Being a professional athlete generally brings a decent amount of notoriety to a person, but the amount can depend on exactly how much star power he or she has. Even in the major U.S. sports, like football, basketball, and baseball (and maybe hockey), athletes might only receive mainstream attention if they become world champions, regularly appear in endorsements, or make the news for their off-field lives as well.
This means some sports figures, even ones with long careers and a decent amount of success, will go their whole tenure without becoming a household name. Some even have non-athlete wives and girlfriends (WAGs) who have attained more recognition through their acting, modeling, music or otherwise attention-garnering careers.
It’s important to note that the “athlete partners” in this list all must have active sports careers in order to qualify. They don’t have to be currently competing at the highest level of their respective sports, but they still need to be playing in some sort of career capacity. Thus, couples like Kendra Wilkinson & Hank Baskett, Misty-May Treanor & Matt Treanor, Pink & Carey Hart, and Jessica Simpson & Eric Johnson did not qualify. Couples who have divorced or separated or currently have an unclear relationship (we’re looking at you, Khloe Kardashian & Lamar Odom and/or James Harden) also did not make the cut.
What remains are 15 sports figures who, although accomplished in their own right, don’t quite match the notoriety of their significant others. These are the top 15 WAGs who are more famous than their athlete partners.
15 15. Paulina Gretzky
If you pay attention to golf, you probably know Dustin Johnson. He has been ranked inside the top five in all five of his years on the PGA Tour, he was third overall in last year’s Official World Golf Ranking, and he finished tied for second in the 2011 Open Championship and 2015 U.S. Open. But if you don’t watch golf, you probably only know Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and maybe Rory McIlroy.
14 14. Hayden Panettiere
13 13. Brooklyn Decker
12 12. Shakira
11 11. Nicole Scherzinger
10 10. Joanna Garcia Swisher
9 9. Kate Upton
8 8. Elisha Cuthbert
7 7. Kim Zolciak
6 6. Jessie James Decker & Eric Decker
5 5. Iggy Azalea & Nick Young
4 4. Erin Andrews & Jarret Stoll
3 3. Julianne Hough & Brooks Laich
2 2. Jamie-Lynn Sigler & Cutter Dykstra
1 1. Carrie Underwood
Ever since winning the fourth season of American Idol, Carrie Underwood has been an unstoppable force in the music world, releasing five record-breaking albums that sold over 65 million copies, while earning seven Grammys and well over $110 million. To illustrate the fame differential between Underwood and her husband, Nashville Predators center Mike Fisher, when Fisher was traded away from the Ottawa Senators in 2011, a local radio station jokingly announced they would stop playing Underwood’s music in protest. In the resulting public relations fiasco, the station had to stress they were only kidding after an outpouring of threats by loyal country listeners.
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