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Michael Jordan the greatest athlete of all-time, survey says

According to a survey conducted by The Harris Poll, Americans consider Chicago Bulls shooting guard Michael Jordan the greatest athlete of all-time. Legendary slugger Babe Ruth came in second while boxer Muhammad Ali locked down the third spot. Tennis star Serena Williams captured fourth and charismatic quarterback Peyton Manning ended up at number five. Joe Montana, LeBron James, Tiger Woods, Tom Brady and Wayne Gretzky rounded out the list. 

Sports stars shuffle
The Harris Poll last conducted this survey back in 2009, when Jordan also clinched the top spot. However, there's been a lot of shuffling in the lower half of the rankings since then. Serena Williams experienced a meteoric rise, jumping to third after previously being unranked. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady landed in ninth after going unranked in 2009. And, Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James jumped from 10th to seventh.

James' likability plummeted in 2010 after he left the Cavaliers for the Miami Heat, reported ESPN. Since then, he's won two NBA championships, returned to Cleveland and rehabbed his image. Unfortunately for James, many fans still find him detestable. According to a separate survey conducted by The Harris Poll last year, many Americans say he's their least favorite athlete.

Golfer Tiger Woods suffered the most notable downslide of any athlete. In 2009, he held the second spot but now, Woods sits at number eight. The reason for this decline is no mystery. Months after the 2009 poll was conducted, Woods became embroiled in a string of off-the-course scandals, reported The New York Times. These events damaged the golfer's public image and derailed his game. In the five years leading up to the events of 2009, Woods won 32 PGA Tour events. He's captured only eight wins since.

MJ reigns supreme
Michael Jordan was a mythical athlete. Every game broadcasted during the entirety of Jordan's 15-year career was a testament to his absolute dominance - either viewers watched in awe as No. 23 performed on-court sorcery or sat in disappointment while mere mortals not named Jordan filled their television screens. Even after he retired, the Greatest of All-Time kept a tight grip on the league. He became the archetype against which every promising new player was judged. Off the court, Jordan channeled his competitiveness into business ventures. He cultivated profitable relationships with brands like Gatorade and Nike, the latter of which dominates the basketball footwear game because of its ties to Jordan. In 2010 the GOAT secured an 80 percent stake in the Charlotte Hornets, making him the NBA's only African-American team owner, reported The Times. According to Forbes, Jordan's fiscal prowess earns him around $100 million every year. In comparison, endorsement darling LeBron James made $64 million last year.

Many think No. 23 might also dwarf James on court. According to a recent survey, 34 percent of sports fans believe Jordan could beat The King in a game of one-on-one right now, reported The Washington Post. Approximately 77 percent of respondents said Jordan was the best basketball player ever. Only 14 percent picked James.  

Football in first
The Harris Poll also asked participants to rate their engagement with different sports. Approximately 50 percent of respondents said they followed professional football. This probably doesn't surprise most fans. According to USA Today, the NFL has dominated its fellow sports leagues for the last few decades. Of course, this popularity translates to television. Seven of the eight most-watched television broadcasts ever are Super Bowls, reported Statista. According to CNN, the NFL will likely earn around $13 billion by the end of the 2015-2016 season. Major League Baseball, the NFL's closest competitor, raked in $9.5 billion last season, reported Forbes.   


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