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Russell Wilson is social media's most valuable US athlete

The NFL quarterback takes the top spot again in a poll ranking athletes' use of social media to their advantage.

The most popular -- and valued athletes -- on social media?

Names like basketball god LeBron James, golf star Rory McIlroy or brash UFC pottymouth brawler Colin McGregor might come to mind. Sure, they're on the list, but they aren't No. 1.

That distinction goes to (drumroll, please)... Russell Wilson.

Yep, the almost always upbeat-sounding Seattle Seahawks quarterback has been named the 2016 Most Valued Athlete in America, according to a ranking by upstart digital sports network 120 Sports and MVPindex, a social measuring platform.


Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson tops the list of the most valued athletes on social media in the US.

Steve Dykes, Getty Images

Wilson tops the list for a second straight year. He's among six pro football players, including New England Patriots Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, in the top 10. A complete rundown of the top 25 social media athletes will be revealed Wednesday night during The Rally, 120 Sports' highlights show streaming on Twitter.

The list is based on an algorithm tracking the social media of more than 43,000 athletes and 3,000 teams, leagues and brands in the United States. The rankings are determined by how much an athlete engages with their fans on platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

For example, while James reportedly has about 80 million followers on social media, compared to 8 million for Wilson, the quarterback posts twice as much across his platforms than the basketball player, said MVPindex co-founder Kyle Nelson.

"It's not always about how many followers someone has," he said. "It's about the impact."

Whether Wilson is posting biblical passages or positive messages on Twitter, or showing images of him visiting sick kids at hospitals with his pop star wife Ciara on Instagram, the one-time Super Bowl winning-quarterback resonates with fans, Nelson believes.

"Fans love that Wilson is a winner, but they appreciate his humbleness and spending time with charities, and brands like Bose, Microsoft and Nike have all caught on as a result," Nelson said. "The sentiment around Wilson's content is much more positive than just the usual, 'Hey, it's all about me.'"

Overall, pro football players ruled the top 25 as the NFL had nine high-ranking players, followed by the NBA with five. There are also five women on the list, including soccer star Alex Morgan at No. 15, tennis great Serena Williams at No. 16 and UFC fighter Ronda Rousey at No. 18.

The biggest climber in the list is the UFC's McGregor who jumped 33 spots from No. 41 in 2015 to No. 5 in 2016.

Other notable athletes in the top 10 include NFL All-Pros Odell Beckham Jr., loquacious Seahawks' cornerback (and Wilson's teammate) Richard Sherman, fellow football star J.J. Watt and, surprisingly, golfer Tiger Woods.

The golfing great is on the list because of constant conversations and speculation whether Woods will ever get back on the course full time, said Matt Carstens, 120 Sports' executive vice president.

"I believe Tiger's star power is only exceeded by Michael Jordan, as some have underestimated his hype because how much of it has been in a dormant state."

Here's the top 10 list:

1.) Russell Wilson (NFL)

2. ) Odell Beckham, Jr. (NFL)

3.) J.J. Watt (NFL)

4.) Rory McIlroy (Golf)

5.) Conor McGregor (UFC)

6.) LeBron James (NBA)

7.) Tiger Woods (Golf)

8.). Richard Sherman (NFL)

9.) Tom Brady (NFL)

10.) Rob Gronkowski (NFL)

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