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? Using Google search volume data from the last 12 months (April 2013 – April 2014), 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 3rd 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. Below, the top ten most popular athletes overall.
While LeBron James dominates the “most popular” spot, the same can not be said for the league he plays in.
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 number two 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.
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.
It comes as no surprise that the two most recent Super Bowl participants top the list. The Vikings may come as a surprise however, as they sit comfortably in 5th 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.
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 LA Lakers come in second place with slightly more than half the search queries of the Heat. The Bulls and Spurs fall in the top five, which means that the Boston Celtics are the only super-elite franchise to be left out of the top five most popular. The tank technique must be working. How about Major League Baseball?
No surprise here. The New York Yankees sit right at the top of the list, followed by the Dodgers and Red Sox. The absence of the Cardinals, the Giants, and especially the Cubs atop the list is a bit surprising though. The unlucky Padres sit at the bottom of the pack, joined by the Diamondbacks. Remember when the D-Backs won that awesome 7-Game World Series against the Yankees? I guess times have changed.
On to the NHL!
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.
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.
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