Most Beloved? It's Hamill, Retton -- Tyson Most Hated Athlete, According To Poll

Guess who is the most popular athlete in America.

Michael Jordan?


Joe Montana?


Nolan Ryan?

Nope, nope, nope.

Dorothy Hamill and Mary Lou Retton, long past their Olympic glory years, astonishingly are tied as America's most beloved athletes, according to a poll by The Associated Press.

Jordan, Montana, Ryan and Wayne Gretzky lead their sports in popularity among present competitors, yet all four trail Hamill, the 1976 gold-medal figure skater, and Retton, the 1984 gold-medal gymnast.

Mike Tyson is the most hated athlete in the country, according to the poll, drawing more negative ratings than runners-up Pete Rose, John McEnroe and Jose Canseco on the list of 809 active, retired or deceased sports personalities.

New York Yankee boss George Steinbrenner is the most disliked team owner.

Muhammad Ali and Babe Ruth are the best known athletes, their names recognized by more than 97 percent of Americans. Yet the most popular former baseball player is Henry Aaron, whose rating is only slightly behind the virtual tie for No. 1 by Retton and Hamill.

"Being well known doesn't necessarily mean popular," said Nye Lavalle, head of Sports Marketing Group in Dallas, which conducted the survey as part of its ongoing "America's Study," a cultural and social census of the country.

"Michael Jordan is well known, but he's not as well known as Muhammad Ali. Yet Jordan is more popular," Lavalle said. "And

despite the perception by many people that Jordan is the most popular athlete in the country, the reality is he's not. His image has suffered in the last year, especially with that gambling incident."

The poll, based on responses from 1,479 questionnaires returned last November and December, reflects the views of Americans 12 years old and up, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percent.

Retton and Hamill, loved or considered a favorite by 55 percent of those polled, have enhanced their images since their gold-medal days.

Retton, 25, gives motivational talks, puts on occasional exhibitions and serves as special advisor to the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.

Hamill, 36, performed in the Ice Capades for nine years. She's still performing and recently bought the Ice Capades.

"I'm totally thrilled even to be mentioned with those names, and it's incredible and extremely flattering to be ahead of people like Michael Jordan," Retton said from Houston.

Retton and Hamill each still receive fan letters.

"I must say that people are so kind and so gracious to me, it always surprises me," Hamill said. ------------------------------------------------------------------- POPULARITY POLL

America's most popular and unpopular athletes, based on results of "America's Study" by Sports Marketing Group, Dallas.

ALL ATHLETES (love or like a lot/one of my favorites)

Mary Lou Retton 55 percent. Dorothy Hamill 55 percent.



Michael Jordan 47 percent.


Joe Montana 44 percent.


Nolan Ryan 43 percent.

Baseball's past stars

Henry Aaron 52 percent. Babe Ruth 47 percent.


Wayne Gretzky 27 percent.


Martina Navratilova 22 percent.


Arnold Palmer 37 percent.

Auto racing

Richard Petty 32 percent. (retired at end of 1992). A.J. Foyt 31 percent.

MOST RECOGNIZED (past or present)

Muhammad Ali 97 percent. Babe Ruth 97 percent.

MOST UNPOPULAR (disliked a lot or hated)

Mike Tyson 32 percent. John McEnroe 16 percent. Pete Rose 13 percent. Jose Canseco 11 percent.