TOP OF THE LIST
Fred Faour: Ranking Houston's 5 most likeable superstar athletes
This is a golden age in Houston sports. The Rockets have more games in a season than ever before. The Astros are about to hoist their first World Series banner. The Texans finally have a franchise quarterback. The city also has a lot of likeable athletes. In John Granato’s piece last week, he mentioned James Harden’s lack of likeability among Houston’s superstars.
It begs the question: Who are the most likeable athletes in Houston? The city is littered with as many superstars as it has ever had, and most are extremely likeable. Using five categories -- play on the field, social media presence/accessibility, commercial presence/marketability, charity/community work, overall national star power. We limited the list to the big three pro sports:
5) Justin Verlander
Sure, he has only been here for a short time, but the Astros don't win the World Series without him, and with a Cy Young and MVP in his back pocket -- as well as his high profile relationship with Kate Upton -- makes him a household name nationwide. The fact that he accepted a trade to Houston in the wake of Harvey only endeared him more to Houston fans.
4) Chris Paul
On the court, he has been an amazing addition to the Rockets. Yes, he is a little dirty, but he also has been huge in community work in every city he has been in, his insurance commercials add to his likeability, and if he somehow helps the Rockets win a title...
3) Deshaun Watson
He was already a star after winning a national championship at Clemson, but his small sample size in Houston earned him headlines around the country. Donating a game check to Texans employees after Harvey, his personal story growing up and the fact that he just seems to be an all around good guy. If he can stay healthy in 2018, the sky is the limit.
2) Jose Altuve
MVP. Three time batting champ. World Series champ. The ultimate little guy who made it big. Altuve does not have the social media and commercial presence of the No. 1 guy on this list, and almost all of his is based solely on his play on the field. The fact that he will be here for seven more years and has spent his entire career with the Astros makes fans appreciate him even more.
1) J.J. Watt
It’s funny; Watt tops this list, but could also make a “least likeable” list as well, because he is so overexposed. But the truth is, beyond the Harvey relief that made him the NFL’s Man of the Year, Watt is one of the most popular athletes to ever play in Houston. On the field, he is a four-time All-Pro and three time defensive player of the year. While injuries have robbed him of most of the last two seasons, even at 80 percent of what he once was he will make an impact. The No. 99 jerseys dominate the city, and Watt is a beast on social media. His “shut you down” fantasy commercials and H.E.B. locally only add to it. There are those who dislike him for all those same reasons, but Watt is a transcendent star.
Carlos Correa just missed, as his charity work both in Houston and Puerto Rico after the storms really raised his profile. His is a future MVP and will climb this list fast. Dallas Keuchel is well-liked by Astros fans and has a Cy Young. DeAndre Hopkins and Jadeveon Clowney are close as well.
The good news is there really aren’t enough to make a “least likeable” list. Harden would top it, and maybe Josh Reddick and Alex Bregman could make this list, but even they are just annoying, and it is hard to dislike someone who just delivered a world title. Bregman went after a fan on social media, but he is also young and has a lot to learn. Reddick is unlikeable simply for introducing the Woo. Harden's actions were well documented by Granato.
In the end, even the unlikeable guys are pretty likeable. It's a golden age talent wise, but also in the quality of people playing the games. Houston fans have a lot to root for going forward.