In January 2015, I conducted a small survey to figure out who the biggest names in American sports were. At the time, it was done to show the impact that Derek Jeter had on baseball in his last season and how the Yankees, sports media, and brands had done a great job of celebrating him. On top of that, it was to show how baseball might have an issue filling the void in having a superstar.
This year, I wanted to do the same thing with no specific mission in mind. Who are the biggest names in major American sports? Who are the athletes that brands can use as endorsers for products? Who are the stars that the public and the media gravitate to?
This focuses on the NBA. Last year, LeBron James dominated, earning 51% of the vote. Would his continued rise to greatness continue to keep him up top? Or would certain “Splash Brothers” overtake him?
THE BIGGEST NAMES IN BASKETBALL
Number 5: Shaquille O’Neal
- Retired Center for the Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Boston Celtics
- Achievements: 4x NBA Champion, 3x NBA Finals MVP, 2x NBA scoring champion
When he was playing, Shaq was known as one of the most dominating centers in NBA history. His multiple titles, MVPs, and scoring titles will guarantee that he’s a lock for the Hall Of Fame. And who can forget his hilarious endorsements. Nowadays, he’s known for his business ventures and providing insight into the NBA on TNT. His legacy will be remembered for a long time.
Number 4: Kobe Bryant
- Shooting Guard for the Los Angeles Lakers
- Achievements: 5x NBA Champion, 2008 NBA MVP, 2x NBA scoring champion, 3rd all time in points scored.
- Endorsements: Nike, Lenovo, Hubolt, Turkish Airlines
At the time of writing this, Kobe Bryant is currently in the middle of his “farewell tour” in his last season, which he announced over The Players Tribune. One of the most dominant and dynamic scorers ever, you only need to hear Kobe and picture the trademark fadeaway jump shot and ferocious tenacity on the court. He can be used for endorsements easily after his career, both in LA and across the world.
Number 3: Steph Curry
- Point Guard for the Golden State Warriors
- Achievements: 2015 NBA Champion, 2015 NBA MVP, most 3 pointers made in one season
- Endorsements: Under Armour, Express State Farm
Curry is in the middle of a record-breaking season, leading the Golden State Warriors to what could potentially be the best regular season in NBA history. He is also the most exciting player, nailing shots no on has any business making with very little effort. As the face of basketball for Under Armour, the continued success will leave a lasting imprint in the minds of many for years to come.
Number 2: Michael Jordan
- Retired Small Forward for the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards
- Achievements: 6x NBA Champion, 5x NBA MVP, 10x NBA scoring champion, 1st all time in points per game
The greatest to ever do it. Michael Jordan dominated the game of basketball for years, both on and off the court. He led the Bulls to six titles and helped launch one of the most popular shoe brands in the world. An inspiration for many, the name and face recognition will not be fading away anytime soon.
Number 1: LeBron James
- Small Forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat
- Achievements: 2x NBA Champion, 4x NBA MVP, 2008 NBA scoring champion
- Endorsements: Nike, McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Beats by Dre
Arguably the greatest NBA player in the 21st century, LeBron James is the most recognizable name in the NBA today. From the time he was drafted, he has lived up to the hype, making the NBA Finals six times in seven years. He has also signed a lifetime contract with Nike and already makes more off the court than any other active NBA player.
Every team has different focal points in basketball, which allows for more positions to be recognized amongst the most popular players unlike the NFL. Some teams rely on shooters and guards. Others rely on big men down low.
There has been one signature player or players that define a certain era. That success lasts, going all the way from Jordan to Bryant to James and Curry today.