With millions of players and billions of fans, sports are a worldwide source of fun and competition. While technology and industry bring people closer together, we’ve steadily gravitated toward a few favorite sports. Most of us can instantly recognise the sport we love, so without further ado, in descending order of popularity, here’s our list of the Top 10 Favorite Sports of all Time.
Whether they call it football or soccer, the world’s most famous sport is followed by over 4 billion people worldwide. With more leagues, competitions, and titles than any other, over 200 countries participate in the sport some of us refer to as the Beautiful Game.
Simplicity is likely the key to soccer’s unprecedented success. Grab a couple of bricks and you’ve got goalposts, or squash a soda can if you can’t afford a ball… there isn’t much in terms of barrier to entry. Simple to learn but hard to master, the high skill ceiling in football has ironically led to it being one of the most lucrative, highest-earning professional sports.
Thanks to the introduction of their Twenty20 format (known as T20), cricket has become the world’s second-most popular sport. Bringing average match length down to three hours was nothing short of revolutionary, breathing new life into one of the oldest sports known to man.
Before the days of T20, the shortest cricket matches you could find were an average of eight hours in length. Compressing the action dramatically increased the intensity of each match, creating greater mass appeal and leading to a global surge in cricket supporters.
Invented in the United States, basketball currently has over 2.5 billion fans around the globe. Although predominantly a US and Canadian sport, the sport is rapidly garnering attention from other parts of the world, such as China, Japan, and the Philippines.
Thanks to world-famous sponsorship deals such as Nike’s Air Jordan range, basketball has had a significant impact on popular culture. Compared to cricket and soccer, the sport of hoops has gained billions of fans in a comparatively short amount of time.
Combined, field hockey and ice hockey captivate a total of around 2 billion fans. Whether it’s played on a turf pitch or an ice rink, hockey is recognised and supported by over 100 countries through various leagues, tournaments, and competitions. Field hockey is a national sport in Pakistan and India, and ice hockey is one of Canada’s official winter sports.
Famous for fisticuffs and padded mayhem, ice hockey is arguably the most well-known form of hockey. From Mighty Ducks to Van Damme action movies, ice hockey has had its fair share of the limelight. Field hockey, while not as popular as its icy relative, has nonetheless contributed to hockey being one of the five biggest international sports.
The most popular individual sport in the world, tennis is the first non-team based sport on our list. With a global fanbase of close to a billion followers, the ratio of fans to players has led to tennis becoming the most popular spectator sport in the world.
There are four major international competitions in tennis. Known collectively as the Grand Slam Championships; the US Open, French Open, Australian Open, and Wimbledon are all premier events televised live across the globe. To name but a few, Grand Slams have brought us tennis legends such as Steffi Graf, Rafael Nadal, the Williams sisters, and Roger Federer.
From beach bums to Olympic medalists, volleyball is enjoyed by around a billion people worldwide. Despite regular volleyball being an official Olympic Game since the 1960’s, beach volleyball grew so popular it earned itself a 1996 Summer Olympics slot, and has remained a standalone entry ever since.
Watch a game of volleyball and you’d be amazed at just how hard it can be to coordinate a team, and how captivating a good rally can get. Perhaps it’s noteworthy to mention that, for whatever reason, volleyball is the official sport of almost all nudist clubs.
7. Table Tennis
Over half a billion people love table tennis. Otherwise known as ping-pong, table tennis has been an official Olympic sport since the late 1980’s. The International Table Tennis Federation – table tennis’ global governing body – consists of over 200 member institutions in dozens of countries.
Table tennis matches can become dazzling feats of athleticism, but you don’t need an Olympic-sized arena to enjoy the fun. All you need is a table, a net, and a ball. After that, it’s all about players with tiny paddles spinning and smashing their way to victory.
Currently played in over 150 countries, America’s national pastime has hit the big leagues of international sport. Followed by hundreds of millions of fans in the US, South America, and the Caribbean, baseball is also enjoying support from a growing number of Asian countries.
From its humble beginnings as an English bat-and-ball game, baseball has evolved into a worldwide cultural phenomenon. No matter where you are in the world, odds are that you’ll find someone who’s into baseball.
Rugby is currently officially recognised and supported in over 100 countries. Close to half a billion people enjoy this close-contact sport of strength and speed. The biggest and most successful nations in rugby are South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK.
One of the most intense, physically-demanding sports, running with the ball is a good way to know what it’s like to score a try, or get tackled to the floor long before the try line. Not many sports can boast trophies that have literally taken blood, sweat, and tears to win.
10. American Football
We’re closing off this Top 10 with a game that, much like rugby, celebrates the physical strength, speed, and stamina of teams. Combining both rugby and soccer, football is the most popular sport found in the US.
With an average of 400 million fans, professional and college football has become so intrinsic to American culture, people all over the world can recognise the acronym-filled jacket of a football jock. Despite players being padded and protected from almost head-to-toe, football remains one of the most dangerous yet exhilarating sports out there.