LeBron James Once Again NBA's Most Popular Player According to ESPN Poll

Gabe Zaldivar@gabezalPop Culture Lead WriterJuly 26, 2013

Winning may not cure absolutely everything, but it certainly catapults you into one popular athlete. 

Darren Rovell reports LeBron James is once again the most popular player in the NBA, according to the latest ESPN Sports Poll:

Nearly 13 percent (12.9) of NBA fans said James was their favorite player this season, allowing him to best Kobe Bryant (12.5) for the first time since the 2008-09 season. That was the only other season when James passed the Los Angeles Lakers star, the top pick by fans for five of six years from 2006-07 to 2011-12.

Kevin Durant (3.6 percent), Derrick Rose (2.8) and Dwyane Wade (2.6) round out the rest of the top five.

It should be fairly obvious to NBA fans why James may have slipped from the top spot for the last four years. In the 2008-09 season, James averaged 28.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 7.2 assists per game on his way to the NBA MVP award

The next season was met with some uncertainty and conjecture as to where James would play, leading up to the infamous "The Decision" presentation that saw King James instantly become one of the most vilified players in the league. 

As Rovell notes, his popularity took a major hit when ESPN aired live coverage of his decision to head to Miami. 

After "The Decision," James' approval rating slipped drastically. For his final season in Cleveland, 15.6 percent of fans called him their favorite, according to the ESPN Sports Poll taken after the 2009-10 season. But for his first two years with the Heat, James was called fans' favorite player by 10.2 and 9.4 percent, respectively.

Not only did James work his way back to the top of the basketball world, but he seemed to make inroads with fans with whom he apparently fell out of favor. As is often the case, people love winning and fall in love with those who dominate. James has reached another level with his play and captured back-to-back championships with the Miami Heat in the last two years.

When all is said and done, it's funny that an obvious public relations blunder would make such a significant impact on James' brand, especially when you consider the manner he plays the game and how he carries himself off the court. 

If there was any question that James was the best player in the league, he extinguished it with his masterful 37-point, 12-rebound performance in Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs. 

It seemed that finally fans, for the most part, were done quibbling about some silly show a few years prior and decided to just sit in awe and enjoy.  

Of course, James will take championships, MVP awards and wins over popularity polls. Still, it's always nice to know you are liked. 


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