According to a Harris Poll conducted from June 11 – 16 this year, LeBron James is the most popular athlete in the United States. James unseat Michael Jordan who held the number one spot when the same survey was conducted last year.
The Harris Poll surveyed 2,241 adults in the month of June to come up with this result. The timing of the survey is interesting because this was during the NBA Finals, and before LeBron’s decision to return to Cleveland. So, even before his heartfelt letter to Northeast Ohio, as a member of the Miami Heat, LeBron — according to this study — had already fully rehabilitated his public image.
It’s a far cry from when The Decision turned him into one of the most hated athletes in America. Based on historical polling stats from Harris, LeBron was the 6th most popular athlete in 2010. In 2011, after he very publicly left Cleveland for Miami, he fell out of the top 10.
The two championships he won in Miami help. The public will always gravitate towards a winner. Accomplishments have a way of pushing everything else to the background. The Harris Polls show that from 1993 to 2005, Michael Jordan was the most popular athlete. He relinquished the top spot to Tiger Woods in 2006.
Based on their study, the preference for LeBron or Jordan depends on gender, age and political view:
Different groups have their different favorites. For men, LeBron James is number one, but for women it’s Michael Jordan. There are also generational differences. Millennials and Baby Boomers say LeBron James is their favorite sports star, while for Gen Xers it is Michael Jordan and for Matures it is Derek Jeter. Politically, there are differences on the issues of today as well as who is the favorite sports star. Republicans say it is Derek Jeter, Democrats say it is Michael Jordan, and Independents say their favorite sports star is LeBron James.
The only other basketball player in the top 10 this year was Kobe Bryant, who was tied for fifth with Dale Earnhardt Jr. of NASCAR. Kobe was last voted the most popular athlete in 2010, which — coincidentally — was when the Lakers were last a championship team.
With LeBron’s return to Cleveland, and the homecoming narrative, it’s a good bet he’ll top this poll against next year.
What do you think?
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