Top Ten

Most Popular Athletes

Julian Finney/Getty Images

Footballers, b-ballers and tennis pros make up the list of the year’s most popular athletes.

10. Usain Bolt

Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Usain Bolt stole the show at the Rio Olympics, completing the “triple triple”--three sprinting gold medals in three consecutive Olympics.

9. Gareth Bale

Stu Forster/Getty Images

Gareth Bale of Wales celebrates his team's 3-1 surprise win against Belgium after the UEFA Euro 2016 quarterfinal match in July.

8. Kobe Bryant

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

Kobe Bryant played his last NBA game, against the Utah Jazz, in April. Greeted with accolades from fans and opposing team members alike, Bryant closed his 20-year career by scoring 60 points, leading his team to a 101-96 victory. “From the bottom of my heart, thank you,” he told the sold-out Staples Center crowd after the game. “Mamba out.”

7. Andy Murray

Julian Finney/Getty Images

Andy Murray celebrates scoring a point during the men's singles semifinal against Milos Raonic at the ATP World Tour Finals in November. The match, which lasted three hours and 38 minutes, was the longest ever played at the tournament.

6. Stephen Curry

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors was all emotion in game seven of the Western Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the NBA Playoffs in May. The Warriors ultimately lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals.

5. Serena Williams

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Losing just one set in the entire tournament, Serena Williams defeated Angelique Kerber to win her 22nd Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in June.

4. LeBron James

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers broke a 52-year Cleveland sports title drought by becoming the first team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 series deficit, defeating the Golden State Warriors in a rematch of the previous year’s Final.

3. Neymar

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Neymar celebrates after scoring the winning penalty in a shoot-out during the Men's Football Final between Brazil and Germany at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in August, giving the host country its first-ever Olympic gold in the sport.

2. Lionel Messi

Amilcar Orfali/LatinContent/Getty Images

Lionel Messi--considered one of the greatest soccer players of all time--announced his retirement after losing to Chile in the Copa América Centenario final in July. He reversed his decision just a week later after fans, including Argentina’s president, convinced him to keep playing.

1. Cristiano Ronaldo

Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Cristiano Ronaldo was stretchered off, tears streaming down his face, in the first half of the Euro 2016 Final in July. At least he could take solace in the fact that he’s the world’s highest-paid athlete (net worth: $320 million), and after Portugal’s win, Madeira Airport in Funchal was renamed the Cristiano Ronaldo Airport.

2016 in numbers