Saw this photo over at TBJ, of Kobe Bryant making an appearance on his annual Nike tour of China, and it's no surprise. China loves Kobe. Loves him. That's a billion people who go nuts at the very sight of Bryant, a global superstar for 15 years now. It got me thinking: who's the most recognizable athlete in the world?
I mean that in the most literal sense: which athlete (active athlete, otherwise it would probably still be Jordan), walking down the street in Bogota or Mombasa or Kolkata would be recognized by the most people? It'd likely be someone from the only two true international sports—basketball and soccer—and it would have to be someone who's an advertising icon, because billboards exist even where satellite TV doesn't.
If forced, I'd narrow it down to Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, David Beckham, and Lionel Messi, and at gunpoint I'd pick Beckham. Argue over your picks below.