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Top Sports Stars of 2015

This is a golden age for pro sports in North America. You can see it in not only the record TV ratings and attendance figures, but also at the cash registers. Retail sales of licensed sports goods topped $14.1 billion in 2014. Sports properties now account for 14.1% of all licensed goods sold in the U.S. and Canada, the third highest market share behind only corporate trademarks/brands (26%) and fashion (20.3%).

And with the Harris Poll’s annual poll of American sports fans, we get to see a hint of the star power driving each major sports league. However, it is important to note that these rankings do not necessarily correlate with retail sales.

With all major leagues, except NASCAR, seeing an increase in retail sales of licensed goods, this is the best time to get into the game. Get the full story on this $14.1 billion industry with TLL’s new 2015 Sports Licensing Report. This in-depth profile of the major leagues and sports organizations reveals retail, online, and concession sales breakdowns; product breakdowns by sport; and contacts for more than 200 key licensees. Contact our business delevelopment department at or 888-729-2315 for exclusive pre-order information.

Top 10 Greatest Sports Stars
Data Source: Harris Poll
Sports Star 2009 Rank 2015 Rank
Michael Jordan 1 1
Babe Ruth 3 2
Muhammad Ali 4 3
Serena Williams 4
Peyton Manning 8 5
Joe Montana 6 6
LeBron James 10 7
Tiger Woods 2 8
Tom Brady 9
Wayne Gretzky 7 10

National Football League (NFL)

Football’s ranks have been unsettled by Joe Montana, the new top dog. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning occupy spots number two and three, respectively. The 2015 Sports Licensing Report found that, as expected, quarterbacks dominated retail sales for 2015.

Major League Baseball (MLB)

The top ranking baseball legends are Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle, in that order. This last year saw the retirement of Yankee legend Derek Jeter. What could have been, and some would argue should have been, a one-weekend celebration was transformed into a season-long farewell tour that generated millions in merchandising sales.

National Basketball Association (NBA)

Michael Jordan naturally tops the list, followed by Wilt Chamberlain at number two and LeBron James making his first appearance on the list in spot number three.

No league relies more heavily on star power than the NBA. From Bird and Magic to Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and current golden boy and reigning MVP Stephen Curry, charismatic superstars own not just the hardwood but cash registers.

Major League Soccer (MLS)

For the first time, The Harris Poll also ranked the greatest soccer player of all time. Pelé tops the list, followed by Lionel Messi and David Beckham. Beckham, who hung up his cleats in 2013, is the closest thing soccer has to Michael Jordan. Like Jordan, he has become a team owner, spearheading the effort to bring an expansion team to Miami. Most of all, Beckham has become a fashion and lifestyle licensing empire.


The top three spots are held by Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. The PGA TOUR is unique in this group of sports leagues in that it doesn’t have a player’s union.

American’s Top-Ranked Players, by Demographic, 2015
Data Source: Harris Poll
Men Michael Jordan Babe Ruth Muhammad Ali
Women Michael Jordan Serena Williams Muhammad Ali
East Michael Jordan Babe Ruth Muhammad Ali
Midwest Michael Jordan Babe Ruth Muhammad Ali,
Aaron Rogers
South Michael Jordan Babe Ruth Muhammad Ali
West Michael Jordan Babe Ruth Muhammad Ali
Millennials (18–35) Michael Jordan LeBron James Serena Williams
Gen X (36–50) Michael Jordan Muhammad Ali Babe Ruth
Baby Boomers (51–69) Michael Jordan Muhammad Ali Babe Ruth
Matures (70+) Babe Ruth Michael Jordan Joe Montana
White Michael Jordan Babe Ruth Muhammad Ali
Black Michael Jordan Muhammad Ali,
Lebron James
Hispanic Michael Jordan Muhammad Ali LeBron James
Asian Michael Jordan Muhammad Ali Serena Williams,
Joe Montana,
Tom Brady,
Wayne Gretzky










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