How Is LeBron James the Most Popular Athlete in America?

LeBron Jamesand Sprite Unveil Refurbished Gym at Boys & Girls Club in New Orleans

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On any given NBA game night, an informal poll around living rooms and barrooms might reveal there was one true villain in the NBA: LeBron James. In a real poll conducted online by Nielsen’s Harris Interactive, LeBron turned out to be America’s favorite sports star. The results showed independent voters, baby boomers, and millennials preferred James most as LeBron took the top spot from His Airness, Michael Jordan.

The Harris Interactive Poll was conducted during the NBA Finals, prior to his decision to rejoin Cleveland, and was based on the responses of 2,241 adults online with the results “weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population,” according to the pollers. LeBron’s leap to the top was just one step up from his second-place finish in 2013, but it was a far cry from 2011, when he didn’t crack the top ten after you-know-what.

A “Decision” forgotten?

Ever since he made “The Decision” and emerged from a pyrotechnics show inside Miami’s American Airlines Arena, a slew of fans both casual and serious put LeBron on their most hated list, never to return. Many have detailed their distaste for James on social media and sports sites without abandon. Yet maybe the haters have just been a bit louder. Plenty have been worshipping the King.

According to the Harris Poll, the rest of the country has been happy to watch James’s high-flying, stat-busting performances on a nightly basis and somehow ignored the chatter. At least voters who described their political party as Independent overwhelmingly did, along with baby boomers and millennials, all of whom went with King James. LeBron also had the most support from the Midwest and South.

Still, LeBron would have needed support from all circles and age groups to be the most popular athlete in America.