The World’s Most Popular Sports Stars | Running Hub | SportsShoes.com

Who are the world’s most popular sports stars?

For as long as there’s been professional sports, there have been iconic sportspeople. Figures like Babe Ruth, Muhammed Ali, David Beckham and Billie Jean King have historically become household names, with their most famous moments featured in countless news stories, documentaries and even movies.

But, while those stars have been popular over the last century, we wanted to take a look at the most popular sportspeople right here and now and reveal which sporting heroes are piquing our interest the most globally.

To find out, we dug into Google search data to discover which sports stars have been Googled the most in different countries over the past 12 months, revealing the most popular male and female athletes around the globe. We broke our findings down into the most popular male sportspeople and female sportspeople, before taking a look at the most searched for figures in a variety of our favourite sports – including running, cycling, swimming and CrossFit. Read on to find out more...

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The World’s Most Popular Sports Stars

Written By: SportsShoes

For as long as there’s been professional sports, there have been iconic sportspeople. Figures like Babe Ruth, Muhammed Ali, David Beckham and Billie Jean King have historically become household names, with their most famous moments featured in countless news stories, documentaries and even movies.

But, while those stars have been popular over the last century, we wanted to take a look at the most popular sportspeople right here and now and reveal which sporting heroes are piquing our interest the most globally.

To find out, we dug into Google search data to discover which sports stars have been Googled the most in different countries over the past 12 months, revealing the most popular male and female athletes around the globe. We broke our findings down into the most popular male sportspeople and female sportspeople, before taking a look at the most searched for figures in a variety of our favourite sports – including running, cycling, swimming and CrossFit. Read on to find out more…

THE WORLD’S MOST POPULAR SPORTS STARS

Top Male Sportspeople Globally

Basketball and football stars really dominated the list of annual global searches, with Portuguese football soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo hitting the top spot. Since Manchester United paid £12 million to sign him at just 16 years old, he’s gone on to play for Real Madrid and Italian Serie A club Juventus. The 36-year-old footballer has won the Ballon d’Or a whopping five times, with only Lionel Messi (who came in at 8th in our list) having won more in the award’s lifespan. Ronaldo is also the top goal scorer of all time for his country, having scored 103 goals for the Portuguese international team. Admired all around the world, the data revealed Ronaldo to be the number one sports star in 82 different countries, including Italy, Spain and Switzerland. He’s also not just the most followed Instagram sportsperson, he’s also the most popular account full stop, with over 275 million followers.

In second place on our list is American NBA legend LeBron James, considered to be one of the greatest basketball players of all time, with Brazilian football megastar Neymar da Silva Santos Jr taking third spot.

RankingSportspersonSportAnnual Global Searches
1Cristiano RonaldoFootball99,207,840
2LeBron JamesBasketball77,564,570
3NeymarFootball76,622,600
4Michael JordanBasketball75,210,140
5Tom BradyAmerican Football63,573,740
6Conor McGregorMMA62,375,910
7Mike TysonBoxing51,364,010
8Lionel MessiFootball38,967,190
9Virat KohliCricket33,133,610
10Tyson FuryBoxing31,323,230
11RonaldinhoFootball30,366,410
12Stephen CurryBasketball30,281,390
13Lewis HamiltonFormula 126,050,970
14Tiger WoodsGolf23,588,140
15PeléFootball23,486,730
16Khabib NurmagomedovMMA21,874,320
17Floyd MayweatherBoxing20,488,400
18Dennis RodmanBasketball20,482,780
19Giannis AntetokounmpoBasketball20,448,480
20Kevin DurantBasketball20,395,370

Top Female Sportspeople Globally

When it came to world’s most famous sportswomen, UFC legend Ronda Rousey was able to fight off the competition with ease. With almost double the amount of annual global searches than US football striker Alex Morgan who came in at second place, Rousey topped the list in 93 different countries around the world. Originally trained in judo, after becoming the first American woman to earn an Olympic medal in the sport at the 2008 Summer Olympics, Rousey began to pursue a career in mixed martial arts. She then went on to set the record for the most UFC title defences by a woman, losing only twice in the entirety of her professional MMA career. Interestingly, Rousey was one of eight MMA stars to make it into the sportswomen top 20 list.

Widely regarded as one of the best tennis players of all time, Serena Williams came in third on the list, making it an all-American top three. Williams has won an incredible 23 Grand Slam singles titles- the second highest of all time and was ranked world No. 1 eight times between 2002 and 2017. Perhaps surprisingly, Serena’s sister Venus did not feature, despite her also being widely regarded as one of tennis’ all-time greats.

RankingSportspersonSportAnnual Global Searches
1Ronda RouseyMMA21,666,500
2Alex MorganFootball8,446,340
3Serena WilliamsTennis7,462,710
4Tonya HardingFigure Skating7,254,410
5Paige VanzantMMA6,330,600
6Smriti MandhanaCricket5,923,860
7Joanna JedrzejczykMMA5,595,360
8Amanda NunesMMA4,537,240
9Maria SharapovaTennis4,418,870
10Valentina SchevchenkoMMA3,617,710
11Megan RapinoeFootball3,524,190
12Holly HolmMMA3,466,430
13Rose NamjunasMMA3,217,310
14Sue BirdBasketball2,934,770
15Caster SemenyaMiddle Distance Running2,608,910
16Ellyse PerryCricket2,530,550
17Mikaela ShiffrinSkiing2,450,630
18Laila AliBoxing2,240,270
19Sarah FullerAmerican football and football2,165,910
20Miesha TateMMA2,098,980

POPULAR SPORTSPEOPLE BY ACTIVITY

Our research covered a wide range of popular sports, so we thought we’d dig a little deeper into the results to learn more about the current most searched-for figures in some of our favourite activities.

Running

Here at SportsShoes we’re famous for our huge range of running shoes and kit, so looking into the world’s most popular runners seemed the perfect place to start.

Long distance running:

British athlete Mo Farah took top spot for long distance running – little surprise considering he is one of the most successful British track athletes in recent Olympic Games history. In the female list British marathon, half marathon and cross-country world champion Paula Radcliffe came out top.

MALEFEMALE
Long-distance runningLong-distance running
1Mo Farah4,598,700Paula Radcliffe317,380
2Eliud Kipchoge1,525,080Shalane Flanagan117,390
3Kenenisa Bekele451,400Tirunesh Dibaba92,870
4Joshua Cheptegei345,740Letesenbet Gidey61,600
5Galen Rupp315,050Molly Huddle56,370
6Haile Gebrselassie268,160Gabriela Szabo54,690
7Mohammed Ahmed104,250Karissa Schweizer44,840
8Hagos Gebrhiwet53,650Elvan Abeylegesse39,530
9Jacob Kiplimo46,960Almaz Ayana38,550
10Paul Tergat43,830Derartu Tulu33,390

Middle distance running:

Topping the male list for middle-distance runners is Jakob Ingebrigtsen, a Norwegian runner who broke Norway’s national record in the 5000m and won 2 gold medals at the 2018 European Championships. Meanwhile, South African two-time women’s Olympic and Commonwealth Games champion Caster Semenya was the most popular female in this set.

MALEFEMALE
Middle-distance runningMiddle-distance running
1Jakob Ingebrigtsen846,220Caster Semenya2,608,910
2Hicham el Guerrouj627,880Konstanze Klosterhalfen290,250
3José Luis González240,100Genzebe Dibaba242,250
4Steve Ovett219,680Zola Budd195,650
5Steve Scott213,820Sifan Hassan145,810
6Sebastian Coe207,130Jenny Simpson127,400
7Steve Cram190,160Laura Muir106,440
8Fermín Cacho167,360Elle Purrier104,490
9David Rudisha149,620Jemma Reekie82,880
10Alan Webb149,150Sonia O'Sullivan64,060

Short distance running:

Jamaican Usain Bolt has raced to the lead in our male short distance running category, thanks to his legendary Olympic status and three world records in the 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m relay. Meanwhile, American track and field sprinter Allyson Felix holds the top spot for females, thanks to her incredible achievements in both the Olympics and IAAF World Championships.

MALEFEMALE
Short distance runningShort distance running
1Usain Bolt14,851,290Allyson Felix811,560
2Michael Johnson1,362,320Florence Griffith-Joyner760,580
3Carl Lewis1,306,910Cathy Freeman711,920
4Pietro Mennea780,200Marion Jones695,770
5Justin Gatlin630,940Dafne Schippers426,490
6Yohan Blake629,250Dina Asher-Smith421,270
7Maurice Greene456,190Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce316,560
8Tyson Gay415,760Sha'Carri Richardson259,190
9Noah Lyles414,070Ana Guevara226,740
10Asafa Powell413,120Merlene Ottey169,310

You can purchase running gear and accessories over in our Running Store

Swimming

Michael Phelps is by far the most searched-for swimmer on our male list – another accolade to add to his mind-blowing 28 Olympic medals, making him the most successful and decorated Olympian of all time. Meanwhile, Italian freestyle swimmer Federica Pellegrini dives into first place for females. Pellegrini was the first female to break the 4-minute barrier in the 400m freestyle swim and holds multiple medals in The World Championships, European Championships and Olympics.

MALEFEMALE
SwimmingSwimming
1Michael Phelps7,068,970Federica Pellegrini1,794,150
2Tom Daley2,033,870Alexandra Paul1,132,780
3Ryan Lochte1,042,530Laure Manaudou968,740
4Johnny Weissmuller797,920Esther Williams739,440
5Camille Lacourt615,070Inge de Brujin312,490
6Mark Spitz602,180Franziska van Almsick287,430
7Ian Thorpe564,230Annette Kellerman272,030
8John Marshall487,820Charlène Wittstock233,150
9Nathan Adrian224,890Natalie Coughlin203,090
10Duke Kahanamoku166,460Erica Terpstra195,310

See our full range of swimwear and swimming accessories

Cycling

The most searched-for male in cycling is American road-racer Lance Armstrong, who beat cancer and pedalled to fame for winning the Tour de France seven times in a row between 1999 and 2005, before he was stripped of his titles due to a doping scandal. Meanwhile, Dutch road-racing cyclist and former world champion Annemiek van Vleuten heads up our popular female list.
MALEFEMALE
CyclingCycling
1Lance Armstrong5,103,000Annemiek van Vleuten319,790
2Peter Sagan2,851,910Anna van der Breggen276,630
3Nairo Quintana2,092,860Marianne Vos225,740
4Eddy Merckx1,734,860Jeannie Longo196,070
5Chris Froome1,574,150Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig132,170
6Jan Ullrich1,215,410Alison Jackson110,870
7Primoz Roglic1,093,230Alfonsina Strada83,170
8Marco Pantani1,042,780Leontien Van Moorsel79,200
9Alberto Contador812,350Hannah Barnes72,760
10Bradley Wiggins631,510Sarah Roy65,530

Stock up on a range of cycling gear over at our Biking Store

Football

World-renowned Portuguese football player Cristiano Ronaldo is the most popular male sportsperson in the world, as well as the most searched for male footballer player. The forward has one five Ballon d’Or awards and four European Golden Shoes, setting European records for both. Amongst females, American soccer player Alex Morgan tops the searches. Morgan currently plays for the Orlando Pride and was named U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year in 2012 and 2018, and one of Time’s 100 most Influential People of 2019.

MALEFEMALE
FootballFootball
1Cristiano Ronaldo99,207,840Alex Morgan8,446,340
2Neymar76,622,600Megan Rapinoe3,524,190
3Lionel Messi38,967,190Hope Solo1,710,930
4Diego Maradona31,146,240Formiga1,532,260
5Ronaldinho30,366,410Abby Wambach1,223,190
6Pelé23,486,730Tobin Heath998,120
7David Beckham20,279,640Julie Ertz818,840
8Luis Suarez16,879,330Pernille Harder792,370
9Sergio Ramos15,094,540Lieke Martens750,880
10Gareth Bale13,519,820Mia Hamm726,650

Tennis

The most searched-for male tennis star is Rafael Nadal, who is currently ranked ATP’s No.3 in the world and has been No.1 on their list five times. The Spaniard has won 20 Grand Slam men’s singles titles, whilst the only other player to do so is Roger Federer (fourth on our list). Two former tennis players who have dabbled in fashion feature in our top 10 list: Fred Perry, who created an eponymous clothing brand in the 1940s; and Stan Smith, whose Adidas tennis shoes are considered iconic by many. Serena Williams tops the searches for female tennis players, and is also the third most popular sportswoman across all sports. Williams has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, which is record breaking in the Open Era, and the second highest of all time.

MALEFEMALE
TennisTennis
1Rafael Nadal12,561,660Serena Williams7,462,710
2Novak Djokovic11,104,750Maria Sharapova4,418,870
3Dominic Thiem8,096,720Ana Ivanovic1,740,970
4Roger Federer7,834,120Simona Halep1,704,650
5Fred Perry4,678,780Gabriela Sabatini1,528,930
6Stan Smith4,139,700Venus Williams1,415,270
7Alexander Zverev3,332,480Monica Seles877,120
8Boris Becker2,630,560Kim Clijsters795,510
9Yannick Noah1,822,230Martina Hingis790,110
10Andy Murray1,667,340Angelique Kerber665,920

Schau dir unsere neueste Tennisausrüstung an.

American Football

American quarterback Tom Brady has the most searches for American footballers and is considered by many to be the best quarterback of all time. Brady holds records for most passing yards, touchdown passes and games started by a quarterback, and has won five Super Bowl MVP awards. He is also the only quarterback to have won Super Bowls across three separate decades. Sarah Fuller is the most searched for female American footballer, partly because she made history becoming the first women to score in a major college football game in 2020.

MALEFEMALE
American FootballAmerican Football
1Tom Brady63,573,750Sarah Fuller2,165,910
2Aaron Rodgers18,463,760Katie Sowers282,760
3Drew Brees15,318,020Callie Brownson189,840
4Russell Wilson11,117,700Katie Hnida100,240
5Lamar Jackson10,731,050Ashley Martin70,070
6Rob Gronkowski9,983,330Samantha Gordon34,740
7Odell Beckham Jr.8,498,340Jennifer Welter31,630
8Peyton Manning5,458,200April Goss18,530
9
DeAndre Hopkins
5,084,900Liz Heaston11,090
10Deion Sanders4,577,930
Julie Harshbarger
4,530

MMA

The most searched for mixed martial artist is Conor McGregor who is notorious for his trash talk, alongside being a former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion. The Irishman also holds the record for the fastest victory in UFC title fight history and has headlined in five of the six highest selling UFC per-per-view fights. Ronda Rousey tops the female list, known for setting records in women’s judo, the UFC and WWE. Rousey is the only women who has held titles in both the UFC and WWE, as well as exploring an acting career, appearing in films such as The Expendables 3, Furious 7 and Mile 22.
MALEFEMALE
MMAMMA
1Conor McGregor62,375,910Ronda Rousey21,666,500
2Khabib Nurmagomedov21,874,320Paige Vanzant6,330,600
3Jon Jones15,031,500Joanna Jedrzejczyk5,595,360
4Israel Adesanya14,504,780Amanda Nunes4,537,240
5Tony Ferguson12,115,400Valentina Shevchenko3,617,710
6Anderson Silva8,357,070Holly Holm3,466,430
7Nate Diaz4,363,600Rose Namajunas3,217,310
8Daniel Cormier3,980,170Miesha Tate2,098,980
9Donald Cerrone3,962,400Michelle Waterson1,545,750
10Stipe Miocic3,591,870Karolina Kowalkiewicz777,600

Basketball

American born LeBron James is considered by many as one of the greatest NBA players of all time, which is perhaps why he tops our list as the most searched for basketball player. James is the only player to have won NBA championships with three franchises as a Finals MVP and has won two Olympic gold medals. Sue Bird nets the most searched female position on our list. The Israeli-American WNBA player has the most assists in the league’s history and is one of just eleven women in history who have won the WNBA Championship (4), an Olympic medal (4), the NCAA Championship (2), and the FIBA World Cup (4).

MALEFEMALE
BasketballBasketball
1LeBron James77,564,570Sue Bird2,934,770
2Michael Jordan75,210,140Candace Parker2,053,930
3Stephen Curry30,281,390Maya Moore1,361,600
4Dennis Rodman20,482,780Diana Taurasi1,314,210
5Giannis Antetokounmpo20,448,480Lisa Leslie1,283,680
6Kevin Durant20,395,370Liz Cambage1,272,020
7James Harden19,932,280Tina Charles1,166,930
8Anthony Davis18,727,320Brittney Griner1,050,000
9Scottie Pippen16,805,230Becky Hammon852,600
10Shaquille O'Neal15,366,090Elena Delle Donne807,290

If you’re feeling inspired to set your own sporting records, head over to our Running Hub, Training Hub or Hiking Hub for tips, advice, kit reviews and inspiration.







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