BOSTON (CBS) — In a vacuum, you’d think that Tom Brady would at least be one of the 20 most famous athletes in the world. Despite the Patriots quarterback’s massive fame in the United States, a new ESPN list ranks him surprisingly low on a global scale.

The list is called the ESPN World Fame 100, the network’s second annual ranking of the 100 most famous athletes in the world. A team headed by ESPN director of analytics Ben Alamar devised a formula that looks at endorsements, social media followings, and search engine popularity to determine the top-100 and rank them accordingly.

The rankings quickly proves that, at least by the standards of ESPN’s formula, American football simply isn’t the powerhouse anywhere else in the world that it is in the U.S. In what sounds like a low ranking, Brady sits at No. 21.

gettyimages 6642659821 ESPN Ranks Tom Brady 21st On List Of Worlds Most Famous Athletes

Tom Brady (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

However, Brady is actually the highest-ranked NFL player on the list. Soccer dominated, with a whopping 38 names cracking the top-100. Comparatively, the list contains 13 basketball players, 11 golfers, and zero baseball or hockey players.

Seven other football players made the top 100, five of which are quarterbacks: Cam Newton (No. 47), Drew Brees (No. 52), Russell Wilson (No. 55), Aaron Rodgers (No. 56), Eli Manning (No. 60), receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (No. 64), and defensive lineman J.J. Watt (No. 74).

Brady ranked No. 52 in last year’s top-100. He ostensibly gained plenty of ground with ESPN’s formula in the past year, considering his increased activity on Facebook and Instagram and his growing list of new endorsements.

The ESPN World Fame 100 illuminates the huge international popularity of sports that are no more than blips on the radar in the U.S. compared to the NFL. The top-20 includes four soccer players (including Cristiano Ronaldo at No.1), five tennis players, four golfers, and even two cricket players.

Despite the relative lack of popularity of American football outside of America, it’s still surprising to know that Brady couldn’t crack the top-20 in terms of worldwide popularity. It must be jarring to NFL fans, especially those in New England, to know that Brady isn’t as famous around the world as the likes of Japanese tennis star Kei Nishikori (No. 20), Brazilian soccer player Naká (No. 18), or Indian cricket slugger Virat Kohli (No. 13).

But, of course, Brady is No. 1 in New England – the only place where his ranking would even matter.


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