Muhammad Ali Still Reigns Supreme Among Kentucky Athletes

Fact Checked by Nate Hamilton

Despite being a relatively small state, Kentucky has produced more than its fair share of well-known athletes over the years.

Over the decades, the Bluegrass State was the starting place for athletes who have won championships, become Olympians, earned all-star honors, and some who have even made it to the Hall of Fame in the sport that became their career. Others see their fame carry on in other ways to this day, like Pete Browning. Nearly 150 years ago, he helped coin the term Louisville Slugger, a brand that remains synonymous with baseball to this day.

With that in mind, we at took a much-needed break from Kentucky sports betting updates and wanted to find out what homegrown athletes were trending in the state in 2023.

Most Searched Athletes from Kentucky in 2023 utilized a weighted system between Keywords Explorer and Google Trends to look at the most searched Kentucky athletes over the past 12 months. Once finding both statistics, they were averaged to determine the Top 10. We defined a Kentucky athlete as someone born in the state or who resided there for more than 10 years during their formative childhood and teenage years.

RankAthleteHometown CitySearch Volume Over Past Year
1Muhammad Ali, Former Professional BoxerLouisville, KY398K
2Justin Thomas, PGA GolferLouisville, KY188K
3DeVante Parker, NFL Wide ReceiverLouisville, KY64K
4 P.J. Washington, NBA Forward Louisville, KY54K
5 Walker Buehler, MLB Pitcher Lexington, KY37K
6 Adam Duvall, MLB Outfielder Louisville, KY31K
7Phil Simms, Former NFL QuarterbackSpringfield, KY20K
8 Montez Sweat, NFL Defensive EndRichmond, KY16K
9Shaun Alexander, Former NBA Running Back Florence, KY12K
10Michael Waltrip, Former NASCAR DriverOwensboro, KY11K


Simply, The Greatest

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the boxer known by millions worldwide as “The Greatest” would top the chart in Kentucky – even more than seven years after he died.

Muhammad Ali, rose to fame in the 1960s as an Olympic champion before becoming the only three-time lineal heavyweight champ in professional boxing history. But his fame transcended the ring as he became tied to Vietnam War protests and the civil rights movement.

After his boxing days were over, Ali remained a popular world figure as a goodwill ambassador. Today, visitors can tour the Ali Center in Downtown Louisville to learn more about the fighter’s life in and out of the squared circle.

Next on the list was Justin Thomas. One of the top pro golfers in the world, Thomas was born in Louisville and raised in nearby Oldham County before going to college at the University of Alabama. Since turning pro 10 years ago, Thomas has won 15 times on the PGA Tour and owns two PGA Championship trophies, the last of those coming last year. He’s also 10th in all-time PGA Tourn earnings, having taken home more than $53.4 million in winnings in his career.

Another Louisville product came in third in the rankings. DeVante Parker helped lead the University of Louisville to a 2013 Sugar Bowl title as Teddy Bridgewater’s top receiver. Parker would become a first-round draft pick in the NFL in 2015. After playing his first seven seasons in Miami, Parker was traded to New England last year, where he served as the deep threat in the Patriots offense.

P.J. Washington came in fourth in the rankings. The Charlotte Hornets post player was born in Louisville before his family moved away, but Washington played two seasons at the University of Kentucky prior to turning pro. He averaged a career-best 15.7 points per game this past season and notched a career-high 43 points against the Oklahoma City Thunder on March 28.

Lexington native Walker Buehler is the fifth-most popular athleteaccording to the BetKentucky study. The Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher has finished in the top 10 twice for the National League Cy Young Award, sporting an impressive 46-16 record and a 3.02 earned-run average over six seasons. He’s been sidelined since undergoing Tommy John surgery last August. Still, there’s a chance he could return to the Dodgers later this season in their quest to earn an 11th consecutive playoff appearance.

Stick with for all things Bluegrass State-related and your source for the best Kentucky sportsbook apps when they launch.


Steve is an accomplished, award-winning reporter with more than 20 years of experience covering gaming, sports, politics and business. He has written for the Associated Press, Reuters, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Center Square and numerous other publications. Based in Louisville, Ky., Steve has covered the expansion of sports betting in the U.S. and other gaming matters.

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