By Jimmy Carlton Sportswriter Published May 30, 2017 at 6:02 PM

ESPN on Tuesday released the World Fame 100, its second annual ranking of the biggest names in sports, and while there was only one name listed that’s currently on a Wisconsin team, a few other players with local connections also made the cut.

Somewhat surprisingly, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers not only wasn’t the highest-ranked state-affiliated athlete, he didn’t even crack the top half of the World Fame 100. The two-time MVP checked in at No. 56, one spot behind Seattle Seahawks quarterback and ex-Wisconsin Badger Russell Wilson (No. 55).

Among the locally relevant athletes, former Marquette Golden Eagles star and current Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade was the highest ranked, at No. 24, while Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt (No. 74), the Badgers star from Pewaukee, was the only one who’s originally from the state.  

According to the World Fame 100 article, ESPN Director of Analytics Ben Alamar used a statistical formula that combined endorsements with social media following and internet search popularity to create the rankings.

The data included Forbes’ annual list of the highest-paid athletes (weighing endorsements, not salary), players’ followings on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, along with Google Trends score, and input from sports journalists around the world. Retired players were excluded – which meant Burlington’s own Tony Romo, the ex-Dallas Cowboys quarterback who was ranked No. 70 last year, wasn’t on the list – as were amateurs.

Given the international scope, it makes sense that soccer had more athletes than any other sport, with 38 in the top 100. Basketball followed with 13, golf had 11, then tennis with 10 and American football with eight. There were zero baseball and hockey players.

The World Fame 100 was dominated by men, with 92 males to only eight females, and the U.S.A. also dominated the list – its 35 athletes were almost four times more than the next-closest country (Brazil). Still, Swiss tennis star Roger Federer was at the top for endorsement money ($60 million), and Portuguese soccer icon Ronaldo had the biggest social media presence, with 261 million total followers.

While Rodgers is inarguably one of the most famous U.S. athletes, the lack of international attention on American football is obvious on the list. New England Patriots superstar quarterback is the first NFL entry in the World Fame 100, and he’s not until No. 21. After that, it’s more QBs, with the Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton next at 47th, New Orleans Saints signal-caller Drew Brees at 52nd, and then Wilson and Rodgers. Still, given how ubiquitous and all-important he is around here in the fall, it’s strange to see the green and gold’s No. 12 all the way down at 56.

Here’s what ESPN said about Rodgers’ fame in the article:

"Rodgers is the face of the franchise for one of the NFL’s most storied teams and an omnipresent pitch man whose championship-belt touchdown celebration has been immortalized in a series of insurance commercials. He famously dated actress Olivia Munn for three years before their recent split. Oh yeah, Rodgers also just happens to be a Super Bowl champion, a six-time Pro Bowler and the NFL’s career leader in passer rating."

The piece also mentioned Rodgers winning "Celebrity Jeopardy" in 2015 and references a recent quote, in which the 33-year-old said "I think I have a number of years left in me [where] I can play at a high level." Rodgers, who does not have a Facebook or Instagram account, has 2.9 million Twitter followers and endorsements of $8 million. Last year, he was ranked No. 53. Must be the Munn effect!

Watt, who went to Pewaukee High School and spent two seasons at the University of Wisconsin before being drafted in the first round by the Texans in 2011, still returns to the Waukesha area regularly. A popular figure and three-time Defensive Player of the Year who is active on social media and increasingly a crossover pop-culture celebrity, Watt fell 18 spots from 56th last year, likely largely because he missed most of the 2016 NFL season with a back injury. Here is what ESPN said about Watt’s fame.

Read Wade’s and Wilson’s entries, too. And let's hope we see international sensation and Milwaukee Bucks rising superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Greek Freak, on this list next year.

Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.

After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.

Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.