In an unexpected turn of events Jake Paul made the list of top 50 most influential figures in sports. With many prominent names from the combat sports sphere absent, the choice is certainly peculiar.
For Jake Paul, his journey from a YouTuber to a legitimate force in the boxing world has been nothing short of transformative. He speaks passionately about his love for the sport, stating that it has not only changed his life but also saved it. His work as a pay-per-view salesman, promoter, and boxing manager has earned him a spot among the elite influencers in sports.
What sets Jake Paul apart is that he is the only combat sports athlete featured on the list. Notable names such as Canelo Alvarez, Tyson Fury, and Conor McGregor did not make the cut, making Jake Paul’s inclusion even more remarkable.
The list comprises a diverse range of personalities, from renowned footballers like Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe to sports business moguls like Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the owner of Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), and Stan Kroenke, the owner of Arsenal, Denver Nuggets, and LA Rams. Dana White, the president of the UFC, is also recognized for his significant impact on the world of mixed martial arts.
Interestingly, Cristiano Ronaldo’s name was not included, but the Saudi Investment Fund, responsible for bringing the Portuguese star to the Middle East, received acknowledgment for its role in the sports world.
The list created by Sports Illustrated also features iconic athletes like LeBron James and Tiger Woods, who have long been established as influential figures in their respective sports. However, it also celebrates the power of social media stars like Olivia Dunne, a gymnast with a massive following of 7.5 million on TikTok and 4.1 million on Instagram. Her rise to fame has been nothing short of sensational, and her influence in the digital space is undeniable.
List of 50 Most Influential Figures in Sports, Athletes
- Clarendon – A groundbreaking figure and champion for progress in sports.
- Tiger Woods – His popularity, achievements, and leadership in golf make him an enduring influence.
- Lionel Messi – Reigns as a fixed figure of influence with his magic on the field and majestic presence off it.
- Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike – Shining on and off the court, they have made significant impacts in basketball and media.
- Jake Paul – Transitioned from online celebrity to influential figure, focusing on remaking combat sports.
- NBA on TNT crew – Inside the NBA hosts and analysts, providing familiar, consistent, and entertaining sports programming.
- The Manning Family – A media empire centered around quarterbacking royalty with stars like Peyton, Eli, and Arch Manning.
- Olivia Dunne – The top NIL earner in NCAA women’s sports, leveraging social media to establish a brand and income.
- The Sportsbooks – Legalized sports gambling transformed by technology, reaching billions in wagers and widespread popularity.
- Eileen Gu – A successful skier for China, a social media giant, and an ambassador for Salt Lake City’s Olympic bid.
- Rayssa Leal – Brazilian skateboarder with viral fame, an Olympic silver medal, and a large Instagram following.
- Netflix Doc Makers – Documentary series like Formula 1: Drive to Survive boosting sports’ popularity on Netflix.
- Jay Marine – Amazon’s global head of sports, leading the streaming network’s involvement in live sports.
- The Other Streamers – Various streaming services joining the live sports market, competing for viewership.
- Pat McAfee – Former NFL punter and sports media star, gaining immense popularity through The Pat McAfee Show.
- Roger Goodell – NFL commissioner, influential in rule changes and growing the league’s revenue.
- Greg Sankey – Leader of the SEC, holds significant sway over the future of college sports.
- Rob Manfred, Adam Silver, Gary Bettman – Commissioners of MLB, NBA, and NHL, respectively, guiding their leagues through significant changes and broadcast deals.
- Charlie Baker – NCAA leader, tasked with pushing for college athlete legislation during a turbulent time in college sports.
- Jimmy Pitaro – ESPN chairman, navigating the network through a period of change and growth.
- Michele Kang – Washington Spirit owner and CEO of Cognosante, elevating the standard of the National Women’s Soccer League and creating an international women’s soccer organization.
- Dana White – UFC president, played a key role in legitimizing mixed martial arts and expanding the sport’s reach.
- Gianni Infantino – FIFA president, one of soccer’s most powerful figures, leading expansion and growth initiatives.
- Cindy Parlow Cone – U.S. Soccer president, influential in achieving equal pay for the USWNT.
- Stan Kroenke – A billionaire with clout across four major leagues, including successful sports franchises.
- Tamika Tremaglio – Executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, instrumental in securing a new multibillion-dollar CBA.
- Cam Weber – President of EA Sports, promoting representation of women’s sports in video games and expanding the company’s global reach.
Icons and Leaders
- Kobe Bryant – Remembered as an NBA legend, Kobe’s impact extended to women’s basketball, philanthropy, and various industries, leaving a lasting legacy.
- Allyson Felix – The most decorated woman in track and field history, she is now focused on advocating for improved maternal health standards.
- Serena Williams – An iconic tennis player and entrepreneur, Serena has become a successful businesswoman, investing in women- and minority-owned companies.
- Michael Jordan – A recognizable figure even after his NBA retirement, Jordan’s Jordan Brand dominates sneaker culture, and he remains influential in sports ownership.
- Billie Jean King – Her historic fight for equal prize money in tennis set the stage for her continued advocacy for gender equality in sports.
- Dawn Staley – Her successful career as a coach has been marked by transforming South Carolina into a powerhouse and uplifting others in the sport.
- Deion Sanders – As a coach, Sanders has brought attention and interest to a previously irrelevant program, showcasing the power of his personal brand.
- Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union – A powerful couple at the forefront of advocating for LGBTQ rights, particularly for the Black trans community.
- Nicole Lynn – A trailblazing sports agent, Lynn’s success and empowerment of her clients defy stereotypes in a male-dominated industry.
- Rich Paul – A premier sports agent and media entrepreneur, Paul’s agency, Klutch Sports Group, wields significant influence in the NBA.
- Scott Boras – A dominant figure in baseball for over 40 years, Boras continues to attract elite talent and advocate for players’ rights.
- Nasser Al-Khelaifi – As president and CEO of Paris St.-Germain, Al-Khelaifi has reset the transfer market and increased his influence and wealth.
- Cory Booker – A Democratic senator advocating for athlete compensation changes, Booker aims to reshape the NCAA and promote fair treatment of college athletes.
- Arctos Sports Partners – A private equity firm that holds minority stakes in multiple pro teams, benefiting from the appreciation of sports ownership.
- Saudi Investment Fund – A rising power in global sports, Saudi Arabia’s investment fund has acquired clubs and players, impacting the sports world.