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America is well known for its sporting heroes, with the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Baseball (MLB) and National Hockey League (NHL), commonly referred to as the ‘Big Four’, being watched all around the world. 

But have you ever wondered which state produces the most professional athletes? 

Looking at the birthplaces of NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL players over time, we have analyzed data across all 50 states, as well as 7,000 US cities to reveal which have seen the most athletes born within their limits. We’ve also delved into which states have produced the most Hall of Fame players of all time, to reveal which parts of the US are creating the most iconic stars.

On top of this, we’ve also looked at which popular NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL stars are the most followed on Instagram to reveal some of the most loved sports stars in 2022.

California is crowned the birthplace for athletes in the US


Looking at all of the ‘Big Four’ sports, California is the birthplace of the most athletes overall (5,490), followed by Texas (3,906) and Pennsylvania (3,182). 

Most baseball players are born in California (2,408), home to the legendary Hall of Fame member Joe DiMaggio, who achieved a record-breaking 56-game hitting streak in 1941, as well as reigning American League MVP Aaron Judge. Pennsylvania follows with 1,399 athletes born there, and New York rounds off the top three with 1,211 athletes. 

California has also produced the most basketball players (430) and is the birthplace of Philadelphia 76ers’ James Harden and Hall of Fame Point Guard Jason Kidd, who is now also the head coach of the Dallas Mavericks. New York comes in second place with 420 basketball players born there and is followed by Illinois, home to the famous Chicago Bulls, coming in third (294).

When it comes to football players, however, Texas is the biggest producer, with 2,623 players born within its state limits. The Cowboy state is no stranger to football legends, including Tim Brown, who spent 16 years with the Los Angeles/ Oakland Raiders, and Earl Campbell, the famed running back for the Houston Oilers. Both players were also members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. California ranks second overall (2,604) and Florida takes the third spot (1,700).  

Hockey stars, on the other hand, are born in a wider variety of states. Minnesota comes out on top with 290 players, including Neal Broten, who played on the US Olympic team that won gold in the 1980 Winter Olympics. Massachusetts follows with 210 athletes, and Michigan ranks third with 189. 

Which state has produced the most athletes per 100,000 people?

The District of Columbia, also known as Washington, D.C, has produced the largest number of athletes per 100,000 people. Famous athletes born there include Pro Football Hall of Fame lineman Jonathan Ogden and Brooklyn Nets star, Kevin Durant. With 28 football players, 15 baseball players and 11 basketball players per 100,000 residents, Washington, D.C is a hotspot for athletes. Meanwhile, Minnesota is crowned the hockey capital, with five players being born there per 100,000 people. 

The southern states of Mississippi and Louisiana also prove to be huge producers of football players per 100,000 residents with Mississippi and Louisiana producing 23 and 21 respectively, behind Washington, D.C. 

Athletes are most likely to be born in Chicago

Whilst some states are home to more athletes than others, have you ever wondered which cities have produced the most athletes across the US? 

Looking at all cities in the US that ‘Big Four’ athletes, past and present, have been born in, Chicago is revealed as the US’ capital birthplace for athletes, with a whopping 1,051 athletes calling it their birth city. Famous athletes from this city include basketball players Dwyane Wayde (Miami Heat) and Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers), and footballer Dick Butkus, whose career also includes sports commentator and actor. Los Angeles comes in second place, with 818 births, and Philadelphia ranks third with 700 athletes. 

Looking at the most popular birthplaces among NFL stars, Chicago comes out on top with an impressive 496 NFL players born there, closely followed by Los Angeles (462) and Houston (341). 

Chicago also ranks as the top birthplace for baseball stars (375), followed by Philadelphia (329) and St. Louis (312).   

Truly living up to its reputation as a sporting hub, Chicago is also the birthplace of the highest number of basketball players (155), making it the top city for three out of the four sports. Once again, Philadelphia ranks in second place (122), followed by Los Angeles (113). 

Meanwhile, Detroit has produced the highest number of hockey players with 41 players born there, followed by Minneapolis (38) and Boston (35). 

As many cities featured in the top ten have a high population, it isn’t surprising that they rank highly in the analysis. However, St. Louis deviates from this trend. Despite being only the 72nd most populous city in the US, it has still managed to produce an impressive 547 athletes and thus ranks higher than the most populous city, New York (538).

Columbus also stands out from the crowd as the 115th most populated city in the USA, but producing the 18th highest number of athletes. 

Beyond this, Birmingham ranks in 21st position with 271 athletes, despite being the 135th largest city in the States.

The states that have produced the most Hall of Fame athletes


Athletes that make exceptional contributions to their sport are awarded a place in their sporting Hall of Fame, an acknowledgement reserved for the very best sporting heroes. But what state has produced the most Hall of Fame athletes of all time across the ‘Big Four’ sports?

Home to the Mets and the Yankees, most Baseball Hall of Fame athletes are born in New York, with a total of 27. Notably the legendary New York Yankees player Derek Jeter and the two time Most Valuable Player (MVP) award winner Hank Greenberg. California ranks second (24), and Pennsylvania third place (21).

New York also takes the top spot for basketball Hall of Fame members, with 25 players born in the state, including six time MVP award winner Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and six time NBA All Star Nate Archibald. Meanwhile, California and Pennsylvania make the top three again with 16 and 13 Hall of Fame members respectively.

When it comes to football, however, Texas ranks first. Home to former Dallas Cowboy wide receiver Drew Pearson, three-time Super Bowl winner Troy Aikman and 33 more Hall of Fame members. Pennsylvania (32) and Ohio (23) place second and third, respectively. 

Michigan and Minnesota both come in at first place as being the birthplace of the most hockey Hall of Fame members, with three players in each state being awarded for their excellence, followed by New York with two.

The most followed athletes of American sports teams on Instagram



Whilst being inducted into the Hall Of Fame is, for many athletes, the greatest honor they can achieve, we’ve also looked into fan favorites for each of the four sports analyzed. Using Instagram followers as an indication, we’ve uncovered some of the most popular athletes worldwide who’ve played for teams across the ‘Big Four’ in the US.

Although basketball players in the Hall of Fame are recognized as the best of the best, the most popular NBA stars on Instagram have not yet been inducted into this prestigious group. With 135 million followers, LeBron James, the iconic Los Angeles Lakers forward, is the most followed NBA star on Instagram. Akron native Stephen Curry ranks second as the NBA player with the most followers (46.9M) and Long Beach born Russell Westbrook comes in third with 20.8 million followers. 

Despite achieving major recognition in the sporting world, no Hall of Fame MLB member makes the list of most popular baseball stars on Instagram. Instead, the title goes to ten-time MLB All-Star and New Jersey native Mike Trout, who has 1.9 million followers on the platform. Las Vegas born Bryce Harper ranks second with 1.7 million, closely followed by Oshu’s Shohei Ohtani (born in Oshu, Japan) and Aaron Judge (born in Sacramento, California) who both have 1.5 million followers.

The NFL also has some incredibly popular sports personalities on Instagram, with Baton Rouge born Odell Beckham Jr. being the most popular NFL player with 16.6 million followers. Meanwhile, Tom Brady, born in San Mateo, California, and current quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, ranks in second having accumulated 12.8 million followers, while Cincinnati’s Russell Wilson ranks third overall with 5.5 million.

Alex Ovechkin, born in Moscow, Russia and current captain of the Washington Capitals, is the most followed NHL player with 1.6 million followers. Connor McDavid from Richmond Hill in Canada is the second most followed hockey player with one million Instagram fans, and Auston Matthews (San Ramon, California) ranks third with 793,000 followers. 

Sporting heroes come from all over the world, but where does your state and city rank when it comes to producing the most athletes of all time?

Sources and methodology:

The following sources were used to determine the number of MLB, NBA, NHL and NFL players born in each state and each city, as well as how many Hall of Fame players have come from each state. The data includes historic data, determining how many athletes were born in each state and city over a period of time. Data collected between 10/27/2022 and 10/31/2022.

Data from Instagram was used to determine the number of followers each athlete has. Data collected between 10/24/2022 - 10/26/2022.

Image credit:

Ice hockey puck image - Santeri Viinamäki,