ESPN recently released its annual list of the world’s most famous athletes, and James Harden of the Houston Rockets was listed at number 28. This represents a huge jump for The Bearded One, who was at number 54 on last year’s list.
This is a global list that takes under consideration just about all factors, including endorsement dollars and presence on social media.
To that tune, The Beard has $20 million in endorsements, 4.8 million Instagram followers, 4.1 million Twitter followers, and 748,000 Facebook followers. He’s also the fourth-most popular basketball player, behind Lebron James (2), Stephen Curry (11) and Dwyane Wade (24).
ESPN had this to say about Harden:
“It’s only fitting that Harden is the most famous athlete in Houston, the city that gave birth to the legendary bearded blues rock band ZZ Top. Of course, Harden is much more than just a glorious beard. Since being traded to the Rockets in 2013, he has proven himself as a franchise player by averaging 27.4 points, 7.6 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game. But you have to admit, The Beard is glorious indeed.”
The world’s most popular athlete, according to ESPN, is Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo. As a sobering reminder of how popular the game of soccer is globally and how beloved Ronaldo is specifically, here’s his breakdown: $32 million in endorsements, 93 million Instagram followers, 50.4 million Twitter followers and a whopping 118.1 million Facebook followers. There’s no one more famous than Ronaldo.
Nonetheless, it was a good showing from The Beard, who by all accounts, had a bounce back year after his reputation suffered 2 seasons ago during a .500 season that featured both the firing of head coach Kevin McHale and the failure to get along with mercurial man-child Dwight Howard.
This year, however, Harden was back on the All-NBA team, back in the MVP race and had his team in the upper echelon of the Western Conference, and that reflected itself in his global popularity. Keep on the upward trajectory, and we’ll likely see Harden’s fame and his spot on these (mostly meaningless, but still fun) rankings rise even further.