lebron james kobe bryant all star

Athletes rank right among the biggest musicians and movie stars when it comes to fame. Michael Jordan, perhaps the greatest NBA player of all time, is one of the most recognizable figures on the face of the earth. With that in mind, which players are the most popular?

most popular athletes usa by state

Using Google search volume data, the chart above illustrates the most searched-for athletes in each of the 50 states.

LeBron James dominates the competition, showing up as the most searched athlete in 23/50 states. Next in line is Peyton Manning, who claims seven states, then Adrian Peterson and Tom Brady, who tie for third with four states.

Andrew Wiggins (two states) and Johnny Manziel (one state) are the only athletes to win at least one state despite technically not having made the transition to professional sports yet. Tiger Woods (one state) is the only athlete on the map who doesn’t play one of the “Big Four” North American sports.

In the next slide, the top 10 most popular athletes overall.

most popular athletes

While LeBron James dominates the “most popular” spot, the same can not be said for the league he plays in. Check the next slide

most popular sports leagues

The NFL is far and away the most popular league in the United States. In almost every state, the NBA was the second-most popular league, but the MLB and NHL did make a few appearances in the No. 2 spot.

New York is the only state in which the NBA is the most popular league. In Florida, Oklahoma and Oregon, the NBA and NFL tie for first. With the knowledge that NFL is the most popular sport in America, you might guess that the most popular sports position would be one from the NFL.

You’d be right. Check the next slide.

most popular sports positions

The quarterbacks run away with this one. On average, they receive 58,852 more search queries than any other position. We also see the other prime positions from the NFL: running back and wide receiver.

All of the NBA positions are listed as well. If your favorite player hasn’t shown up in the study yet, there’s still hope. Maybe your team is among the most popular in its league.

We’ll start with the NFL in the next slide.

most popular nfl teams

It comes as no surprise that the two most recent Super Bowl participants, the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks, top the list.

The Minnesota Vikings may come as a surprise however, as they sit comfortably in fifth place. Much of their success in this department is thanks to Adrian Peterson. The Jacksonville Jaguars are not only arguably the worst team in the NFL, they are also the least popular. Imagine that.

Now let’s look at the NBA in the next slide.

most popular nba teams

Here we see the Miami Heat ruthlessly stomping the competition. On average, they receive more monthly search queries than the entire bottom half of the league combined. The omnipresent Los Angeles Lakers come in second place with slightly more than half the search queries of the Heat.

The Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs fall in the top 5, which means that the Boston Celtics are the only super-elite franchise to be left out of the top 5 most popular. The tank technique must be working.

How about Major League Baseball? Check the next slide.

most popular mlb teams

No surprise here. The New York Yankees sit right at the top of the list, followed by the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox. The absence of the St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants and especially the Chicago Cubs atop the list is a bit surprising, though.

The unlucky San Diego Padres sit at the bottom of the pack, joined by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Remember when the D-Backs won that awesome seven-game World Series against the Yankees? I guess times have changed.

Check out the NHL in the next slide.

most popular nhl teams

The Detroit Red Wings, for me, have always been synonymous with hockey. It is surprising to me then, that they are not closer to the top of this chart. That being said, I could not even remotely be considered a hockey fan, so what do I know?

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks are familiar names that we see at the top of the list. Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane helped make that happen.

At the bottom of the list we find the Calgary Flames, whose name suggests they may be playing the wrong sport. The closest thing to the Flames are the Winnipeg Jets, who receive nearly 12,000 more queries per month than the least-searched team.


Peyton Manning in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium.

That’s it for this study, although I’m sure you number crunchers out there can find some interesting stuff using the information in the data collective. Be sure to speak up in the comments section as well! As always, thanks to Brett and Mykel for helping with the data collection. The raw data download is available below.

download excel logo




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