ESPN recently released their World Fame 100 list where they ranked the world’s most famous athletes across all countries. Former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant just missed the top-10, landing at number 11 on the list.
The list was topped by Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, while stars such as LeBron James, Lionel Messi, and Tiger Woods populate the top-10 as well.
Though Kobe was only 11th on the overall list, he is number one in one of the world’s biggest countries as Dennis Du of ESPN notes that Kobe is the most popular athlete in China:
Rather, Kobe Bryant, who came in at No. 11 in the overall fame rankings, sits at No. 1, totally unshakable. Yes, the “Black Mamba” is the most popular athlete in China.
Du pointed towards Kobe’s jersey sales and insane television viewership in China as proof of his popularity:
He has had the best-selling sports jersey in China for five years (2007-2010, 2012) since the NBA first released jersey sales rankings for China in 2005. And his career finale attracted more than 110 million people on Tencent, the exclusive digital partner of the NBA and ESPN in China.
Kobe’s popularity in China is well known at this stage as he would take yearly trips there during the off-season where it looked as if the entire country would come out to greet him. Even though his playing days are over, it wouldn’t be surprising to see his popularity remain high, especially there.
Ronaldo, James, and Messi were ranked as the three most popular athletes in the world, followed by Brazilian soccer star Neymar, and tennis star Roger Federer. Kevin Durant, Tiger Woods, Indian cricket player Virat Kohli, Real Madrid soccer star James Rodriguez, and Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal rounded out the top-10.