The ESPN Sports Poll has been taking the pulse of fans since 1994. For the 10th straight quarter (the poll is taken every four months), James was most frequently cited as favorite NBA player by respondents who said they regularly followed the league.
The hype surrounding James as a high school player was such that many people knew his name even before he went straight from prep ball to the NBA in 2003. The Cavaliers star has justified the hoopla, going to the NBA Finals six times, including the past five in a row, winning two titles and being named MVP four times. His affable, family-friendly persona, combined with his on-court dominance, has also made James a a fixture in TV ads.
James was picked 22.4 percent of the time by fans in the ESPN poll, while Kobe Bryant came in a distant second at 13.9. An NBA superstar for two decades, Bryant last topped the ESPN poll at the start of 2013, and his announcement that he will retire after this season has ensured plenty of ongoing coverage, even as his Lakers are having a dismal campaign.
Curry came in third, at 12.5 percent. That constitutes a meteoric rise for the sharpshooting guard, who was cited as the favorite NBA player of 2.1 percent of fans in last year’s third-quarter poll.
Curry, of course, got the better of James when it counted most, in the most recent Finals. In addition, Curry has moved ahead in another significant measure of popularity: jersey sales.
In July, the NBA announced that the Warriors guard had the best-selling jersey at the league’s official store, this after James had topped the list for six straight seasons. More recently, online retailer Fanatics reported (via ESPN’s Darren Rovell) that Curry had its best-selling jersey — with James coming in second — and was the leader in that category in 46 states.