoot three, a sweeping hook, lane floaters, open-court spins, court-length passes, blind-side blocks.

He finished with 30 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists in the Lakers' 112-104 victory, providing an effort representative of the most complete resume in NBA history.

He ranks third in NBA history in points, and will eventually surpass current leader Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He ranks eighth in NBA history in assists and is likely to finish either second or third in that category, with John Stockton's 15,806 likely being out of reach.

There are only two players who rank in the top 25 all time in points and assists — Oscar Robertson, who is 13th in points and sixth in assists. And James, who ranks third and eighth.

Last year, James led the league with a career-best 10.2 assists per game, and he has made the NBA all-defense first team five times.

His rival for greatest player in NBA history (or recent NBA history) may be his primary rival for greatest athlete in a men's sport of all time: Michael Jordan.

Jordan won six NBA titles, in two three-season bursts. Jordan seemed the more dominant player in his prime, and averaged more points per game (30.1 to LeBron's 27.0).

James averaged 1.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists more per game. Jordan averaged .7 steals more per game.

James' effective field goal percentage: 54.2. Jordan's: 50.9.

Both excelled on defense, but James, being taller and thicker, is more versatile than Jordan was.

James can't match Jordan's championship production in his prime, but he will far outpace him in cumulative production, and may yet catch him in total titles.

"I've just never put a ceiling on my potential," James said recently.

Or an expiration date on his dominance.

Jim Souhan did not attend this game. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the game. His podcast can be heard at On Twitter: @SouhanStrib.