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General: US sports hall of fame

The NFL bid farewell to its poster boy of the last two decades in January when quarterback Tom Brady decided to hang it up after a glittering career.

Brady's retirement, coupled with 17th February being NBA legend Michael Jordan's 59th birthday, has led to a debate about who should sit amongst the pantheon of greats to have played in the United States' four major sports.

Football, basketball, baseball and ice hockey all have their iconic, larger-than-life figures and while it might seem obvious to you who the greatest of all time in each discipline is, it's not always easy to quantify greatness.

Rice a nice accompaniment to main man Brady

Take the NFL as the perfect example. It's a no-brainer that Brady is the greatest quarterback the sport has ever seen.

His seven Super Bowl wins is the most of any player, or even franchise, in league history, while he's also the proud owner of nearly every major QB record.

Brady's status as the best at his position is not open to debate but the quarterback is just one member of a large machine, consisting of many moving parts that all need to be in pristine order to function.

Brady would not be much good without someone to pass to and it's at this point that Jerry Rice enters the chat.

Rice, like Brady, owns most of the major receiving records the NFL has to offer, including the most receiving yards and touchdowns.

Rice won three Super Bowls - all with the San Francisco 49ers - during his 20 years in the league and is arguably the best offensive player the NFL has ever seen.

Jim Brown and Walter Payton might have something to say about that, but they will have to be content scrapping it out in the running-back category.

The offensive stars can't win games on their own and that's where Lawrence Taylor, Reggie White, Dick Butkus and recent Super Bowl winner Aaron Donald deserve special mention for being very good at doing the dirty work on the defensive side.

Jordan in rarefied air

With everyone needing to pitch in when it comes to basketball, selecting the best of the best is slightly easier.

Top of the shop sits Jordan, who, amongst all his numerous honours, can list the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year award in 1988, a demonstration, if one was needed, that he could do everything on a court.

Jordan won the NBA Championship six times with the Chicago Bulls, 'three-peating' on two occasions with a break in between to try his hand at baseball.

There's never been as dominant a talent as the six-time NBA Finals MVP but many have tried, with a few even coming close.

LeBron James has done a good job of trying to emulate Jordan, even down to starring in a ‘Space Jam' film.

Success has followed LeBron wherever he has gone, from Cleveland to Miami, to his current home, Los Angeles.

LeBron has four championships, four MVPs and the most playoff points and wins in league history to his name.

If we are talking points then we can't not mention Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA's all-time leading scorer. Kareem's incredible career spanned 20 years and saw him six NBA titles, the majority of which came alongside Magic Johnson, another one to consider for the minor places behind MJ.

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Baseball still sweet on Babe

Jordan and Brady dominated their respective sports, that's how they got to the top but the original dominant force in US sports arrived on the scene way before that duo.

'The Sultan of Swat' Babe Ruth made his MLB debut in 1914 and for over twenty years was unmatched in baseball.

His numbers might not look too special today but he was on another level for his time, becoming the first player to hit 50 home runs in a single season in 1920, reaching 500 homers before the end of the decade.

From 1918 to 1931, ‘The Bambino' hit 602 home runs, while no one else even cracked the 300-mark. No wonder he was part of seven World Series-winning teams.

Barry Bonds would surpass Ruth in terms of home runs, hitting an unmatched 762 in his career, including 73 in a single season.

Controversy surrounds the mean of how Bonds broke those records though, keeping him off top spot, and the same applies to fellow modern great Roger Clemens.

Bonds and Clemens are the two significant additions made in the modern era to baseball's hall of fame, which is largely dominated by names from the early part of the 20th century.

Perhaps the greatest addition since colour cameras were invented is Willie Mays, a true all-rounder who hit 660 home runs while also providing great defensive work to the New York Mets.

The Great One is the greatest

We stay in New York for our entry in the NHL, where the greatest of all time wrapped up his career at the Rangers in 1999.

Before we unveil who sits top shelf, let's clarify that the NHL is on thin ice when it comes to star names due to the number of foreign imports that have reigned supreme in the sport.

Their brightest star spent his best years in his home country of Canada, winning four Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers.

We are of course talking about the 'Great One', Wayne Gretzky, who held 61 NHL records when he retired and still to this day leads the NHL all-time standings for goals and points.

Bobby Orr and Gordie Howe probably fill the top three spots behind Gretzky, although the man with the second-most points in NHL history, Mario Lemieux, might have a query over that.

That quartet dominated out on the ice but between the posts is another matter entirely.

It's not easy to separate Dominik Hasek, Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy when it comes to goaltending with Brodeur having the records and Roy the influence in their corners.

However, it's tough to ignore how good Hasek was, dragging some average Buffalo Sabres team to the brink of Stanley Cup glory before collecting Lord Stanley's mug twice after moving to the Detroit Red Wings.

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