Move over MJ, LeBron Now Most Popular Athlete

According to Harris Interactive’s new poll from June 11-16 of this year, LeBron James now ranks as America’s favorite sports star, surpassing Michael Jordan. This reverses their positions from last year, when Jordan stood atop the mountain and James looked up from the second spot.

Number three is Derek Jeter, who has risen from sixth place last year. The captain of the Yankees plays in his final season and evokes huge waves of sentiment form all over the baseball world for his dignity and class. Peyton Manning comes in at number four, as he did a year ago, and Kobe Bryant and NASCAR’s Dale Earnhardt Jr. tie for fifth place. Bryant was number seven last year; Earnhardt, number ten.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and golfer Tiger Woods have both dropped; Brady slightly from fifth place down to seventh and Woods more precipitously, from third to eighth. Drew Brees at number nine is back on the list for the first time since 2010, while Aaron Rodgers at number ten climbs aboard for the first time since 2011.

With Brees and Rodgers joining the list, Tim Tebow, who was #8  last year, and golfer Phil Mickelson, who was #9, fell out of the top ten.

Jordan and Woods had long streaks of being #1; Jordan was #1 from 1993 to 2005, while Woods was #1 from 2006-2009.

Apparently there is a gender gap between James and Jordan; men prefer James while women prefer Jordan. There is also a weird age gap; Millennials and Baby Boomers prefer James while Gen Xers prefer Michael Jordan and Matures like Jeter the best.

Politically, the argument splits three ways: Republicans like Jeter; Democrats, Jordan; and Independents, James. Racially, it splits, too. Whites vote for Jeter, blacks split between James and Jordan, and Hispanics prefer James. Geographically? James triumphs in the Midwest and South, Jeter in the East, and Jordan in the West.

When the argument turns to the favorite female sports star, the times are not-a-changing. The top five spots are exactly the same as last year, with Serena Williams #1, race car driver Danica Patrick #2, Venus Williams #3, Maria Sharapova #4, and Mia Hamm #5.

Skier Lindsey Vonn, who missed the Olympics because of a knee injury, moved from #7 last year up to #6 this year; while the last four spots on the top-ten list were taken by women not on the list last year. Billie Jean King is tied at #6 with Vonn; soccer star Alex Morgan and former tennis great Chris Evert (last on the list in 2008) are tied at #8, and volleyball champ Misty May-Treanor, who last made the list in 2010, is #10.

The last four spots on last year’s list were taken by boxer Laila Ali, soccer star Hope Solo, gymnast Shawn Johnson, and soccer star Abby Wambach.

Gender gaps appear in the selection of favorite female star, too. Men prefer Patrick; women, Serena Williams. The coasts like Patrick while in the Midwest and South they prefer Williams. Millennials prefer Williams while the other three generations like Patrick. Whites and Hispanics vote for Patrick; blacks for Serena Williams.


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