In 2015, Steph Curry was the favorite athlete of millennials.

In 2016, Steph Curry is still, the favorite athlete of millennials.

And why wouldn't he be?

As an underdog who was repeatedly overlooked, had to work hard to garner attention, and displays loads of fun while doing it, Curry represents the quintessential symbol of "athletic possibility" for his generation.

I would, however, argue that his appeal is multi-generational as everyone from my six-year-old nephew, to my 12-year-old niece, to my own mother references his "on-the-court" dominance in daily conversation.

While sports properties become laser focused on millennials as the "fuel of the experience economy", which athlete matters most to this audience is paramount.

120 Sports unveiled its second annual Millennials' Athlete Index, providing insights and ranking of the athletes that matter most to Millennials. 120 Sports conducted this research in conjunction with Ranker, a leading digital media company for crowd sourced rankings and opinions, to produce an Index of the Top 40 athletes.

Surveying over 1,400 Millennials (defined as 18 to 34-year-olds), participants were asked to choose the professional, Olympic and collegiate athletes that matter most to them. Voters could cast both positive and negative votes on the rank of athletes. To determine the top athletes, Ranker uses an algorithm designed to balance various dimensions of agreement, popularity and positivity.

The poll ran between Dec. 3, 2015 and Jan. 15, 2016.

A few findings:

  • Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors topped the 120 Sports Millennials' Athlete Index for the second year in a row
  • Eighteen new athletes are represented on the 2016 list that did not make the 2015 Millennials' Athlete Index
  • Athletes from nine major sports made this year's Index, including basketball, football, baseball, soccer, golf, hockey, tennis, NASCAR and UFC
  • Ninety-nine athletes were included in the overall survey for voters to rank


The Top 10 are as follows:

  1. Stephen Curry, 27, NBA
  2. J.J. Watt, 26, NFL
  3. Mike Trout, 24, MLB
  4. Alex Morgan, 26, USWNT
  5. Cam Newton, 26, NFL*
  6. Andrew McCutchen, 29, MLB*
  7. Lionel Messi, 28, La Liga
  8. Kris Bryant, 24, MLB*
  9. Clayton Kershaw, 27, MLB
  10. Antonio Brown, 27, NFL*

*New, not on 2015 index.


Additional insights:

  • Most Athletes in Top 10 - 4 MLB players
  • Most Athletes Overall - 10 NFL players
  • Five female athletes in the Index, two in the Top 20
  • The oldest athlete on the list (Tim Duncan, 39) and the youngest athlete on the list (Kristaps Porzingis, 20) are both NBA players
  • Avg. Age of Top Ten - 26.4 years old
  • Youngest Average Age per League/Sport - NFL (26)
  • The Three Youngest on the Index - Porzingis (20), Jordan Spieth (22), Anthony Davis (22).
  • LeBron James fell 8 spots from the 2015 to 2016 Index
  • Kobe Bryant, ranked 23 this year, was not featured on the 2015 Index, and isn't a millennial
  • Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, positions 19 and 39, respectively, on the 2015 Index, did not make the 2016 Index.


For the full index of the Top 40 athletes, click here.