Google released its annual lists of search trends for 2016 today and the results are fascinating in the world of sports. The end of a historic World Series drought made the Chicago Cubs the top U.S. pro sports team, while Americans gobbled up everything about Michael Phelps’ Rio performance. The greatest Olympian of all-time headed the top athletes in 2016.
Michael Phelps holds the US flag after the podium ceremony of the Men’s swimming 4 x 100m Medley Relay Final at the Rio Olympics. (Photo: MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
The lists are intended to capture the people and topics that captured Americans attention this year. In past years, Google released both trending and most-searched lists. This year is focused on trending only, meaning search queries “that had the highest spike in traffic over a sustained period in 2016 as compared to 2015.”
Google did release one top ten most-searched list that covers all categories as searched by Americans. Powerball was No. 1, followed by Prince, Hurricane Matthew, Pokémon Go and Slither.io. “Trump” ranked No. 8, two spots ahead of Hillary Clinton with election sandwiched in between. Others in the top 10 were the Olympics and David Bowie.
Here is what Americans searched for on Google in the world of sports.
U.S. Pro Sports Teams
Teams that reach the end of the postseason are bound to see spikes in traffic. Six of the top seven teams made it to the final two in their respective sports in 2016. The exception: the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Cubs’ first World Series title since 1908 pushed them to the head of the class.
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Olympians dominated the action among athletes on Google in 2016 with six in the top 10, plus Kevin Durant who played for Team USA the last two Olympics. This group has won 63 Olympic medals, including 50 golds (65 and 52 with Durant’s pair of golds).
Cubs, Cubs and more Cubs. Chicago’s North Side team placed six players in baseball’s top 10, led by National League MVP Kris Bryant. Curt Schilling made the cut for all the wrong reasons. ESPN terminated Schilling as an analyst in April after he posted an anti-transgender meme on social media.
Quarterbacks dominate the action with six of the 10 slots led by the last season’s MVP Cam Newton and the player, Colin Kaepernick, most credited for supercharing the national anthem protests. Rookies are also popular search topics as fans digest the newest players in the league. Laremy Tunsil makes the cut for some unfortunate draft night photos that emerged of him with a gas mask and a bong.
Durant narrowly missed carrying the Oklahoma City Thunder over the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 playoffs, but his free agency sent Durant’s Google searches through the roof. Durant’s eventual decision to join Golden State in July stunned the basketball world. Other free agents (Howard, Wade, Horford and Noah) joined rookies (Ingram, Hield and Simmons) among those NBAers trending on Google. Notice no LeBron James or Stephen Curry. Those guys are always trending.
Men’s Soccer Players
A pair of global icons who play for Barcelona head the men’s soccer players trending charts. Zlatan Ibrahimović ranks third in large part for his move from PSG to Manchester United over the summer.
Sid the Kid propelled the Penguins to their fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history and first since 2009, while the ageless Jaromir Jagr led the Florida Panthers in points at the age of 44.