Athletes are some of the most revered figures in our culture. Along with singers, actors and people who are famous for being famous, fans are always trying to see what they're up to. It makes us feel involved when we see our favorite celebrity post something about their day. It gives us a quick glimpse behind the curtain of fame into what the real person is like when the cameras are off. This is the case even more so with athletes, as their personal behavior creates story-lines in times both good and bad. Personalities don’t seem to be a problem when the team is winning, but are the first thing mentioned when a team starts to rack-up the losses. Some athletes don’t like to show their personal life to the world at all. Marshawn Lynch, for example, would famously rather take a hefty fine from the NFL rather than give a sound bite for the media to use. Others are more open with their lives, and post frequently on Instagram or Twitter. Instagram pictures and videos in particular give fans a clearer idea of what their favorite athlete is like off the field or the court.
Some Instagram accounts are more active and engaging than others. Marshwan Lynch, again, almost never posts anything on Instagram that isn’t somehow making him money. It’s a shame, because I’d love to see some unfiltered Beast Mode, but we just won’t get it. Others can’t get enough of their social media following, marking landmarks in followers like you or I might. Here are some of the most electric athlete Instagram accounts on the site. You never know what’s going to happen with some of these, so make sure you follow them before they delete that controversial picture.
20 Desean Jackson (@OneOfone)
The Redskins’ wide receiver DeSean Jackson, is one of the more active Instagrammers in the NFL. He recently surpassed the one million follower mark and posted a photo thanking his fans, showing he doesn’t take his Instagram audience for granted. Jackson, like many athletes on this list, mostly uses his Instagram to show off. He flaunts his lavish lifestyle, affinity for cars, charitable work and on-field highlights (in between hot takes on Chris Brown’s bail hearing). Based on his feed, it seems like he’s sending meals to the homeless every other week, which is good to see. Everyone knows charitable work doesn’t count unless you tell everyone you did it. His kid takes up a good amount of his feed as well, so you can expect a healthy dose of baby Jackson in his prime cuteness.
19 James Harden (jharden13)
If this was 2015 then Houston Rockets guard James Harden, would have probably cracked the top five. He’s an interesting character, and his life outside of basketball is just as interesting. He would regularly post pictures with celebrities like Rick Ross and Ty Dolla Sign, along with an inside glimpse of how Dwight Howard looks when he’s passed out.
Alas, lately Harden has been seduced by the Siren of sponsored photos. Even a seemingly bizarre picture of Harden in his underwear on a knife throwing board appears to be sponsored. I’m going to keep him here, though because I know he has it in him. His beard alone is worth a follow, and his hipster style will keep you saying, "Wait, is that cool to wear?" He’s still crushing fools in FIFA, and it’s only a matter of time until he goes back to wearing a ridiculous cowboy hat, dancing on the team bus and rubbing elbows with UFC champions.
18 Serena Williams (@serenawilliams)
Tennis star Serena Williams has cemented herself as one of the all-time greats to ever pick up a racket. Her Instagram account serves as an inside look on how the legend spends her free time. There is also a solid amount of modeling photos on her page, showing how sexy a strong woman can be. Williams is helping to redefine female beauty, flaunting her pronounced muscles at every turn. This means an ample amount of butt-shots from all angles. Her life outside of modeling and tennis is equally interesting, as her followers can see her vacation in tropical destinations that they’re likely to never experience themselves. She doesn’t flaunt her wealth as much as some others, but let’s just say she’s no stranger to a private jet. She promotes other athletes and posts a fair amount of inspirational quotes, so if you’re looking for a professional athlete’s advice on success then take a look at Serena’s Instagram.
17 Carmello Anthony (@carmelloanthony)
New York Nicks forward and Olympic gold medalist Carmello Anthony, has made a name for himself on and off the court. While his on-court production is heavily criticized at times (as witnessed by his spot-on Footlocker commercial) his life outside of basketball is worth checking out. For instance, his son had probably the best toy soldier costume of all time this Halloween. Expect a fair amount of workout shots and practice highlights, as Mello is fighting the battle of public opinion one picture at a time. There are a lot of behind-the-scenes pictures of his media appearances, which offers a rare glimpse into the world of a professional NBA player. There’s no question that one of the highlights of Anthony’s career is playing in the Olympics, and he never misses a chance to remind his fans. From an Olympics hat to a fan’s tattoo of Mello wearing the USA jersey, Carmello Anthony was clearly honored to represent his country in the Olympics.
16 Michael Phelps (@m_phelps00)
Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps is the most accomplished and famous swimmer to ever touch the water. His Instagram account offers a behind-the-scenes look at how the champion trains, as well as how he spends his free time. There are frequent celebrity cameos in his posts, including the likes of Ray Lewis, Stevie Wonder and Kanye West. If you’re a fan of cute babies then Phelps has you covered. He posts near daily adorable pictures of his son, including one where he’s showing him the view from their plane. With the Phelps blood running through his veins, it’s only a matter of years before the little guy becomes a pro athlete in his own right, so you might as well jump on the bandwagon early. Obviously Phelps is in incredible shape so if you’re a fan of man muscles you won’t be disappointed. Swimmers are required to wear next to nothing, so Phelps is not ashamed to hit a flex pose for the camera.
15 Kevin Love (@kevinlove)
Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love, actually seems like a pretty cool and funny guy. I feel like he got a bad rap as the rest of the team left him out of their dab photos last year. He was portrayed as the black sheep of the team, but his Instagram account makes him seem pretty funny and relatable. His couple's costume for Halloween this year has to be one of the best I've seen, and would fit perfectly with the, "Relationship Goals" caption. His costume last year was equally unique and funny, from a movie which I consider highly underrated, Jackie Moon from Semi Pro. The main focus of his posts is basketball, but he includes the occasional glimpse behind the curtain into the real Kevin Love. The post-championship celebration is all over his feed, so if you're a Cavs fan it's worth reliving the past while you're watching your team win this season.
14 Christiano Ronaldo (@cristiano)
Real Madrid Forward Cristiano Ronaldo is currently the highest paid athlete on the planet and he won’t let you forget it. While he doesn’t publicly ball-out as much as others on this list, his humble-brag game is impeccable. Ronaldo doesn’t need to hold a stack of 100s to his ear; he’ll just post a video of his son playing pinball in his massive and luxurious game room. “Don’t mind me, just over here cruising in my Lamborghini. Oh, sorry, didn’t see you there!”
There’s no questioning his love of the game as his feed is at least 50% practice and game highlights. His account has it all: soccer p*rn for Real Madrid fans and – well – real fap material for his female followers. The man is in great shape, as witnessed by his workout posts but also his physique, which he shows off regularly. Ronaldo’s got no problem showing off some skin, and proudly displays his modeling portfolio to all of his 82 million + followers.
13 Paige Spiranac (_paige.renee)
Professional golfer Paige Spiranac, is someone who should be followed by any golf enthusiast who also shares an appreciation for the female figure. Hers is one of the most underrated accounts on this list, with only around 800,000 followers. Spiranac's Instagram is filled with highlights of her perfect hits alongside her intense workout regimen. There are a fair bit of trick shots as well, so expect to allocate a few hours a week trying to replicate her off-the-wall, into-the-cup type of shots. Of course, she includes a healthy dose of mirror-selfies and modeling shots that show just how sexy a female athlete can be. Oh, and don't forget the occasional video of her hitting a ball out of someone’s mouth. If there’s anyone on the planet who I’d let do that to me it’d probably be Paige Spiranac. She can drive a ball into orbit and look damn good doing it. What else could you ask for?
12 Usain Bolt (@usainbolt)
Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt, is one of, if not the, fastest men to ever live. His smile as he was winning his race quickly became one of the hottest memes of 2016, and his Instagram account does not disappoint. Seemingly all of his celebrity encounters are photographed, from Selma Hayek to Justin Bieber. In one picture he’ll be in a flashy suit, accepting a reward, and in the next he’s chilling next to a gang of sharks. His account will keep you guessing on the off-season, and when he’s competing you’ll be treated to his celebrations and facial expressions as he burns his competitors. His followers will also get an inside look at how the fastest man alive trains, so maybe you can learn something and beat your friends in a race. Did you know he can sing? Apparently he released a short song in October, which honestly isn’t that bad. The video is available on his page, and while his part is heavily auto-tuned, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t pretty catchy.
11 Rob Gronkowski (@gronk)
New England Patriots tight end and lovable goofball Rob Gronkowski, is one of the best tight ends to ever play the game of football. His Instagram account is exactly what you think it would be: a mixture of self promotion and off-the-wall antics. Of course, he'll have his shirt off about half of the time, which is why he's so popular in the first place. He's only been on Instagram for about a year, but he's certainly made up for lost time. One of his #tbts features himself locked in a dog crate. No context is needed; just Gronk being Gronk. From practice celebrations to dancing on stage at a concert, Gronkowski is truly all over the place. The only drawback is the team he plays for. The New England Patriots are known as one of the most tight-lipped organizations in all of sports. Imagine what Instagram gold we'd have on our hands if he didn't play for the Pats.
10 James Harrison (@jhharisson92)
James Harrison is a linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and damn is he strong. If you're a football fan with a side interest in body building then this is the Instagram account for you. You're probably going to have to wade through some supplement advertisements, but this dude's workout regimen is off the charts. You'll see him benching with plates dangling from surgical tubing (I'm not sure of the benefits of this but it looks pretty difficult) and curling 100 pounds like it's nothing. Harrison can probably lift everything in Planet Fitness at once. This is a guy doing barbell shoulder presses one-handed.
Apart from his workouts, which is admittedly most of his posts, Harrison includes clips of him coaching and playing. He's also an advocate for acupuncture therapy, as he shows his fans the needles in his back about once per week. If you're an NFL quarterback and are playing the Steelers, I'd advise not looking at Harrison's Instagram account or you may find yourself faking an injury to avoid getting a real one.
9 JR Smith (@teamswish)
Cleveland Cavaliers guard JR Smith, is almost notoriously fond of his social media accounts. He's gotten in trouble with the team for his Twitter account and was publicly shamed when he liked a model's photo in the middle of a game. He's been more reserved as of late, posting mostly pictures of himself and his family. He's not scared of a bit of scrutiny, as he publicly endorsed Hilary Clinton multiple times on his Instagram feed. Smith is a big Cowboys fan, so if you're on the Zeke, Dak bandwagon then he's your guy. Even though his antics are a bit toned-down lately, Smith still posts funny videos of himself regularly. His Halloween posts were pretty entertaining, which showcased the costumes he and his family wore this year. You never know when inspiration might hit, so make sure you follow him so you can see his activity before he deletes it.
8 Chad Johnson (@ochocinco)
Former NFL wide receiver Chad Johnson (AKA Chad Ochocinco), may not play in the league anymore, but that doesn’t mean he’s no longer competing. This Thanksgiving he treated his Instagram followers to his shut-down corner back abilities against his friends. At least I think they were his friends; he was talking a healthy amount of trash every time he broke up a pass. Johnson documents nearly everything on Instagram, from a car ride to a concert to a highlight of his son catching a touchdown over the top of a defender. His profile picture is all you really need to know about his Instagram: a shot of him completely naked that stops right where his dangus starts. The guy loves the limelight as much as he loves a good cigar, and he’ll post a picture of a billion-dollar sports car next to a picture of a dollar with the caption: #rich.
7 Mike Tyson (@miketyson)
Boxing legend Mike Tyson has been a must-follow on Instagram for a while now. If you followed him in his prime, Tyson posts regular throwback pictures of himself in his fighting days to give you a stroll down memory lane. If you're only a fan of his personality, then he's got you covered on that front as well. He's got a good sense of humor, and doesn't take himself too seriously, as witnessed by his, "Thuns out, guns out" t-shirt. He regularly visits with celebrity guests because of his Undisputed Truth show, and posts his encounters on Instagram. Of course, you'll get a solid helping of Tyson flexing and riding on his yacht like the picture above. Follow him now, because it was around this time last year that he posted the most hilarious video he's ever been a part of. If you haven't seen it, let's just say he was a bit too confident in his hoverboard skills.
6 Kelly Slater (@kellyslater)
Surfing legend Kelly Slater, lives an interesting and travel-filled life. He's usually surfing, so if you into the sport then that alone is a reason to follow. Even if you aren't a fan of surfing, the constant travelling means that Slater is posting pictures from some of the most beautiful locations imaginable. He lives the life that we all dream of, and allows us to live vicariously through his Instagram feed. When you go to his page you'll see art, landscapes, pubic events, celebrity encounters and of course, surfing. He even posted a picture of a ballot cast for Kelly Slater for president. If you're sitting in a cubicle, wishing you were on the beach or watching a beautiful sunset, then pull up Kelly Slater's Instagram account and daydream the last few minutes of your day away. Maybe someday you'll get there, but until then let Kelly Slater be your outlet.
5 Tony Hawk (@tonyhawk)
Tony Hawk is a skateboarding legend, and he's still at it even though he no longer competes. This Halloween, his Instagram page was littered with costume-themed skate videos and pictures, my favorite of which was his near perfect Larry David outfit. Even though he's well past his prime, Hawk is still learning new tricks and showing them off to his Instagram audience.
Tony Hawk has one of the coolest lives imaginable and post regular photos so his Instagram audience can eat their heart out. He promotes other skaters as well, so if you're a fan of the sport and are looking for the next big star, Tony has likely featured them on his Instagram page. Watch out for his kids, too. They started skating at a very young age and can go trick-for-trick with some of the best out there. It's only a matter of time before we see Tony Hark 2.0 doing 1800s on the vert ramp.
4 Conor McGregor (@thenotoriousmma)
MMA fighter Connor McGregor is one of the most polarizing and popular UFC fighters of all time, and knows how to sell a fight like no one else. His shit-talking ability is out of this world, and his social media accounts help amplify his voice so his competitors can never sleep. McGregor prides himself on his attire, and his Instagram followers are treated to frequent glimpses into the many outfits of a UFC champion. No sweats and t-shirts for Connor; his closets are filled with mink coats and tailored suits. His captions are almost better than the pictures themselves. He posted one picture with a stack of money to his ear with the caption, "Hello, I'd like to order some competition please, I don't have any." Classic. Connor McGregor transcends the sport of MMA, and is someone who needs to be watched at all times. You never know when he’s going to emasculate another fighter, so do yourself a favor and toss him a follow so you don’t miss anything.
3 Mike Escamila (@mikeescamila)
BMX rider Mike Escamilla may technically have the craziest Instagram account on this list. If you argue that he got snubbed for number one I wouldn't argue. This man has done every extreme sport you can think of plus a bunch you didn't know existed, and has done most of them with the camera rolling. From sky diving to getting mauled by an attack dog, Escamilla's Instagram is full of experiences that most of us would never even dare get close to. He's a real adrenaline junkie, and his followers are happy to watch him indulge in his vice for their entertainment. The most shocking thing of all is that he only has around 100,000 followers. With so much extreme activity I thought he'd be over a million easily. If you're looking for a jolt of awesome into your otherwise mundane week, you owe it to yourself to follow Mike Escamilla on Instagram.
2 Lebron James (@kingjames)
NBA superstar LeBron James is one of the most polarizing figures in sports today. There are very few middle-of-the-road opinions when it comes to LeBron: people love him or they hate him. Even if you're a fan, you have to admit that the man's easy to hate. This Halloween picture is a perfect example. I'm no PC police officer, but posting a picture of your friend dressed as OJ Simpson complete with the bloody glove is going to garner some negative attention.
If you're a fan of sneakers, LeBron has you covered, as he regularly posts his new Nike kicks on Instagram. As one of the biggest names in the NBA, Lebron rubs elbows with celebrities like Kanye West and Mark Wahlberg on a regular basis. His life is one of the most glamorous in all of sports, which is what solidifies his spot as one of the top athletes to follow.
1 Floyd Mayweather (@floydmayweather)
Professional boxer Floyd "Money" Mayweather needs no introduction. He's the most prolific boxer of all-time, and was considered the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world in his prime. He may not be in the ring anymore, but his Instagram account is pure electricity. For Halloween he went out as the "Money Man" (pictured above) which was essentially him in a money suit holding stacks of real $100s. That's pretty eccentric, but nothing tops the boastful $100 million check he posted this week, accompanied by a lengthy quote, essentially saying he makes more money than the haters who say he can't read. Scroll down a bit and find picture of him on camel-back, unthinkably expansive cars and more stacks of cash for good measure. Whether you love him or hate him, his Instagram will certainly give you enough evidence to do either. His absurdly lavish lifestyle is something out of a movie, which makes Floyd Mayweather the number one athlete to follow on Instagram.
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