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Kobe Bryant is no longer America’s most popular athlete

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Every year, Harris Interactive conducts a poll to list America's most popular sports stars. While popularity can be a fungible concept, the results remain somewhat instructive, especially in terms of which players have reached a level of fame beyond their sport's diehard audience.

Last season, Kobe Bryant found himself at the top of the list of male stars. Now, he's dropped to No. 3 in a tie with Michael Jordan, and behind Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and new champ Derek Jeter of the Yankees. From Janis Carr on OCRegister.com:

Kobe Bryant no longer is the favorite athlete in America, according to a Harris poll, having slipped to No. 3 in 2011. But that's nothing compared to the free fall for LeBron James.

James, who was rated the No. 6 overall favorite athlete in 2010, didn't make the top 10 list this year after leaving Cleveland for Miami's South Beach. He shouldn't feel too badly, though. Brett Farve (No. 4)  New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees (No. 9) and NASCAR great Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 10) also were left off the list this year. [...]

According to the poll, Bryant remains the top athlete among Hispanics and African-Americans and on the West Coast.

You can access the poll directly here if you have concerns about methodology. While Jeter is the new champ, Serena Williams is listed as the most popular female athlete for the third year in a row. Better luck next time, Abby Wambach.

It's not a surprise to learn that Bryant and James have dropped on this list, because popularity in America is often tied to winning at the highest levels. In the past, both players have been divisive, to the point where they've only been considered likable when they win championships. With the Lakers losing to the Mavericks in the second round of the playoffs, Bryant is no longer the league's golden god. James, obviously, is largely seen as a bratty loser. As such, they're no longer at the top of this vaguely scientific heap.

Maybe next year they'll see their fortunes change. Or, perhaps, Derrick Rose (No. 9 this year) will move higher after another long playoff run. Worse yet, maybe there won't be an NBA season and the poll participants won't name anyone from the league. And then this post will end up on Shutdown Corner, and you can substitute Tom Brady in for Bryant and read the same post. The world works in mysterious ways.

Here's the complete Top 10:

Male

1. Derek Jeter
2. Peyton Manning
3. (tie) Kobe Bryant
3. (tie) Michael Jordan
5. Tiger Woods
6. Tom Brady
7. (tie) Albert Pujols
7. (tie) Hines Ward
9. Derrick Rose
10. Aaron Rodgers

Female

1. Serena Williams
2. Venus Williams
3. Danica Patrick
4. Maria Sharapova
5. Mia Hamm
6. Anna Kournikova
7. (tie) Martina  Navratilova
7. (tie) Sue Bird
9. (tie) Kerry Walsh
9. (tie) Michele Wie

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