The modern athlete doesn’t only have to be a world-beater in their chosen discipline or a fine physical specimen anymore. No, now they have to master the art of social media.
Instagram is arguably the greatest platform for a sportsperson to express the realities of their everyday lives – or certainly the reality they choose to show us.
As a result, there has never been a greater connection between athletes and their fans, with social media elevating their celebrity status to lofty new heights never quite seen before.
With that in mind, and in no particular order, let’s take a look at the 30 best athletes to check out on Instagram.
Maria Sharapova (Tennis)
The 2004 Wimbledon champ has been one of tennis’ biggest celebrities for many years now, despite having fallen away in the world rankings. The Russian doesn’t post a great deal about her sporting life, instead choosing to focus on the other side of being a world famous athlete.
James Haskell (Rugby)
Buoyed by his recent exposure on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of here, the former England rugby star has seen his popularity on and off social media flourish since his venture in to the jungle. The former Wasps icon made 77 appearances for his nation and posts some rather amusing photos and videos on Insta.
Benjamin Mendy (Football)
The Manchester City defender is yet to truly conquer the Premier League, but for some time he has been the go to fella on social media. A mix of his sporting achievements and rather outlandish fashion style, Mendy is truly one of the funny guys of Instagram.
Lewis Hamilton (Formula 1)
A six-time Formula One world champion, Hamilton’s illustrious career and lavish life are well-documented on Instagram. Also, if you happen to love dogs, then the Brit’s account may be the one for you, as bulldogs Roscoe and Coco regularly make an appearance.
Oh, and I won’t mention the hair…
Most well-known for his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL, the outside linebacker has been a staple of Instagram since its inception. The two-time Super Bowl winner’s fitness regime is frightening, with some fierce tackle pics thrown in too.
David Beckham (Football)
Possibly the coolest man in football – until you here him speak, that is – Becks is unsurprisingly popular on Instagram with just over 60m followers. One of the first genuine celebrities to emerge from the beautiful game, you can keep up with all his high-profile activities on social media.
If you’re not familiar with gymnastics then this lady may not be a household name where you live. But Biles is the most decorated U.S. female gymnast…and she’s only 22. The American also shares her life with just under 4m followers – quite some feat for such a young woman.
LeBron James (Basketball)
You can see why LeBron has the handle @kingjames. The former LA Lakers star – and one of the greatest to have ever played basketball – has conquered our phones. The 35-year-old, who owns shares in Liverpool, posts a wonderful array of sporting photos, as well as touching moments from his family life.
James is also the only non-footballer in the world’s 10 most followed Instagram athletes.
Roger Federer (Tennis)
The Swiss tennis star has managed to find a perfect balance between being a nice guy and just being bloody good at dominating the court. His lovable and down to earth manner makes him a popular figure on social media, boasting just over 7m followers.
Mohamed Salah (Football)
Since arriving back in the Premier League at Liverpool, Salah’s career has exploded. Currently a European and world champion – who also holds the record for most goals in a single 38-game Premier League season – the Egyptian is much-loved on Merseyside, and across the globe.
Mike Tyson (Boxing)
The former heavyweight has made many a questionable headline over his lifetime, but now his fighting days are over, he’s decided to take on the world of Insta. Pretty much a ‘who’s who’ of celebrities, the 53-year-old also uses his status on social media to promote his hit podcast Hotboxin’.
Shaquille O’Neal (Basketball)
The 7’1 four-time NBA champion posts some utterly hilarious stuff on Instagram. Having been long retired, O’Neal has masterminded the art of staying relevant with his wonderful feed hitting just under 14m followers.
Possibly the best female footballer on the planet, Alex Morgan has helped revolutionise the women’s game, while also spearheading the success of the United States national team. The two-time World Cup winner posts a healthy range of personal and professional photos, and continues to be a trailblazer for women’s football.
Mick Fanning (Surfing)
Nicknamed ‘White Lightning’, it’s hardly surprising the Australian former surfer lives a lifestyle worth watching out for. With some stunning shots of Fanning riding the waves, as well as some picturesque photos of his family life, the three-time ASP world champion makes us seriously consider selling our homes and moving down under.
If you’re New Year’s resolution was to go to the gym more, or burn off a few unwanted pounds, then you simply have to check out CR7. Arguably the greatest player to have ever walked the face of the earth, his fitness and workout photos will offer you some much-needed inspiration.
The Euro 2016 winner is the most followed athlete on Insta with nearly 200m followers, and you can certainly see why when you check out his feed.
Odell Beckham Jr (American Football)
The Cleveland Browns wide receiver has been a sensation since being drafted by the New York Giants in 2014, with his Instagram account now being followed by 14m people. The maverick – infamous for his showman qualities and one-handed catches – boasts a rather ‘intriguing’ fashion style and consistently updates fans with his life on and off the field.
The most decorated Open Era female tennis player is still going strong at the age of 38, and her rather enviable and high-octane lifestyle is quite something to behold. Serena’s 12m followers are treated to an insight in to her tennis successes and the glamorous world of professional sport.
Usain Bolt (Athletics)
The rather large personality of Usain Bolt stole the limelight during his emphatic career on the track. The world-record holder in the 100m sprint, the Jamaican has gone on to dominate the podium at the Olympics and even journeyed in to the world of professional football (albeit very briefly). Having retired in 2017, Bolt has a little more time to focus on his stellar Insta feed, something that has earned him over 9m followers.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Football)
If you think of Ibrahimovic as an actor partaking in the role of the Swedish David Brent – who also happens to be amazingly talented at football – then it instantly turns him from someone you hate…in to some you still hate, but at least makes you laugh. The Milan striker posts some rather egotistical and humorous things on Insta and, whether you hate him or not, it’s definitely worth a click.
Stephen Curry (Basketball)
The Golden State Warriors point guard has lit up the NBA over the course of the past decade, but his Instagram page shows he’s nothing but an average Joe. His account prioritises his personal life with countless tributes to his family, as well as showcasing the numerous projects the 31-year-old is working on.
The definition of a celebrity athlete, sportspeople like Neymar have made social media what it is today. The Paris Saint-Germain superstar has a quite sensational 132m followers and showcases his extravagant lifestyle on an all too regular basis.
Spoiler: expect to see an awful lot of teammate Kylian Mbappe as well.
Dina Asher-Smith (Athletics)
Dina Asher-Smith is certainly one to keep an eye out for at the 2020 Olympics, with the up-and-coming star showcasing her preparations on Instagram. The sprinter may not boast as many followers as some of the others on the list but that shouldn’t deter you from checking out her account.
Anthony Joshua (Boxing)
The two-time unified heavyweight champ has been frighteningly good since emerging in the ring. Just a single loss from 24 fights – including 21 KO’s – shows just how difficult AJ is to stop, and most opponents would be left quaking in their boots just taking a glance at his unbelievable workouts on Instagram.
Kobe Bryant (Basketball)
Having played for the Lakers for 20 years and won the NBA five times, Bryant is undoubtedly one of the legends of basketball. The shooting guard retired back in 2016 and his popularity on Instagram has since soared, totalling 11m followers. With loads of family photos, and the odd throwback to his playing days, seeing the real side of Kobe has never been easier.
Tom Brady (American Football)
Whether or not you know anything about the NFL, most people know this man. One of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, the New England Patriots star has won an incredible six Super Bowl titles. His dedication to American football runs almost uninterrupted through his Instagram page, making it well worth a look.
The older readers of this may remember this man more for his series of self-titled video games than his actual career. But Tony Hawk made skateboarding cool again, reintroducing it to the masses, and unsurprisingly he’s still living the high life despite retiring back in 2003.
Andy Murray (Tennis)
Despite cutting a rather frustrated and angry figure on the court, Murray’s personality shines through on social media. The Scot posts some incredibly funny stuff on Instagram and clearly doesn’t take himself too seriously – despite being being a two-time Wimbledon champion.
Paul Pogba (Football)
Pogba’s injury-hit season has offered him lots of time to expand his social media presence – not that it needed a great deal of growth. The midfielder seems to spend a significant amount of time uploading his new haircuts and ridiculous choice of attire to Insta…definitely more time than he spends on the pitch.
The biggest name in UFC has caused quite a stir in recent years. The Irishman has to be one of the most controversial sportspeople out there, and with that comes lots of followers. Nicknamed ‘Notorious’, McGregor continues to steal the limelight…and would be a perfect candidate for a new series of Peaky Blinders.
Lionel Messi (Football)
The Barcelona legend and record-breaker will undoubtedly be the first account football fans check out. While Ronaldo may win the battle for followers, their rivalry on the pitch has been (arguably) won by the Argentine. His football obsession is evident when trawling through his Insta, but why wouldn’t you want to show off being the world’s best?