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    The Modern Faces of Sports

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    There’s an old phrase that the only two guarantees in life are death and taxes— however, it is about time we add sports to that list.

    Sports run the world, dating back to the ancient Greek Olympics to the widespread coverage of sports news across every inch of the globe. There is nowhere in the world where sports are not an integral way of life for some, if not most, people.

    The 21st century’s boom in inaccessibility and visibility has made sports and athletes all the more popular and, with that, commonplace in pop culture. Here are the modern faces of several major sports around the world.

    Basketball: LeBron James

    LeBron James is the most accomplished player in the National Basketball Association (NBA) and has transcended the sport entirely, branching into movie dentures, production companies, a tequila line, a shoe deal with Nike, and recently helped open a school near his hometown. Back on the court, James is a four-time MVP, four-time champion and Finals MVP, and record-18-time All-Star.

    LeBron entered the league with the greatest burden of expectation of any player in league history, having already appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine and getting his nickname, “those chosen one,” tattooed on his back in high school. “The King” did not disappoint, setting records at nearly every turn and leading multiple franchises to a championship. He is still going strong at 37 years old as he continues to duck father time and pursue even more milestones.

    Football: Tom Brady

    Another ageless wonder, Brady was a former sixth-round pick with a memorably unimpressive draft combine picture that somehow went on to win a record seven Super Bowls, six with the New England Patriots, and one with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Brady redefined what an athlete can be, as his physical tools are nowhere near as important as his mental understanding of the game.

    Brady already has a second career lined up in broadcasting once he retires, having agreed to a 10-year, $375m deal with Fox Sports. It would not be surprising to see a postseason award named after him in the future, as no modern American has dominated a sport the way he has— not even close.

    Soccer (football): Cristiano Ronaldo

    Ronaldo is yet another aging professional that is still at the top of his game, having led Manchester United in scoring in his return to his once-boyhood club. Ronaldo gets extra points in the “visibility” category as the most followed Instagram user, although he too has transcended his sports with his popular “SIU” celebration.

    Ronaldo is also regarded as one of the most attractive men on the planet and has appeared in various modeling campaigns but is also an example of what can come from humble beginnings. Whether or not he ranks higher all-time than his contemporary, Lionel Messi, is up for debate, but Ronaldo has done more to take over as the face of the game.

     

    Baseball: Derek Jeter

    Jeter played 20 years with the New York Yankees, retiring from the game in 2014 with 14 all-star nominations, five Silver Slugger awards, five Gold Gloves, and two Hank Aaron awards. Jeter also retired sixth all-time in hits with 3,465 and won five World Series with two World Series MVPs during his historic career.

    Jeter’s unmatched popularity was compounded by the fact that he was, firstly, an iron man, and secondly, a humble, kind professional that was respected even by his fierce Boston Red Sox rival fans. The longtime shortstop entered the Hall of Fame in 2020, his first time on the ballot, and will forever be remembered as a pillar in the sport, which was made even harder by the fact he had to contend with so many outstanding Yankees legends that preceded him. Jeter, now 47, will be one of the first names mentioned to future generations when describing the history of baseball.

     

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