By Barry Janoff
September 24, 2015: LeBron James is a man of many talents, but even he might find this hard to digest.
James, a 12-year NBA veteran and two-time world champion, has been named as both Favorite Male Athlete and Least Favorite Athlete in the U.S..The contradictory results were unveiled in a just-released survey from The Harris Poll, conducted by Harris Interactive.
The survey puts James ahead of sports icon Michael Jordan and reigning MVP's Aaron Rodgers (NFL) and Stephen Curry (NBA) among Favorite Athletes and ahead of Tom Brady, Alex Rodriguez and Tiger Woods as Least Favorite.
Among women athletes, tennis star Serena Williams was named No. 1 for the sixth consecutive Harris Poll, reflecting a year in which she won three Grand Slams and made the semi-finals in the other (U.S. Open).
The numbers regarding James may be explained in part by the fact that the poll was conducted online among 2,220 adults between June 17-22, 2015, which immediately followed James and the Cleveland Cavaliers' six-game loss in the NBA Finals to Curry and the Golden State Warriors.
James was the Favorite Male Athlete in the 2014 Harris Poll, as well, which saw Jordan also finish second. In 2013, Jordan was first and James second.
A separate question regarding public awareness and potential marketability resulted in a slightly different Top Five among male athletes. According to the Harris Poll, Michael Jordan was well-known and considered marketable by 88% of those surveyed, followed by James (76%), Curry (75%), Brady (75%) and Rodgers (46%).
Rodgers, however, was "70% more recognizable" than the average of all NFL players, according to the Harris Poll.
Williams was named No. 1 for the sixth consecutive Harris Poll dating back to 2009 (no poll was conducted in 2012) and for the seventh time in the last eight polls.
Race car driver Danica Patrick was named as the second Favorite Female Athlete for the third consecutive Harris Poll.
The Top Five also includes Serena's sister Venus, UFC star Ronda Rousey (making her first appearance in the Harris Poll) and soccer legend Mia Hamm.
The success of the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team prior to and then in the FIFA World Cup had a major impact on this year's poll.
Although the event was still in progress when this particular survey was conducted — the U.S, did not win the World Cup until July 5 — three team members made the Top Ten among Favorite Female Athletes: Hope Solo (No. 6) Alex Morgan (No. 7) and Abby Wambach (No. 8).
The Harris Poll did not reveal specific vote tallies, but Solo surprisingly placed higher than her two teammates.
In 2014, she was charged with two counts of fourth-degree domestic violence, the charges of which were dropped by a judge this past January. But the case was re-introduced to the pubic in June, just as the U.S. Women's Team was preparing to play in the FIFA World Cup, by ESPN's Outside the Lines, which gave previously untold and unflattering accounts of Hope's situation.
Solo was No. 8 in the 2013 Harris Survey but dropped out of the Top Ten in 2014, a direct result of her off-field issues.
Finding James atop both lists is eye-catching, but not too surprising in the context of other results from the 2015 Harris Poll.
In addition to James, athletes who were named to both the Favorite and Least Favorite Top Ten lists include Curry, Brady, Woods and Kobe Bryant.
Among other findings:
• James is the Favorite Male Athlete among both men and women, as well as with Millennial (18-35), Gen X (36-50) and Baby Boomer 51-69) demographics.
• Brady is No. 1 among Matures (70+).
"Republicans named Peyton Manning and Tim Tebow as their Favorite Male Athletes, James was No. 1 with Democrats, Jordan tops among Independents."
• Serena Williams swept the board at No. 1 among all demographics, political parties and regional sections of the U.S. except for Rural, where Patrick came out on top.
• Maria Sharapova had the biggest drop among women in the Top Ten, from No. 4 in 2014 to No. 9. Martina Navratilova came in at No. 10 after not making the list in the last two Harris Polls.
• Three women dropped out of the Top Ten this year: Tennis legend Billie Jean King (who tied for the No. 6 spot in 2014), skier Lindsey Vonn (No. 6 tie) and volleyball icon Misty May Treanor (who held the No. 10 spot in 2014).
"How fans feel about an athlete matters tremendously," Stephen Master, global svp-sports for Nielsen, of which Harris Interactive is a subsidiary, said in a statement. "As leagues, programmers, advertisers or the athletes themselves look to translate that popularity into other opportunities like endorsements or sponsorships, it's important to know who fans are emotionally investing in, and to have the most complete picture of those fans — who they like and dislike, but also what they buy, watch and listen to."
Favorite Male Athletes
1. LeBron James
2. Michael Jordan
3. Aaron Rodgers
4. Stephen Curry
5. Tom Brady
6. Peyton Manning
7. Derek Jeter
8. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
9. Kobe Bryant
10. Tiger Woods
Favorite Female Athletes
1. Serena Williams
2. Danica Patrick
3. Venus Williams
4. Ronda Rousey
5. Mia Hamm
6. Hope Solo
7. Alex Morgan
8. Abby Wambach
9. Maria Sharapova
10. Chris Everet
10. Martina Navratilova
Least Favorite Athletes
1. LeBron James
2. Tom Brady
3. Alex Rodriguez
4. Tiger Woods
5. Kobe Bryant
6. Michael Vick
7. Stephen Curry
8. Tony Romo
9. Ray Rice
10. Richard Sherman
Source: Harris Poll