Last year, ESPN set out to rank (which has to be about their favorite thing to do in Bristol these days) set out to rank the top athletes in the world based on how famous they are. While an athlete needs to be at or near the top of their sport — with a few exceptions — in order to make the ranking, ESPN uses the number and size of endorsements, social media following and “internet search popularity” to put together their World Fame 100. Given that criteria, the World Fame 100 is heavily influenced by the players of the world’s most popular game, soccer, with two of the top three spots and 38 spots overall going to players of the “beautiful game.”
But basketball makes a strong showing as well with 13 NBA players making the Top 100, the second-most behind the futbolers. And for the second-straight year, despite playing in one of the smaller markets in the United States, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard made ESPN’s World Fame 100, coming in this year at No. 61…
WHY HE’S GOT FAME
Lillard wears uniform No. 0 for the Portland Trail Blazers, which might as well represent the amount of hesitation he shows under pressure — evidenced by the series-clinching 3-pointer he hit to oust the Rockets in the 2014 playoffs. In reality, the zero represents the letter O, a nod to his hometown of Oakland, his college town of Ogden, Utah, (home of Weber State) and his pro state of Oregon. Lillard was unanimously named NBA Rookie of the Year in 2013, beating out No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Davis. Since then, he has established himself as one of the most consistent scorers in the league.
Lillard is listed as earning $10 million in endorsements (which I think might actually be a bit low, but close enough) thanks to partnerships with adidas, JBL, Spalding and, most recently, Powerade, while boasting 3.3 million followers on Instagram, 2.7 million followers on Facebook and 1.2 million on Twitter (he also has 62,000 followers on his SoundCloud account). Lillard coming in behind Giants quarterback Eli Manning at No. 60 and ahead of golfer Ricky Fowler at No. 62.
Lillard is 11th of 13 NBA players on the Fame 100 behind LeBron James (No. 2), Kevin Durant (No. 8), Stephen Curry (No. 11), Dwyane Wade (No. 24), James Harden (No. 28), Derrick Rose (No. 33), Kyrie Irving (No. 34), Russell Westbrook (No. 35), Carmelo Anthony (No. 41) and Chris Paul (No. 51). Lillard ranks ahead of Blake Griffin at No. 63 and Dwight Howard at No. 65. And in terms of Americans on the list, Lillard comes in at No. 24.
Lillard actually dropped on this year’s ranking after being listed at No. 45 last year despite making far less money — the 2015-16 season was the last year of his rookie contract — and having fewer social media followers. But considering where he plays and that he was relatively unheralded entering the league, unlike the other NBA players on the list, the fact that he’s made the Top 100 twice is impressive, regardless of where he ends up on the ranking.