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Thread: Who is the biggest sports star on the planet today?

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    Who is the biggest sports star on the planet today?

    Every so often someone comes along who transcends their sport, and becomes a global icon. It seems that there is only ever about 2-3 of these people around at a time, at the absolute most. Muhammad Ali was one. Michael Jordan was probably another. And since 2008, the obvious candidate for the honour was probably the fastest man on the planet, the Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt.

    But obviously, Bolt's star has been on the wane since 2012, and now he has retired completely. So I guess my question is who do people rate as his replacement as the top sports star in the world today? Would it be one of the best paid people in sport - Cristiano Ronaldo, Lebron James, or Leo Messi - or would you choose someone who is an individual star, rather than playing team sport? Is it an Olympian? And where do other ageing names like Roger Federer stack up in your reckoning?

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    The Brain
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    As someone who doesn't follow sports at all, I would say it's probably LeBron James. I know the name, I know what he does, and I could probably pick him out of a line up if I had to. Any sports star who penetrates that deeply into the mind of a guy like me must be BIG.

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    Lamb of LOP anonymous's Avatar
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    John Cena . He’s everywhere in the States.

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    Senior Junior SirSam's Avatar
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    I would have said Bolt but in lieu of him a few names spring to mind:
    - LeBron, probably the biggest in the States but not necessarily mainstream in other countries. Sports fans know him but not your everyday Joe Blow.
    - Lionel Messi & Christian Ronaldo, football being the biggest sport in the world, these guys are clearly the two biggest stars.
    - Connor McGregor, laugh if you like but if my Australian mother asks me about any sports person you know they are big mainstream news. His recent boxing match was huge news for weeks on end all over the world
    - Federer, probably the most liked sportsman in the world, potentially not the biggest though. You could maybe put in an argument for Serena Williams too.

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    If a casual person knows about Cena, it's because his name was used in a viral video of a prank call that was big for a little while, or maybe because he was in Trainwreck. Even so, most people I know have no clue who he is.

    If it helps, I know who Messi is but have never heard of Ronaldo.

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    This may be out of left field, but how do people feel about Lewis Hamilton?

    If I had to argue for someone to be the current global star, I'd back Roger Federer because he's still winning titles. But in the back of my head, I know that it's probably still Messi. No one has not heard of him.

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    I have never heard in my life heard of Lewis Hamilton. I've heard the name Roger Federer but I had to look him up to know what sport he plays.

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    I'm guessing Lewis Hamilton is a diver but I never heard of him.

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    WWEEEEELLLLLL
    It's the BIG SHOW!
    It's a big bad show tonight
    (oh baby, come on. oh yeah)

    YEEEAAAHHHHH
    its the Big Show
    Crank it up, turn on them lights
    (turn them on)

    Get ready for something
    That you've never known
    You wont see it coming
    But I promise you'll know

    It's the Big Show.

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    Southern Discomfort The Dude's Avatar
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    wtf?

    What has Big Shows entrance theme got to do with anything?

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    Word Enthusiast Steve's Avatar
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    Actually, lots of people know Cena. He's been co-hosting the Today show semi-regularly for a few years, hosted SNL last year, has hosted the Kids' Choice Awards and Espys, has that American Grit show on prime time network TV, was in an award winning ad that went viral, is the face of Glad trash bags, is the lead star of what could be a very big animated feature in December, and that's not even mentioning his viral status and prior movie roles. He's not Rock level or anything, but John Cena is incredibly well known outside of just pro wrestling and that'll just continue to grow in coming years. Hell, he's filming a Transformers movie right now.

    As to the question, I'd have to say LeBron. It's worth noting that the NBA is even bigger in China than it is here. So in terms of sheer volume of people who recognize someone, King James may hold the crown.

    Seriously, though, WWE is on in 180 countries. Billions of people know who John Cena is. I'd argue he's probably at least in the top 25 most recognizable sports stars on the planet, probably higher, maybe even Top 10.

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    Senior Junior SirSam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Dude View Post
    wtf?

    What has Big Shows entrance theme got to do with anything?
    The biggest sports star. The world's largest athlete.

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    It's Ronaldo and it's not even close. At one point it was easily Tiger Woods. But Ronaldo has taken up that spot quite easily.

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    Some of the replies have raised an interesting question. Do wrestlers count? Back in the day I would have said yes without a hesitation but the WWE have spent so much time over the past 15 years trying to bury the link between their product and sport that I'm just not sure anymore. If they do, then, yeah, some of their top guys have to be in the mix. John Cena was famous internationally when Leo Messi was still playing for the Barcelona B Team and Cristiano Ronaldo was just a skinny winger at CP Sporting who did far too many step-overs. But controversial or not, I'd be inclined to say that they're probably better left out.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eddieg2005 View Post
    It's Ronaldo and it's not even close. At one point it was easily Tiger Woods. But Ronaldo has taken up that spot quite easily.
    It's interesting because I'd absolutely put Ronaldo in the mix and think it might be him, personally, but having read the thread and thinking about his history I don't think it is possible that it is not even close. He's always been locked in this duel since around 2008 with Leo Messi, and for most of that duel that latter was seen as better, and was more popular. It's only in the last couple of seasons that CR7 has started to move out of that shadow and become the number one player in football. Add to that the fact that someone like Mizfan has, as he said above, only heard of Messi and has no clue who Ronaldo is, and that's more evidence that while it's shifted towards Ronaldo with the football audience that hasn't translated in mainstream terms so much. And that's in spite of the fact that CR7 has always played the media game more than Messi has.

    So yeah, it could well be Ronaldo but if it is him, or Messi, then by definition it has to be close because their careers have been so intertwined.


    Tiger Woods absolutely would have been the biggest at one time. It's really interesting how his career and Bolt's crossover like that, because Woods probably ends his peak in around 2006 and then Bolt takes off at 2008, the year Woods wins his last major.

    Not sure who it'd be before him. Mike Tyson, probably. Interesting that for a lot of the time through history it will have been a boxer (Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, and Tyson all belong in the discussion) but that now the only one who could really break into the conversation at all is the supposedly-retired Floyd Mayweather, Jr.

    No one has mentioned an American Footballer yet. I wonder if this is because it'd probably have to be a quarterback and the sheer number of good quarterbacks makes it difficult for anyone to stand out to the same degree.

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    If you're gonna go with a wrestler, may as well pick someone who isn't technically retired, and say Dwayne. He'd take the cake over Cena.

    Well, yes, it would be Ronaldo and Messi as one and two. It is the worlds most played sport after all. More than likely not, like Miz who I believe is a Yank, most Yanks couldn't give a hoot about the game and that's why they don't know them. And that's exactly why you couldn't say it's an NBA player or NFL player. Cause that's all that Yanks care about primarily. And that's American sports only. Or if an American is at the top in a sport. Aka Lance Armstrong. Who I would say would have been the person before Tiger.

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    As Miz said, it's not that he doesn't give a damn about football, it's that he doesn't give a damn about sports. And he's heard of Messi but not even heard of Ronaldo. Honestly, when judging someone's reach, that ain't nothing. Y'know, everyone had heard of Usain Bolt, Tiger Woods, Mike Tyson, etc.

    For what it's worth I sort of agree about the NBA. I know Basketball has a lot of reach outside the US so it doesn't come down just as simply as geography but even though he's a huge star I wouldn't recognise Lebron James if he punched me in the gut. But I'd be able to pick Tom Brady, Aaron Rogers, Eli Manning, and a host of other NFL players out of a lineup. Michael Jordan belongs in the discussion, though, because he was the one basketball player that we all knew even if you didn't know anything other than Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.

    I don't know about Armstrong. I don't think he's big enough until after Tiger Woods was already the top dog. Really you're looking at who the biggest star was in 1995-96. I still think probably Mike Tyson even though he was on the way down, because I remember the hype for both the Bruno match and the two bouts with Evander Holyfield. But Pete Sampras probably belongs in the mix at that point. In football terms at this point it was probably Alessandro Del Piero at the time, which I guess rules out a footballer....
    Last edited by Prime Time; 10-23-2017 at 09:11 AM.

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    Senior Junior SirSam's Avatar
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    If you want to make the LeBron NBA argument then I raise you Virat Kholi, the captain of the Indian cricket team. It may not be anything in the States but cricket is mainstream in far more countries than basketball including India - 1.3 billion (set to take over China), Pakistan - 200mil, Bangladesh - 163mil, the UK - 65mil, South Africa - 54 million and across the Caribbean - 43mil as well as smaller countries like Australia, New Zealand and Zimbabwe.

    I'd still go back to Messi or Ronaldo with Football because of how it dominates Latin America, Africa, Europe and has a strong foothold in the other major continents of Asia, North America and Oceania, it just has the widest reach whereas sports like basketball or cricket are far more niche outside of their major countries.

    I think that same argument is what I would use against any American Football player being on the list, Brady may be a God in the States (or devil depending on your allegiance) but outside the States American Football only has a small foothold beyond the mainstream nature of the Superbowl.
    Last edited by SirSam; 10-24-2017 at 07:01 AM. Reason: Added American Football

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    I think you're right about the regional aspects of this, but maybe the fact that we're starting to break it down regionally shows that there really isn't a slam dunk name. I mean, you didn't have to wonder about where in the world Ali or Bolt were famous. But we can also overplay the location thing - sport is far more international now than it ever has been before and there are markets for most of the world's major sports all over the world. The NBA and English Premier League are popular in China, for example, and the NFL has made inroads into that market too.

    That said, I'm not sure basketball is at it's peak right now and I think that'll count against Lebron, especially up against people like Messi and Ronaldo. I've only ever watched a handful of basketball games but I woud recognise not only Michael Jordan, but also people like Shaq, Dennis Rodman and Kobe Bryant, and I think the names were probably more familiar to non-sports fans that I knew. So if Lebron is suffering the lower profile of Basketball up against the NFL generally might be part of the problem, although as Steve says above, maybe a different reaction to that in China. It certainly isn't anywhere near as popular here as it was in the 1990s.

    Also interesting that though no-one has picked a boxer, no one has gone for an Olympian either. The only individual sports stars people have been mentioned are Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Connor McGregor, and Lewis Hamilton. The best paid individual star incidentally is Rory McIlroy, so maybe he's a name that should be in contention. It does get me thinking, though, that there's an opportunity for someone to come through and become iconic at the moment. Even though boxing is on its ass I have the feeling that the winner of a fight between Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder could explode, especially if they had a classic fight.

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    Main Pager Maverick's Avatar
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    On the planet?

    It's Cristiano Ronaldo, and it isn't even close.

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    Haha, sad face. When you spend this much time trying to argue carefully that it has to be close if it is Ronaldo....

    Quote Originally Posted by Prime Time View Post
    It's interesting because I'd absolutely put Ronaldo in the mix and think it might be him, personally, but having read the thread and thinking about his history I don't think it is possible that it is not even close. He's always been locked in this duel since around 2008 with Leo Messi, and for most of that duel that latter was seen as better, and was more popular. It's only in the last couple of seasons that CR7 has started to move out of that shadow and become the number one player in football. Add to that the fact that someone like Mizfan has, as he said above, only heard of Messi and has no clue who Ronaldo is, and that's more evidence that while it's shifted towards Ronaldo with the football audience that hasn't translated in mainstream terms so much. And that's in spite of the fact that CR7 has always played the media game more than Messi has.

    So yeah, it could well be Ronaldo but if it is him, or Messi, then by definition it has to be close because their careers have been so intertwined.
    ... and then Maverick still comes in with this....

    Quote Originally Posted by Maverick View Post
    It's Cristiano Ronaldo, and it isn't even close.


    Not seen a squash like that since Goldberg and Lesnar!

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    Main Pager Maverick's Avatar
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    Only because of the media thing. Messi has been by far the more complete player over time, but Cristiano has the endorsements, the look and the outside interests, where Messi has mostly stuck to simply being a brilliant footballer.

    It has to be a footballer by the way, simply because it's the most popular sport in the world and by a long distance too. Cristiano is the worldwide face of Nike. No American sports star can compete, simply because, even though NBA and NFL are definitely worldwide concerns now, they are still pretty niche in most places, and I say that as an Englishman who loves the NFL and enjoys a bit of NBA too. Steph Curry or Tom Brady could walk down the street of any European town and there's a good chance no one would even know who they were.

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Maverick
    Tom Brady could walk down the street of any European town and there's a good chance no one would even know who they were.
    I would. :'(

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    I'm not completely convinced that the size of the sport is the best way to go about it, though. Football has always been the biggest sport since the start of organised sport, and yet it's hardly ever been a footballer through history. Individual sports tend to produce them way more than more popular team sports tend to, and even then other team sports find a way to hold their own.

    I mean, every single one of my mates knew who Michael Jordan was in the 1990s, but I doubt most of us could name another basketball player. I reckon he had a higher profile than any footballer at the time. The only one who'd maybe, maybe be in the same ballpark would be Maradona, but I'd give the nod to Jordan - mainly because American sport had far better channels at the time.

    Football is the most popular sport because it's popular everywhere, but there are other factors: Cricket is only the top sport in one real area, but that area contains some of the most populous countries in the world. The NBA's massive popularity in two of the three biggest countries in the world, the US and China, has to be considered, too. And then there's the fact that individual sports like Boxing and Sprinting, not to mention Tennis and even Golf, usually have a far better record of producing 'the guy' than football ever has.

    So it seems to me that it doesn't have to be a footballer just because football is more popular. It may be a footballer, but it doesn't have to be.


    Of course, the other thing to consider if you are going to think football, is playing off the popularity of the two most popular clubs, Barcelona and Madrid, against the popularity of the most popular league, the EPL. The NFL and NBA don't have the same kind of internal competition as they are far and away the top entities in their respective sports.
    "Eat my ass, Mooney"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Prime Time View Post
    Individual sports tend to produce them way more than more popular team sports tend to, and even then other team sports find a way to hold their own.
    For the simple fact that individual sports are basically around 365 days a year. Team sports all have an off season. That's how I'd look at it anyway. Gives them time in the spotlight when others aren't around.

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    It might be that. I kinda thought that as big a reason is that the spotlight is always shared in a team sport. There's only one guy hitting the putt to win the open or at the starting blocks waiting for the gun in the 100m final. There's something about this that seems to attach to people who an flourish when all the attention is on them, and them alone.
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    Senior Member Oliver's Avatar
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    I'm not sure I'd recognise Ronaldo walking down the street, but then there's every chance I wouldn't recognise my own mother walking down the street. He's certainly a huge name, though.

    Does this have to be an active sports person? Because I'd have thought Beckham would have a huge shout at being bigger than Ronaldo otherwise, and it would certainly open up other names for consideration in my opinion.

    Makes you wonder, though, Messi and Ronaldo are 30 and 32 respectively. They won't have long playing the sport left. Who becomes the biggest footballer in the world when those two are gone?

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    Neymar's probably in pole position, to be honest. Zlatan would have been right up there if he wasn't in a similar boat to the other two. But most of the other 'top' players don't have the same kind of profile as those two.

    But I'd say it did have to be an active sports person. Otherwise guys that we've already mentioned - Mike Tyson, Tiger Woods, Usain Bolt, and even in a weird way Lance Armstrong - would all still be in the mix....
    "Eat my ass, Mooney"

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    Don't like the dude but Mayweather has to be in the conversation if he ever fights again

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    Senior Junior SirSam's Avatar
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    I would say that Mayweather isn't far off that fight with McGregor certainly got a lot of coverage and the one with Pacquaio even more again.

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    I saw an article that suggested it was Cristiano Ronaldo but the interesting bit is that all the top names are over thirty and won't be around for much longer. I would say the real heir to Bolt just isn't there yet.

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