Professional athletes are some of the most famous, wealthy and attractive individuals on the planet. It should come as no surprise that when they are looking for a significant other, often times their eyes turn to other celebrities. Since so many athletes have celebrity lovers, we decided to take a closer look at the relationships between these two groups.
Scouring the internet, we collected information on 108 athlete/celebrity relationships, some dating back to the mid-to-late 90′s. We then analyzed the athletes’ stats before, during and after those relationships to answer the question: “Do Celebrity Girlfriends Improve Athlete Performance?” You’ll find the results below, as well as the top ten celebrities most beneficial (and detrimental) to athlete performance. Enjoy!
Quantifying Celebrity Influence on Athlete Performance
It is always fun to speculate about whether or not an athlete’s in-game performance is affected by the existence of a significant other. We took it a step beyond speculation, and calculated the percent change in performance by athletes who were involved in celebrity relationships. Different sport-specific statistics were used to determine a player’s success. For example, goals and assists were used for soccer players, while yearly earnings were used for tennis players. The terms below will be used often while discussing the results of this study.
Sport By Sport
First and foremost, let’s took a very broad look at our results. Below, a league-by-league comparison of the effect celebrities had on athletes.
National Basketball Association
AVG Relationship Score: 24.84
AVG Breakup Score: -15.59
Metrics Used for Calculation: Player Efficiency Rating and Win Shares
NBA players seem to be a bit sensitive. Overall, their performance tends to improve when they are in a relationship. A 24.84% relationship score is third highest of the sports used in our study. On the other hand, NBA players seem to crumble after breakups. At -13.06, the NBA possesses the lowest average breakup score in the study.
This is definitely one of the highest-profile NBA relationships in recent memory. These two got together in 2010, right when Humphries started his tenure with the Nets. His career prior to the relationship was mediocre at best. Once Kardashian came into the picture Humphries’ production exploded.
He more than tripled his average rebounds and assists, doubled his average blocks, and nearly doubled his average points. Overall, after taking a look at Humphries’ improvements in PER and Win Shares, the Kris/Kim combo resulted in a relationship score of 234.78. The duo ended up getting married, but quickly divorced. Post divorce, Humphries’ production didn’t tank, but it definitely decreased. A -28.24 breakup score is not something to celebrate. Despite this, Kardashian’s influence on his game was immense while they were together.
National Football League
Average Relationship Score: 38.88
Average Breakup Score: 46.74
Metrics Used for Calculation: Position Specific
The NFL benefits from relationships in a big way. Bigger than any other sport, in fact. On average, the total change in production is a whopping 71.6%. The average relationship score (44.6%) is second only to soccer, and the average breakup score (55.61%) is the only breakup score to show any significant positive increase. A word to the wise for NFL players. If you are not already dating a celebrity, find one and sweep her off her feet. Now.
Broncos receiver Eric Decker has been dating singer Jessie James since 2011. In their first year together, he scored 8 receiving touchdowns, and had 612 receiving yards. Compare that to the season prior (yes it was his rookie season but STILL) when he only had 106 yards and one touchdown, and you can see the impressive difference.
Last year, Peyton Manning started playing for the Broncos, and Decker absolutely exploded. 1064 receiving yards put him in second place on the team behind the freakish Demaryius Thomas, but Decker had three more touchdowns than Thomas. Look for Decker to continue to impress, as he and James are married.
Major League Baseball
Average Relationship Score: -0.74
Average Breakup Score: -2.57
Metrics Used for Calculation: Home runs, runs batted in and batting average for non-pitchers. Home runs allowed & earned run average for pitchers.
Baseball players seem to be largely unaffected by relationships. Overall, the results are negative, but only by -4.6%. Most of that comes from a handful of negative breakup scores, creating an average of -5.29. This was the ONLY league not to have a positive average relationship score.
Derek Jeter is one of those guys who has had a successful career from day one. To match his impressive statistics, Jeter has an impressive history of dating big-time celebrities. In 2004, he hopped in the sack with two of Hollywood’s brightest stars: Jessica Alba and Scarlett Johansson. Jeter’s stat’s jumped 30% during this time, then fell 13.29 percent after the relationship.
National Hockey League
Average Relationship Score: 17.07
Average Breakup Score: -3.28
Metrics Used for Calculation: Position/role specific
NHL Players generally seemed to benefit from being in a relationship. The results weren’t overwhelming, but they were positive nonetheless. The average breakup score was -3.28, which is not enough to convince us that hockey players tank after a breakup.
Sean Avery is known as one of the league’s bad-boy players. He would notoriously talk smack, and led the league in penalty minutes for two straight seasons near the time of his relationship with Elisha Cuthbert. His stats increased significantly with Cuthbert in his life. His average points (goals and assists) jumped by nearly 180%, but his penalty minutes increased significantly as well.
Despite his increase in penalties, his time spent in Los Angeles with Elisha Cuthbert was likely the most impressive point of his playing career. Never afraid to speak his mind, Avery expressed his appreciation for Cuthbert by publicly referring to her as his “sloppy seconds” when it came to light that she was dating another NHL player, Dion Phaneuf. Stay classy, Sean Avery.
European Football (Soccer)
Average Relationship Score: 50.07
Average Breakup Score: 3.53
Metrics Used for Calculation: Goals and Assists
Soccer players benefit from being in a relationship more than any other group with a relationship score of 50.07%. Their breakup score is positive as well, but not by much. Overall, if you are a footballer, it appears to be a good idea to have a woman by your side.
German footballer Mesut Özil is one of the premier players in European football. He currently plays for Real Madrid and the German national team. He has always been a strong player, but when German singer Mandy Capristo came into his life she bolstered his career considerably.
His first year with Real Madrid, 2010, was the same year he started dating Capristo. His average goal count shot from four before the relationship to 13.6 during the relationship. The couple still seems to be going strong and we hope for Ozil’s sake that his good fortune while dating Capristo will continue to improve his game. So far, the total increase in production sits at about 133%.
Average Relationship Score: 21.95
Average Breakup Score: -9.18
Metrics Used for Calculation: Earnings ($)
Andy Roddick is one of the better-known American tennis players in the world. His career started off on a high-note when he earned $746,504 during his first year as a professional. During the following two years, he dated singer/actress Mandy Moore, and increased his earnings by more than 200%. In his third year (his second with Moore), his earnings totaled $3,227,342, the highest he would ever achieve in his career. After dating her, his earning decreased by -22%.
Overall, our athletes tended to experience an improvement in their production while dating a celebrity, while breakups were usually detrimental to their stats. Luckily, average amount of damage from a breakup was fairly low, a total of about -8% in production. The average change in production was 22.1%. Guys, go find your celebrity girlfriend – odds are she will help you step up your game.
Other Observations & Trends
Though we’ve already managed to find the solution to the question we sought to answer, this data provides some other interesting information that didn’t really fit into any category. Keep reading to get a real idea of what is going on in the world of athlete and celebrity dating.
Who’s Dating Whom?
Models take the majority, with 39 total appearances. They are followed closely by actresses who popped up 31 times. Somewhat surprisingly, it appears that athletes don’t particularly like to date other athletes. Of all the relationships we looked at, only eight of them involved a pair of athletes. Of those eight, seven involved at least one tennis player. Now for a more in-depth look at things. Below you’ll find the total number of athletes involved in the study, and their preferred type of celebrity partner by league.
All athletes like to be with models. Shocking. Andy Roddick has been with Brooklyn Decker since 2009, which accounts for the one tennis player/model record. In the golf category it was Tiger Woods’ long-time wife Elin Nordegren, whom he divorced in 2010.
Soccer players seem to be the pickiest of the bunch. More than 56% of their celebrity counterparts were models, while TV personalities and other athletes were completely excluded from their selections. Major League Baseball also seems very picky at first glance, but much of the data from that league is skewed by the tastes of a certain Yankee shortstop who is utterly fixated on having famous girlfriends.
The average length of all the relationships in the study was about 21 months, or 1.74 years. Let’s take a look at average duration by league.
Tennis players have the longest average relationship time, due in large part to the 8 year relationship of Lleyton Hewitt and Bec Cartwright, and the 12 year relationship of Anna Kournikova and Enrique Iglesias.
Relationships with soccer players, on average, don’t even last a single year. To be exact, 16 of the 23 soccer player relationships we looked at lasted less than a year. The longest relationship in our group of soccer players is the one between Jamie O’Hara and Danielle Lloyd O’Hara. They have been together for four years, and have 3 children. This was a new move for Danielle, who has had several other relationships with footballers, none of which lasted even a single year.
Most Beneficial & Detrimental Celebrities
Some celebrities have a greater influence on their athlete counterparts than others. Below you will find two lists: One for the celebrities most beneficial to athlete performance, and one for the celebrities most detrimental to athlete performance.
Top Ten Celebrities Most Beneficial to Athlete Performance
Bipasha Basu is a gorgeous Indian actress who stars in Hindi language films (For all you Hindi language film fans). In 2007, she hooked up with Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo had one of his most productive seasons during this time, as his average stats increased by 105%. The year after, his play took a slight turn, with his stats decreasing by an average of 3%.
With a relationship score of -40, Amber Rose is among the worst performing celebrities during a relationship. However, her breakup score is simply through the roof, at 146. Her first go-around was with Amare Stoudemire. His statistics suffered when he was with her, but not enough to cancel out the results of her next athlete boyfriend: Reggie Bush. After breaking up with Bush in 2010, his statistics skyrocketed by about 330%.
Irina Shayk covered the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue in 2011, one year into her relationship with superstar footballer Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo has always been a top talent in the soccer world, but since he started dating Shayk, his numbers have been off the charts. In year one of their relationship, he recorded a career-high 56 total goals, most of which came during his play for juggernaut Real Madrid. With Shayk at his side, his average production has increased by 111%, which is the 7th-highest value for all of our relationship scores.
Aida Yespica’s run with footballer Mesut Ozil came for a short time in 2012, but the increase in Ozil’s play is undeniable. He recorded career-bests in both goals and assists, with 16 and 33 respectively. Interestingly, this relationship coincided with another one of Ozil’s relationships; Mandy Grace Capristo.
You were probably expecting to see Kim K’s name on this list somewhere. Her catalog of athlete relationships includes Kris Humphries of the NBA, Reggie Bush and Miles Austin of the NFL and Cristiano Ronaldo of European football. Her celeb score is 124% which makes Kim a remarkably reliable source of success for those she dates. Who benefited the most from her apparently magic touch? Kris Humphries, who saw his numbers explode by 207% during their relationship. Could this extra bonus be due to the fact that the two were married at the time? Maybe, but one thing is for sure: there is no celebrity in our set that has produced athlete success more consistently than Kim.
Jessica Simpson reached the peak of her fame back when she had her own reality TV show with Nick Lachey. We all know now that said relationship did not go quite according to plan. After that experience, Simpson moved on to start dating Cowboys QB Tony Romo. During their relationship Romo’s numbers were quite simply mindboggling. His average of 968 passing yards and six touchdowns prior to the relationship, exploded up to an average of 4047 passing yards and 29 touchdowns during. After the two broke up, Romo’s numbers fell rapidly to 1605 passing yards, and 11 touchdowns.
Mesut Ozil is a lucky guy. To have dated both the #4 and #8 most statistically beneficial celebrities on our list is something rather impressive. During his time with Mandy, his goal average nearly quadrupled. Good work, Mesut!
Shannon Brown, Monica Arnold’s husband, has managed to fly under the radar for most of his career in the NBA. First he played in Cleveland with LeBron in 2006, but didn’t get much playing time. He was then transferred to a lousy Chicago Bulls team in 2007. After that, he had a brief stint with Charlotte and then finally landed in LA. In 2009, his career changed in a big way. For his previous teams, he was averaging about 300 minutes per season. In his first full season with the Lakers, he played 1700 minutes, and his stats soared. No matter that this spike in production coincided with the start of his relationship with Monica Arnold…right? Brown and Arnold are married now, and his play is still at a relatively high level compared to the pre-Monica days. Overall, a 137% increase in production.
Mandy Moore dominated the teen music scene for a short period in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. In the midst of her run as a pop star, she crossed paths with tennis player Andy Roddick, who was just starting his career. When they got together, Roddick’s earnings immediately shot through the roof by nearly 210%. Unfortunately, they broke up in 2004, and this led to a slight drop-off in Roddick’s earnings.
First it was Reggie Bush. Bush, who was really a non-factor in the NFL at the time, dated both Amber Rose and Jessie James in 2010, so James shares another odd extremely high breakup score mentioned before with Rose. A 329% increase after the breakup is really quite astounding, but it is nothing compared to the increase in production Eric Decker has seen while he has been with Jessie.
Eric Decker was drafted 87th overall by the Broncos. In his first season, he went for 106 receiving yards and 1 receiving touchdown. He started dating Jessie in 2011, and, as expected, had an increase in production to the tune of 612 yards and eight touchdowns. This was impressive, but no one expected what he would do in 2012. Decker, with Peyton Manning at the helm of the Broncos’ offense, went for 1064 yards and 13 touchdowns. That’s good for a relationship score of 795.28%
With these two relationships combined, James has a celebrity score of 686.7, which is 500 points higher than the next closest celebrity, Mandy Moore.
Top Ten Celebrities Most Detrimental to Athlete Performance
Torrie Wilson was a long-time WWE wrestler, who has dabbled in other realms like acting and fitness competitions. In 2011, she started dating Alex Rodriguez, who since that time has experienced one of the more epicly drastic declines in all of sports.
Cameron Diaz dated Alex Rodriguez briefly in 2010 and 2011. During their relationship, Rodriguez’ home runs, RBI and batting average all fell significantly. To add insult to injury, after their breakup his production dropped even more, for a combined percent change of -40.34%.
This British pop singer dated Amar’e Stoudemire in 2011. There may well have been an on-court reason why it was so short-lived. In the previous year, Stoudemire averaged 25.3 points (second highest in his career), 1.9 blocks (second highest in his career), 2.6 assists (highest in his career), and 8.2 rebounds per game. With Ciara, each of these statistical categories dropped noticeably: 17.5 points (third lowest of his career), 1 block (third lowest of his career) 1.1 assists (third lowest of his career), and 7.8 rebounds (third lowest of his career). Not pretty.
This is a unique one. You probably recognize Elin Nordegren as the ex-wife of superstar golf pro, Tiger Woods. As you know, Tiger is one of the greatest golfers ever to play the game, and he reached this status while he was with Nordegren. From 2001 to 2010, he dominated the golf scene, giving Elin an 82% relationship score with him. When they broke up, however, Tiger’s prominence dropped by -91% according to his earnings. Her second relationship with NHL star Doug Murray, hardly factors into her score, as he only saw a 9% change in his stats while they were together.
Dwyane Wade and Darren Sharper both dated Ms. Union in the late 2000’s. Darren Sharper was first, with a 6% decrease in production while they were together, and a 32% decrease after the breakup. Luckily, he still managed to win a Super Bowl a few years later. Dwyane Wade has been with Union since 2008. His stats have steadily declined over the years, but he is still one of the league’s premier players. He also managed to win a NBA championship in close proximity to the start of his relationship with Union. This one is sort of bittersweet. With a celeb score of -55, she certainly belongs on our list, but she also seems to have brought championships to her significant others. Fair trade?
Angels pitcher CJ Wilson dated Brazilian supermodel Lisalla Montenegro in 2012. This year he more than doubled his average home runs allowed, and his ERA moved from 3.60 to 3.83. Those numbers are self-explanatory.
At one point in his career, Lleyton Hewitt was the youngest male tennis player to be ranked #1 in the history of the sport. He was making money hand over fist at a very young age and for several years. When he married Bec Cartwright in 2005, it would be the last time his earnings would reach the million dollar mark.
Carmen Electra only showed up in this study one time for her incredibly brief marriage to the one and only Dennis Rodman. The odd couple tied the knot in 1998, following the Bulls’ third consecutive championship. A few months into the relationship, Rodman found himself being released by the Bulls and picked up by the Lakers. He played 23 games in LA before being released. While he was there, his numbers crumbled, especially in the Win Shares category, which fell from an average of 7.34 before the relationship, to an average 4.3 during the relationship.
Overall, the couple’s relationship score totaled -32.30. Electra was not satisfied in the marriage and divorced Rodman in April of 1999. This did him in for good. A -56.82 breakup score came primarily from a Win Share average that dropped from 4.3 to 0.6. He played briefly for the Dallas Mavericks before retiring from the NBA and joining the ABA and foreign leagues for six more years.
Rodman doesn’t seem to hold a grudge. Recently, when asked about his relationship with Electra, Rodman said, “I’ve slept with over 2,000 women. After a while they all become a bit of a blur. One woman looks the same as another – but not Carmen. She’s right up there in the top 10.”
While dating Zaira Nara, Diego Forlan’s numbers dropped significantly. His career goal-scoring and assist averages of 19.4 and 11.8 were met with averages of 15.3 and 5.67 from 2009-2011. Nara’s case is not helped by the fact that he scored 38 goals and had 13 assists in the season prior to their relationship. Forlan’s numbers fell even more after the breakup, by nearly 60%. While this may simply mean that Forlan is approaching the end of his career, the decrease in production is far too significant to ignore the possibility of other factors coming into play.
So there you have it. Just about everything you’ll ever need to know about athlete/celebrity relationships. Have more questions? Shoot us an email, or leave your comments below!
The raw data for this piece is available for download by clicking the button below.
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Written By: Andrew Powell-Morse
Concept Development: Brett Cohen & Andrew Powell-Morse
Graphic Design: Chris Mathews