(CBS) For the first time in a career that blossomed into the national consciousness when he was just a high school freshman, LeBron James is America’s most popular male athlete, according to a Harris Poll.
James was No. 2 on the list last season, and he edged second-place Michael Jordan this year. Jordan was voted the most popular male athlete from 1993-2005. It’s been a long journey for James to capture America’s heart after a public relations misstep in 2010 when he announced “The Decision” to leave for the Miami Heat in front of a national television audience, coldly turning a shoulder to his homestate Cleveland Cavaliers, who he’d played his first seven seasons with.
Just last week, James re-signed with the Cavaliers after four NBA Finals appearances with the Heat. He announced the decision in a first-person letter in Sports Illustrated that many agreed struck the perfect chord. That had no effect on this Harris Poll, however, as it surveyed 2,241 people last month, ESPN.com reported.
Derek Jeter was No. 3 on this year’s list, followed by Peyton Manning and then Kobe Bryant and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a tie for fifth. Tom Brady was seventh.
Serena Williams was tabbed the most popular female athlete.