And The Most Famous Athlete On The Planet Award Goes To…


“He’s a world star in soccer like Michael Jordan was in basketball. They have both been blessed with a genius that has never been seen before.”

If you had Cristiano Ronaldo in mind, then you guessed accurately. The above quote was stated by the former manager of Real Madrid and Portugal, Carlos Queiroz. ESPN released their “World Fame 100” list Tuesday (May 30) with the forward clocking in at the very top for the second year in a row. With 261.5 million social media followers within the Big 3 (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) and $32 million in endorsements, the soccer star has everyone else beat.

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ESPN’s director of analytics, Ben Alamar, created the formula which examines five categories: Facebook followers, Twitter followers, Instagram followers, Google Trends score to track search engine popularity, and endorsements. They extract their candidates, first, from Forbes’ annual highest paid athletes ranking. From there, they sift through other domestic and international sources to ensure inclusivity.

Surpassing the soccer mega star in with $55 million in endorsements, but falling short with social media followers, is the king himself, LeBron James. Often pinned against, arguably, the all-time most famous basketball player, Michael Jordan, ESPN details James with an impressive resume including the notable 3-1 Finals triumph of last year which brought Cleveland its first NBA Championship, an acting gig in Amy Schumer’s 2015 film, “Trainwreck,” and likens him to a hero-turned-villain-turned superhero. Not to mention, King James has been able to maintain the hype around his talent since Sports Illustrated decorated their cover with his regality in 2002, denoting him “The Chosen One.”

READ: LeBron James Passes Michael Jordan For New All-Time Record

Following after with the number 3 spot is another notable soccer star, Lionel Messi, with $28 million in endorsements and 151.7 million social media followers. Surprising to some, and not so much to others, tennis player, Roger Federer dominates the number 4 rank, beating out fellow tennis superstar, Serena Williams. There was much public criticism when GQ shared a tweet naming Federer “the greatest tennis player of all time.” But as far as the numbers go, Federer dominates with $60 million in endorsements and 23.7 total followers, while Williams holds the 19th spot with $20 million in endorsements and 18.3 total followers.

The NBA, with the most visible presence among their athletes, has three more entries into the top 25 with Kevin Durant at 8, Stephen Curry at 11, and Dwyane Wade rounding out at 24. The league holds three consecutive spots with 33-35 with Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook, respectively.

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