WASHINGTON — ESPN released a list of the world’s most famous athletes, using the following information to rank the individuals: “a formula that combines endorsements with social media following and internet search popularity.”
Guess how many D.C.-based athletes make the 100-person list. I’ll give you a hint: The number rhymes with hero, as in Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer, John Wall, Bradley Beal, Alex Ovechkin, Kirk Cousins, Josh Norman, etc. might all be a hero to their teams, but they’re not on the list.
Not a single athlete currently playing for a District team is featured in the top 100.
When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense, especially when you take into account that first aspect of the formula: endorsements. John Wall famously doesn’t have a sneaker deal right now, which is hurting his global exposure perhaps more than anything. Beal is a fairly reserved player who only enjoyed a true breakout season this past year, so while he might eventually find himself on the list, he’s got a ways to go.
NBA players represent 13 of the top 100 athletes, including 10 of the top 51, in part because basketball is the most globally accepted game commonly played in the U.S., and in part because NBA stars are so marketable. Not only are they relatively exposed during games — NFL and NHL players wear pads and helmets that hide most of their appearance during games, and even MLB players wear helmets — they also can market sneakers, which they wear in games, to people across the world for everyday use.
Football, baseball and hockey players, and soccer players for that matter, can only really market their sport’s footwear to other athletes. Sneakers can be worn to the mall or to school or to the movies; cleats and skates can’t really be worn elsewhere.
So with Wall and Beal not making the cut for the Wizards, Washington was likely doomed.
Bryce Harper was perhaps the best chance after that, as he is likely the most endorsed D.C. athlete, but not a single baseball player made the list. Outside of North America, only a handful of other countries have expressed interest in baseball, while much of the rest of the world is more interested in cricket; sure enough, four cricket players made the list, all from India.
Ovechkin stood a chance, given he has fame in both Russia and the United States, but not a single hockey player made the list, either. Again, that makes sense, as so much of the world doesn’t have any interest in ice hockey.
Finally, there was a shot that Kirk Cousins, Josh Norman or one of the other Redskins players might make the list. After all, football is by far the most popular sport in the U.S., and Washington has one of the biggest fanbases in the country. And who knows, maybe the occasional venturing into England is increasing the NFL’s global appeal?
Eight NFL players made the list — Tom Brady, Cam Newton, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning, Odell Beckham and JJ Watt — but, alas, nobody from the Redskins made the cut.
Cousins is not nearly at the level of fame as the six quarterbacks who did make the list, though he could make it if he continues playing at a high level for another decade or so.
Norman is as outspoken as anybody in the league, and he certainly stood a chance. Lo and behold Watt, arguably the best defensive player in the league for the past several years and one of the league’s most marketed stars, was the only defensive player to make the list.
Beckham, one of the flashier players in football and owner of perhaps the league’s signature play of the past five years, is the only other NFL-er on the list.
If anybody is going to make it from D.C. going forward, it’ll likely be Wall or Harper. Cousins isn’t far behind, but Ovechkin seems like a long shot. You know, if any of them are still around.