ESPN Presents the 2017 World Fame List

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ESPN Presents the 2017 World Fame List

ESPN Presents the 2017 World Fame 100 List

  • Cristiano Ronaldo claims top spot once again
  • Rory McIlroy is highest ranking of eight Brits who feature
  • 12 Premier League footballers appear in the top 100, led by Zlatan Ibrahimović
  • Eight women make the top 100 this year, compared to five in 2016, with Ronda Rousey top

Today the ESPN World Fame 100 returns with a new list that catalogues the most famous athletes around the world. Debuting last year, the ESPN World Fame is ESPN’s ranking of the 100 most famous active athletes in the world (retired athletes are not considered for the list). The ranking is based on a formula devised by ESPN director of sports analytics Ben Alamar, which combines endorsements, social media reach and other data to create a comparative ranking system.

The ESPN World Fame 100 has been released today on

The Top 10 athletes in the ESPN World Fame 100 are:

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo
  2. LeBron James
  3. Lionel Messi
  4. Roger Federer
  5. Phil Mickelson
  6. Neymar
  7. Usain Bolt
  8. Kevin Durant
  9. Rafael Nadal
  10. Tiger Woods

Cristiano Ronaldo leads the ESPN World Fame 100 list for the second year in a row, with the top three positions unchanged from 2016. The Portuguese footballer retains his crown after recently becoming the first player to reach 100 goals in European club competitions with his team, Real Madrid, winning their first La Liga title for five seasons and in their second consecutive Champions League Final. Ronaldo is also the reigning holder of the Ballon d’Or and captained Portugal to victory in the 2016 UEFA European Championship – the country’s only major trophy. Later this week, ESPNFC’s Sid Lowe takes a look at how, aged 32, Ronaldo is better than ever, and leading Real Madrid to a historic season, thanks to some unexpected advice from his unlikely manager, Zinedine Zidane.

Eight athletes from the UK rank among the ESPN World Fame 100, as do 12 global footballers who play each week in the Premier League. The British athletes in the ESPN World Fame 100 are:


  1. Rory McIlroy
    22.  Gareth Bale
    31.  Wayne Rooney

    32.  Andy Murray
    73.  Justin Rose
    77.  Raheem Sterling
    79.  Theo Walcott
    84. Lewis Hamilton


Britain’s most famous athlete on the ESPN World Fame 100 is golf superstar Rory McIlroy, who has established himself among the very best in world golf, notching up 13 PGA Tour and 13 European Tour wins since turning professional in 2007. With his fame no doubt enhanced by being one of only three players to win three majors by the age of 25, McIlroy is also the current face of EA Sports’ PGA Tour game series.

Lewis Hamilton is the lowest-ranked Brit on the ESPN World Fame 100, but his jet-setting lifestyle sees him spending Easter with Kim and Kanye, and welcoming Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner and Justin Bieber into his pits. Some criticize his globetrotting lifestyle, but as ESPN senior writer Wayne Drehs discovers in a forthcoming feature, Hamilton doesn’t care.

MMA star Conor McGregor ranks at 25th on the list, and is Ireland’s only representative on the ESPN World Fame 100. To mark his entry, an in-depth feature on will profile the fighter, investigating how his prowess in the octagon, loud-mouthed reputation for saying whatever he likes (usually about money), fleet of supercars and eye-catching wardrobe have made him possibly the greatest evangelist for any sport since Muhammad Ali and boxing.

Other global superstars featured in the extensive ESPN World Fame 100 editorial package are tennis legend Roger Federer, the world’s fastest man Usain Bolt, NBA star Kevin Durant, MMA star Connor McGregor, F1 champion Lewis Hamilton, and footballers Paul Pogba, Didier Drogba, Falcao and Chicharito. Additionally, the ESPN World Fame 100 project includes stories from around the world that examine athletes whose fame may be more concentrated in some parts of the world – from Yuvraj Singh in India to Arturo Vidal in Chile – and those whose fame as individual sportsmen and women may surprise – like Jason Day and Eugenie Bouchard.

Footballers dominate the ESPN World Fame 100, taking up 38 of the positions, followed by 13 basketball stars, 11 golfers, 10 tennis players and eight American football players. American athletes represent 35 positions on the list, the next most-represented countries are Brazil, with nine entries, and Germany with seven. In addition, 63 of the athletes compete in team sports, while 37 compete in individual sports (counting motorsports as an individual sport).

Among the 12 Premier League footballers in the ESPN World Fame 100, Manchester United’s outspoken forward Zlatan Ibrahimović was the highest placed at 26, with Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Özil, Wayne Rooney, Paul Pogba and Sergio Aguero making the top 50.

The Premier League athletes in the ESPN World Fame 100 are:

  1. Zlatan Ibrahimović
    29.  Alexis Sanchez
    30.  Mesut Özil
    31.  Wayne Rooney
    40.  Paul Pogba
    49.  Sergio Aguero
    53.  David Luiz
    54.  Cesc Fàbregas
    77.  Raheem Sterling
    78.  Eden Hazard
    79.  Theo Walcott
    96.  Gabriel Jesus


Ronda Rousey replaces Serena Williams as the most famous female athlete in the ESPN World Fame 100, with eight women making the 2017 list compared to five in 2016. Of those eight female athletes, tennis is well represented with four women included, alongside the six men from the sport, while gymnasts Simone Biles and Aly Raisman also feature.

The female athletes in the ESPN World Fame 100 are:

  1. Ronda Rousey
    19.  Serena Williams
    23.  Maria Sharapova
    48.  Simone Biles
    75.  Hope Solo
    87.  Caroline Wozniacki
    93.  Eugenie Bouchard
    99.  Aly Raisman

The ESPN World Fame 100 has been released today on editions in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Colombia, India, Mexico, U.S. and U.K., as well as in Africa on and China via Tencent’s QQ Sports. Content from the global multimedia project produced in Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin Chinese. In addition to multiple global feature stories, local editorial teams around the world are also producing features on key athletes of relevance and each of the 100 athletes has a short summary addressing why the athlete is famous, a wild-card category that references his/her fame, a quote from or about the athlete and other key information.

Oliver Clarke

Ollie first joined ESPN in 2016 from the University of Birmingham. Ollie looks after all things direct-to-consumer in EMEA. This includes, but not limited to, customer acquisition and retention, programming, customer life cycle management and communications.
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