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.
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.
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.