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ESPN ranked "Top 100 Most Famous Athletes in the World" and Tom Brady is in the bottom half

What else would you expect, though?

Just based off the headline, you can tell that this ranking is awful.

Soccer megastars Christiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi sandwich Cleveland's savior LeBron James to formulate the top three, while soccer player Neymar and tennis player Roger Federer round out the top five. This is fine because the question is about the world and these individuals have international acclaim.

The highest ranked NFL player is Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton at 32nd overall, which just seems wrong on so many levels.

Per ESPN's rankings, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is not one of the six most famous players in the NFL, which is absolute hogwash. He's not even in the top 50 overall.

They have Brady trailing Newton, Guyer Institute quarterback Peyton Manning, New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

Brady comes in at 52nd overall. For the record, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers comes in at 53rd and Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt comes in at 56th. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski ranks 72nd.

This is wrong. So, so, so wrong. There's no way that Newton is the most famous athlete in football. I'm willing to concede that Peyton deserves that distinction. There's no way that Brees gets the nod above Brady or Watt.

So how did ESPN get the rankings so wrong?

Well, we can check out the methodology that sheds some light on the issues. They started with the "Forbes' list of the 100 highest-paid athletes", and baked in salaries, endorsements, social media presence, and Google search rankings to come up with these final rankings.

Forbes' List

Let's just say it this is a rough place to start because Brady isn't even on the list. Manning and Brees and Rodgers and even Patriots safety Patriots'Devin McCourty make the list. ESPN seems to think that "2015 income" means "fame" instead of "this person signed a new contract this year."

Of course, the idea of "endorsements" playing a role in "fame" makes some sense because it allows the player to transcend the sport and become recognized in commercials. Brady doesn't really do this too often, other than for Uggs and apparently Secret Agent Mattresses, which affects his fame. Sure, I'll buy that.


Let's focus on the part where "NFL salary figures count only the previous season's salary plus any bonuses paid out in 2015."

Tom Brady had the 33rd ranked base salary in the NFL last season. On the other hand, Newton and Wilson both signed mega-contracts after their rookie contracts expired, with Wilson having the highest cash inflow of 2015.

Brady's contract was notoriously team friendly last season. I'm guessing he'd rise a few places if they factored in his contract extension from this offseason.

Social Media Presence

This is where Odell Beckham Jr. cleans house. He has roughly a million followers on Twitter and Facebook, but explodes to 4.5 million on Instagram. Brady has 3.7 million on Facebook, but he doesn't have a Twitter or an Instagram account. If I were running the study, I would normalize the social media presence based upon the platform- and Brady would fall behind.

For comparison, Newton has 2.0 million Facebook followers, 750 thousand Twitter followers, and 2.8 million Instgram followers. Wilson has 2.1 million Facebook followers, 1.7 million Twitter followers, and 2.3 million Instagram followers. Watt has 1.8 million Facebook followers, 2.0 million Twitter followers, and 2.1 million Instagram followers.

The fact that Beckham laps their Instagram accounts definitely helps. The top 10 of the list includes a lot of basketball and soccer players that have ginormous Twitter and Facebook presences, so I'm sure the social media presence is a huge weight in the rankings.

But we all know who really wins on social.

Google Rankings

Let's have a graph do the talking:

Brady dominated the search engine, pretty much from January to December, and it wasn't even close. My guess is that this had a far lesser weight.

Basically the two biggest factors in the rankings are income and social media presence, and Brady has actively stepped aside in both. His income in 2015 was well below his peers and he dedicates his social media presence to Facebook- when you search "Tom Brady" and "Instagram" or "Twitter", his wife's accounts show up at the top.

Based on ESPN's formula, Brady's not one of the 50 most famous athletes in the world. I think that means they should change the formula.