I saw this story off of Forbes.com regarding the most influential athletes, as compiled by E-Poll and Nielsen Media Research.

From the article — “surveyed over 1,000 adults as to the athletes they considered influential, while also assessing their likeability and awareness levels. Only those known to at least 20 percent of the respondents were considered.”

Tom Van Riper, who wrote the piece noted that boxing champ Manny Pacquiao was familiar to only 12% of those polled and was therefore left off of the list.

I suspect that the same poll taken today might shift those result. Who didn’t hear sportswriters and talking heads (self included) yelling about the miserable spectacle put on by Pacquiao and “Sugar” Shane Mosley on Saturday night? Seriously, it ranked among the more miserable sporting experiences I’ve witnessed in some time. Dance … dance … hug … tap gloves … dance … dance …

I digress. Let’s count down the top 5 from the article, starting with Olympic hero Michael Phelps.

5. Michael Phelps, USA Swimming — Forget that the stage disappears for long stretches. Dominance is dominance.
4. Shaquille O’Neal, NBA — “Blue Chips” actor & rapper extraordinaire. “The Diesel” doesn’t dominate as he used to, but the pitchman remains one of the biggest names in the game & best soundbyte artists
3. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. — Hendrick Motorsports — Doesn’t matter that he can’t win a race (now over 100 straight races without a trip to Victory Lane), the brand is huge
2. Tom Brady – New England Patriots — Take the shots at his hair, dancing, the team’s recent playoff failures or his tears when recounting that draft day in 2000. Anything the guy does attracts attention. The fact that Gisele is usually on his arm doesn’t hurt.
1. Jimmie Johnson — Hendrick Motorsports — Winning. He’s not flashy, but he’s always atop the heap in the end. What else needs to be said?

Check out the entire article here .