Exactly How Famous Are J.J. Watt and James Harden?

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As a society, we've never had more tools at our disposal to measure things statistically. The analytics movement is not just a sports thing. Numbers speak to everyone, and in some ways clarify, or, at the very least, give us some basis for our subjective opinions either having validity or being completely off base.

Just how far down the statistical rabbit hole are we? Well, ESPN has found a statistical way to measure "fame," publishing what I can only assume is going to become an annual list (because the only thing more addictive than statistics is lists!) with its FAME 100.

In plain English, these are the world's 100 most famous athletes based on these criteria:

It started off with a simple question: Who's the most famous athlete in the world? Ben Alamar, ESPN's director of sports analytics, devised a formula that combines salary and endorsements with social media following and Google search popularity to create the ESPN World Fame 100 rankings. The names might be familiar, but where the planet's biggest stars land on the list could surprise you.

So we know the various stat categories that go into the rankings, but what we don't know is exactly how they are combined, massaged, weighted and blended to arrive at this list of 100. And maybe it's a deep enough dive into numbers to where we don't care to know. Again, in plain English, "Don't tell me how the sausage is made; just bring me some delicious sausage!" (Or something like that.)

Oddly enough, this list was generated just a couple of days before the passing of Muhammed Ali, who might have won the Fame 100 every year that he was an active boxer if platforms like Twitter and Google Analytics had been a thing back in the '60s and '70s. Perhaps if this does become an annual list, ESPN can create an award and name it after the late, great Greatest. (I'm an idea guy!)

At any rate, without further ado, here is the list (and, of course, I highly recommend clicking on ESPN's filter-able link to the full list you can play around with it):

1. Cristiano Ronaldo, Soccer
2. LeBron James, Basketball
3. Lionel Messi, Soccer
4. Neymar, Soccer
5. Roger Federer, Tennis
6. Kevin Durant, Basketball
7. Tiger Woods, Golf
8. Virat Kohl, Cricket
9. James Rodriguez, Soccer
10. Rafael Nadal, Tennis
11. Kobe Bryant, Basketball
12. Gareth Bale, Soccer
13. Phil Mickelson, Golf
14. Mahindra Singh Dhoni, Cricket
15. Usain Bolt, Track
16. Novak Djokovic, Tennis
17. Wayne Rooney, Soccer
18. Maria Sharapova, Tennis
19. Mesut Ozil, Soccer
20. Rory McIlroy, Golf
21. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Soccer
22. Luis Suarez, Soccer
23. Ronda Rousey, MMA
24. Sergio Aguero, Soccer
25. Serena Williams, Tennis
26. Mayweather, Floyd, Boxing
27. Radamel Falcao, Soccer
28. Cesc Fabregas, Soccer
29. Carmelo Anthony, Basketball
30. Derrick Rose, Basketball
31. Andy Murray, Tennis
32. Cam Newton, Football
33. Dwayne Wade, Basketball
34. Stephen Curry, Basketball
35. Manny Pacquiao, Boxing
36. Dwight Howard, Basketball
37. Conor McGregor, MMA
38. Peyton Manning, Football
39. Chris Paul, Basketball
40. Odell Beckham, Football
41. Sania Mirza, Tennis
42. Eden Hazard, Soccer
43. Blake Griffin, Basketball
44. Drew Brees, Football
45. Damian Lillard, Basketball
46. Michael Phelps, Swimming
47. Kei Nishikori, Tennis
48. Russell Westbrook, Basketball
49. Russell Wilson, Football
50. Jordan Spieth, Golf
51. Justin Rose, Golf
52. Tom Brady, Football
53. Aaron Rodgers, Football
54. James Harden, Basketball
55. Alex Morgan, Soccer
56. J.J. Watt, Football
57. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Auto racing
58. Jimmie Johnson, Auto racing
59. Lewis Hamilton, Auto racing
60. Jeremy Lin, Basketball
61. Marshawn Lynch, Football
62. Frank Lampard, Soccer
63. Danica Patrick, Auto racing
64. Ryan Sheckler, Extreme
65. Alex Ovechkin, Hockey
66. Eli Manning, Football
67. Kevin Love, Basketball
68. Chris Bosh, Basketball
69. Andrew Luck, Football
70. Tony Romo, Football
71. Bryce Harper, Baseball
72. Rob Gronkowski, Football
73. Mike Trout, Baseball
74. Venus Williams, Tennis
75. Fernando Alonso, Auto racing
76. Shaun White, Extreme
77. Tony Stewart, Auto racing
78. David Ortiz, Baseball
79. Amare Stoudemire, Basketball
80. Wladimir Klitschko, Boxing
81. Lydia Ko, Golf
82. Sidney Crosby, Hockey
83. Billy Herschel, Golf
84. Canelo Alvarez, Boxing
85. Robinson Cano, Baseball
86. Yaya Toure, Soccer
87. Deron Williams, Basketball
88. Miguel Cabrera, Baseball
89. Masahiro Tanaka, Baseball
90. Tim Duncan, Basketball
91. Rudy Gay, Basketball
92. Evgeni Malkin, Hockey
93. Albert Pujols, Baseball
94. Kyle Busch, Auto racing
95. Andy Dalton, Football
96. Tim Howard, Soccer
97. Kimi Raikkonen, Auto racing
98. Ben Roethlisberger, Football
99. Carson Palmer, Football
100. Matt Kemp, Baseball

A few thoughts on this list:

1. The breakdown by sport (highest ranked in parentheses):

20 .. Basketball (2)
17 .. Soccer (1)
16 .. Football (32)
9 .. Auto racing (57)
9 .. Tennis (5)
8 .. Baseball (71)
7 .. Golf (7)
4 .. Boxing (26)
3 .. Hockey (65)
2 .. Cricket (8)
2 .. Extreme (64)
2 .. MMA (23)
1 .. Swimming (46)
1 .. Track (15)

Breakdown by gender:

Male .. 92 (1)
Female .. 8 (18)

Breakdown by country:

United States .. 56
Everybody else ..  44

2. If this were scored like a cross-country meet, where your five highest-ranked individuals had their rankings added together, lowest score wins, soccer would destroy everybody. Five of the top 12 most-famous athletes in the world are soccer players. 

3. Houston is represented on the list by (for now) Dwight Howard (36), James Harden (38) and J.J. Watt (56). I'm mildly surprised that a) Watt is that far down the list (although football, as a whole, seems to have fame ratings that don't align with its domestic appeal), b) Dwight Howard is still this high up the list and c) Carli Lloyd didn't crack the Top 100.

4. In the NFL, fame is typically tied to the ability to throw the football, and this is certainly played out in the analysis here. Of the 16 NFL players on the list, a dozen are quarterbacks. The only non-quarterbacks on the list are Odell Beckham (40), Watt (56), Marshawn Lynch (61) and Rob Gronkowski (72). 

4. Major League Baseball's inability to market the game bears itself out on this list, with Bryce Harper being the highest-ranked baseball player at 71. 

5. If Johnny Manziel could have just stayed sober enough to hold a job with the Browns, it'd be interesting to see where he would rank on this list. Salary would obviously be somewhat low comparatively, but he'd still have endorsements (presumably), and in the social media and Google realm, few top Johnny Football.

6. I'm guessing ESPN did not include WWE stars on this list, which is a little surprising given that ESPN, as a company, has been treating it more and more like a mainstream sport, with WWE superstars appearing regularly on SportsCenter. If I had to guess, I'd say John Cena, Brock Lesnar (list compiled before his UFC return was announced) and possibly Roman Reigns would've cracked the list.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.  

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