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One day, in the midst of writing my football prognostication program, I had a thought.  I wondered who the most influential (American) football players was.  I didn’t mean the best, or the highest paid, but all that. Plus most famous, richest, – the most overall successful football player was.  Then I thought “Why limit it to football players”?  Why not all athletes….

The Baller Index

That simple idea turned into trying to rank hundreds of sports stars, across 15 different sports, using dozens of statistical categories. I call it The Baller Index. My friends call it dumb… I used Pandas to do the heavy lifting of cleaning up all the data I collected on each athlete.

The Baller Index Code

I used obvious metrics like total money earned over the last year, how many championships, MVP equivalent awards, etc. I also measured social media followers, Wikipedia page views, google searches, etc. I took all that data into Python and did some appropriate maths and got a rank from one to one hundred. That was my goal, but one athlete is so popular I had to continually adjust my model so he didn’t score over 100 compared to everyone else…

I learned some interesting things compiling this data and writing this code. About sports and Python / data science. Sports wise I was surprised that ( comparatively ) nobody gives a damn about baseball or hockey players. There are as many cricket stars as baseball players on this list. There are no hockey players on this list… None. Nare. Without further ado:

The Baller Index Top 40

Cristiano Ronaldo	96.0
Neymar			94.0
Lionel Messi		89.0
Lebron James		76.0
Tom Brady		72.0
Anderson Silva		68.0
Kaka			64.0
Rodger Federer		62.0
Stephen Curry		61.0
Kevin Durant		57.0
Tiger Woods		56.0
Rafael Nadal		55.0
Sergio Ramos		51.0
Serena Williams		50.0
Connor McGregor		49.0
Novak Djokovic		47.0
JJ Watt			47.0
Wayne Rooney		46.0
Usain Bolt		46.0
Floyd Mayweather	44.0
Virat Kohli		43.0
James Harden		43.0
Gareth Bale		42.0
Aaron Rodgers		41.0
Russell Westbrook	41.0
Carmelo Anthony		40.0
Russell Wilson		40.0
Rory Mcllroy		39.0
Cam Newton		38.0
Ronda Rousey		38.0
Jordan Spieth		37.0
Kyrie Irving		36.0
Chris Paul		36.0
MS Dhoni		36.0
Kei Nishikori		35.0
Maria Sharapova		35.0
Dwyane wade		34.0
Clayton Kershaw		31.0
Mike Trout		31.0
Manny Pacquiao		29.0

Cristiano Ronaldo may not be the best soccer player in the world these days (I’ve been told), however he is the biggest baller.  No matter how I ran my tests, tweaked my math, etc. he always came out on top.  In this version two other footballers follow  once again proving the rest of the world cares little about sports other than soccer…

Of all the American sports basketball is the most popular with the rest of the world, and ‘Bron is forth on this list and the top American.  Tom Brady transcends NFL football and checks in right after James at 5.  Twelve other athletes are listed before another NFL player makes the list ( J.J. Watt at 17).  I tried to keep retired jocks off the list but I couldn’t find anywhere the definitively said that Silva, Mayweather, Bolt, or Rousey were officially retired…

That brings us to Tiger.  No way I worked my algorithm kept him off this list even though he hasn’t won nothing in who knows how long.  His endorsements keep his earnings high and he is still the most dominant “golfer” online, in the news, etc.

MMA fighters might be underrepresented because they make so little money comparatively.  Their popularity as a group is third behind only soccer, basketball, and tennis but their earnings pale by comparison.

It’s funny to think that MS Dhoni  is as big a baller as Kyrie Irving.  I wonder if he thinks the world is flat?  You can see the full size graph here.
The Baller Index Graph

Finally I had no idea who Kei Nishikori was when I started this, and no idea how popular cricket was in India…  Let me know what you think of this idea, the list, who I missed etc. down in the comments.