Sports

Stephen Curry Widens Lead in Second Straight Year as NBA’s Most-Liked Player

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Lakers are the NBA’s most popular team, per new Morning Consult data

Denver Nuggets v Golden State Warriors
Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors shoots against the Denver Nuggets during a preseason NBA game on Oct. 14. Curry topped Kevin Durant, LeBron James and other stars as the league's most-liked player for the second year in a row. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

NBA fans really liked Stephen Curry last year. Now, they like him even more. The Golden State Warriors sharpshooter has retained his crown as the most popular NBA player among fans for the second year in a row, according to a new Morning Consult survey. 

As the Warriors open the 2022-23 season Tuesday against the Los Angeles Lakers, Curry scored a net favorability rating of 67 among self-identified NBA fans. That’s up from 57 last year — perhaps a result of Curry winning his fourth NBA title with the Warriors in June.

Also for the second consecutive year, the Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant and Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James finished in second and third place with net favorability ratings of 56 and 50, respectively. Four of the NBA’s five most popular players from 2021 remained atop this year’s list, with the Phoenix Suns’ Chris Paul replacing the Lakers’ Anthony Davis in the top five.

The Warriors are the lone franchise with two players in the league’s top 10, with Klay Thompson tallying a net favorability rating of 40, good for eighth overall. 

Stephen Curry Is Most-Liked NBA Player Heading Into 2022-23 Season

Net favorability rating among self-identified NBA fans

Net favorability is the share of respondents with a favorable opinion minus the share with an unfavorable opinion.
Survey conducted Oct. 8-9, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,211 U.S. adults, including 997 self-identified NBA fans. Respondents were shown a combination of NBA players, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-4 percentage points.

The most popular players in the NBA

  • The Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo and Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic, each with two NBA MVP honors in the past four seasons, scored net favorability ratings of 44 and 34, respectively. 
  • Of the NBA’s top 20 overall most popular players, Nets guard Kyrie Irving saw the biggest increase in net favorability from 2021 to 2022 (23 points) following last year’s drama-filled season in which the 30-year-old made headlines for refusing to get the coronavirus vaccine. 
  • Four NBA teams — the Warriors, Boston Celtics, Suns and Nets — each have two players represented among the league’s top 20 most popular players. 
  • One in 5 NBA fans had an unfavorable opinion of Warriors forward Draymond Green, the highest of any player included in the 58-player survey. During a practice earlier this month, Green punched teammate Jordan Poole, who recently signed a four-year deal worth $140 million. Green was punished internally by the team, but was not suspended.
  • Curry’s lead over the second most popular player, Durant, grew from 8 points in 2021 to 11 points this year.
The Los Angeles Lakers Are the Most Popular Team in the NBA

The share of NBA fans who said they have a favorable opinion of the following teams:

Survey conducted Oct. 8-9, 2022, among a representative sample of 997 self-identified NBA fans, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-3 percentage points.

NBA fans like title winners 

  • The Los Angeles Lakers are the NBA’s most popular team, with 61% of fans saying they have either a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” opinion of the 17-time NBA champions. The Chicago Bulls (59%), Warriors (57%), Celtics (53%) and Miami Heat (51%) rounded out the top five.
  • More than half of the NBA’s 15 most popular teams have won a title in the past 20 years. 
  • The Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans are the NBA’s least popular teams, each with a favorability of 36%. 
  • Of the NBA teams who have won a championship in the past decade, the Toronto Raptors, who won in 2019, are the least popular team (38%), followed by the San Antonio Spurs (44%), winners of the 2014 title. 

NBA player popularity and earnings are closely connected

Four of the five most popular NBA players are also among the league’s top five earners this season, according to Sportico’s annual player rankings. James finished in first with an estimated $119.5 million in earnings between salary and endorsements. The outlier was Lakers guard Russell Westbrook, who is set to earn about $72.1 million in 2022-23, per Sportico. The 33-year-old fell outside the top 20 in Morning Consult’s favorability ranking this year with a net rating of 29.

The Oct. 8-9, 2022 survey was conducted among a representative sample of 2,211 U.S. adults, including 997 self-identified NBA fans. Respondents were shown a combination of NBA players, with an unweighted margin of error range of +/-4 percentage points.