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Who is the face of America’s largest big-league sports markets?

Here’s our list of markets comparable to Tampa Bay, with at least three franchises in the four traditional major-league sports.
The face of some American sports markets is up for debate. Not so in Boston, where New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's six Super Bowl titles rule. [Times files (2017)]
Published Jul. 7
Updated Jul. 8

The recent departures of Evan Longoria and Gerald McCoy and Nikita Kucherov’s recent crowning as the NHL’s MVP got the folks in the Tampa Bay Times Sports department wondering: Who is the face of Tampa Bay sports now?

I think it’s Steven Stamkos, and it’s probably not close.

But what about the other U.S. sports markets (and Toronto) that are our size, with at least three franchises in North America’s traditional four major-league sports? This is not a scientific list. We did not check Q ratings, sneaker sales or endorsement deals. This is not a comprehensive list. We did not call experts or monitor Google trends.

This may not even be a smart list. But we’re hoping it’s a fun, quick and (barely) informative list of the faces of sports in other markets with at least three of the major professional sports leagues.

RELATED: Who is the face of Tampa Bay sports?

Atlanta

Check back in a few years, and the choice could be Ronald Acuna or Ozzie Albies of the Braves. But for now, the town still belongs to Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. Matty Ice has more than a decade at the helm, and is starting to creep into some NFL top 10 passing lists.

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)

Boston

Zdeno Chara is a team captain, 7-time All-Star and a Stanley Cup winner, and he doesn’t come close. Mookie Betts won an MVP and a World Series last year and he doesn’t come close. For now, and maybe forever, Tom Brady is the face of Boston sports. Six Super Bowls and the most wins of any quarterback in NFL history will do that for you.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Carolina

Good gosh, how did Carolina even get on this list? Let’s see, they have an NFL team. And they have an NBA team. And an NHL team. Hmm, I guess they do belong. Do you know stars in Carolina? We’ll go with Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Chicago

Lots of choices in the Windy City. Kris Bryant was the league MVP the year the Cubs won the World Series and is still in the prime of his career. Khalil Mack helped revitalize the Bears last year. But we’re going to split our vote between Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. They both joined the Blackhawks as teenagers in 2007, and have won three Stanley Cups while becoming fixtures in Chicago.

Chicago Blackhawks teammates Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Kane. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Cleveland

Can Cleveland still claim LeBron James? Because, for all the success the Indians have had in recent seasons, neither Francisco Lindor nor Corey Kluber seems like the answer. With all the excitement building around the Browns, the best answer may be quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

Dallas

Jerry Jones is the George Steinbrenner of the NFL. A powerful, outspoken, meddling owner of one of the most iconic brands in sports. Casual football fans may not be able to pick star running back Ezekiel Elliott out of a crowd, but they would recognize Jones.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Denver

Tough call here. Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado is one of the best players in baseball and is rapidly building a Hall of Fame resume. But the same could be said for Broncos linebacker Von Miller. A Super Bowl MVP gives the nod to Miller.

Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)

Detroit

Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown and back-to-back MVP awards will forever earn him a place in Detroit lore, but his career has been fading for several years. Now that Steve Yzerman is back in Hockeytown USA as the Red Wings general manager and all-around savior, we bow to his Detroit popularity.

Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

Los Angeles

How big is LeBron James? He’s only been in Los Angeles for one forgettable season, missed the playoffs, saw his coach fired, watched Magic Johnson leave the franchise and he’s still the biggest star in town. Bigger than Clayton Kershaw, bigger than Jared Goff.

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Miami

These are not good times in Miami. The Dolphins haven’t won a playoff game since 2000 and the Marlins haven’t had a winning season since “09. The Heat faded without LeBron, and the Panthers have been so-so. The two biggest names in town – Dwayne Wade and Roberto Luongo — both recently retired. So let’s give Miami a break and let the city claim Delray Beach tennis sensation Cori “CoCo” Gauff this morning.

Cori "Coco" Gauff. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Milwaukee/Green Bay

Aaron Rodgers’ star has fallen a bit in recent years, but it’s still hard to beat a Packers quarterback with a Super Bowl title.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)


Minneapolis/St. Paul

You have to understand Minnesota sports to understand the influence of Sid Hartman. An early executive with the Minneapolis Lakers, Hartman began working as a sports writer in 1945. And now, 74 years later, the 99-year-old Hartman is still writing and wielding influence at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis.

Minneapolis Star Tribune sports columnist Sid Hartman. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

New York

Not sure if it says more about the town, the sports or the personalities, but it’s beginning to look like 27-year-old Yankees slugger Aaron Judge has replaced two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning as the biggest star in the sports world’s biggest city.

New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Philadelphia

The City of Brotherly Love is in, shall we say, a transition. The biggest name on the baseball team, Bryce Harper, has been a disappointment in his first few months. The Eagles quarterback, Carson Wentz, missed the only two postseasons of his career. Can 76ers center Joel Embiid really be the most beloved star in town right now?

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Pittsburgh

Ben Roethlisberger could be a strong choice, but off-field issues can’t be ignored. That leaves Sidney Crosby, who may not finish as high on the NHL scoring list as once envisioned, but he’s been a model citizen and a three-time Stanley Cup champion.

Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Phoenix

Larry Fitzgerald is a rarity these days. A star who has remained in a relatively low-profile setting for his entire career. The Cardinals receiver is second in NFL history – to some guy named Jerry Rice – in receiving yards.

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

San Francisco

Thanks to Kevin Durant’s defection, we don’t have to answer the question of whether he was more beloved than Stephen Curry in the bay area. (For the record, he wasn’t.) Giants catcher Buster Posey might have some claim on the title, but Curry is bigger nationally.

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Toronto

This is a basketball town, right? The Blue Jays look like they’re heading to an extensive rebuild and the Maple Leafs have been stuck in neutral for years. So let’s hear it for Kawhi Leonard, even as he takes his NBA ring and bolts for the Clippers.

Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Washington., D.C.

Thanks to owner Daniel Snyder, the Redskins haven’t had a true superstar in years. The Nationals just lost Bryce Harper and we’re not even sure if the Wizards are still in the NBA. That leaves hockey beast Alex Ovechkin and his Stanley Cup memories.

Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechki. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Contact John Romano at jromano@tampabay.com. Follow @romano_tbtimes


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