In 2010, after he announced his decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers and join the Miami Heat, LeBron James might have been the most disliked athlete in all of sports.
But four years later, after winning two more league MVPs, two NBA championships and announcing his decision to return to the Cavaliers in a heartfelt letter on SportsIllustrated.com, James is America’s most popular athlete, according to a new Harris Poll.
ESPN’s Darren Rovell has the details:
James, whose highest ranking was No. 2 last season, topped retired Chicago Bulls star and Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan, who had the distinction of being No. 1 from 1993 through 2005.
James was most popular among the 18-36 and 49-67 age demographics, while the poll reflected that Generatrion Xers (37-48) preferred Jordan.
It’s an incredible turnaround for James and shows clearly that winning cures just about everything in terms of public perception.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant joined LeBron towards the top of the poll.
Rounding out the top 5 is retiring New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and in a tie for fifth is Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.
James averaged 27.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 6.4 assists last season with the Heat. Bryant played just six games in 2013-14, but his five NBA championship rings will forever make him one of the most popular players of this era.