David the icon

RYAN MURPHY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:33 AM ET

Every once in a great while, there comes an athlete that is so iconic they transcend sport and become household names, belonging to the annals of popular culture.

It happened to Muhammad Ali, Wayne Gretzky, Babe Ruth and, of course, new Los Angeles resident, David Beckham.

"Becks" as he's known in some circles, has become a fashion icon, a celebrity ... oh, and he plays soccer too. His hairstyles are trendsetters in Britain, and he and his wife Victoria "Posh Spice" Adams are friends with fellow superstar couple Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.

A perfect example of his stardom is the fact the manager of he and his wife is Simon Fuller, the man who invented "American Idol."

Still not convinced of his celebrity?

A simple Google search of "Beckham" returns 42.1 million hits. Compare this to 1.84 million for the current Pope, Benedict XVI or 2.63 million for popular U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama, or a little more than 2.5 million for current vice president Dick Cheney.

His bending free kicks and popularity spawned an international hit movie starring Keira Knightley, entitled "Bend It Like Beckham" (let's just say there was never a film starring Humphrey Bogart called "Hit It Like DiMaggio").

Also, consider the fact that news stories about his unveiling as a member of the L.A. Galaxy soccer club mentions his fashion, in addition to his joining the team.

States one article, "Beckham was resplendent in a gray Burberry suit, white shirt, pale gray tie and an accent pocket square. A glittering wide diamond wedding band flashed on his left ring finger. His blond hair was buzz cut and he sported a stubbly beard," -- this segment of the news article came directly after a mention of his former team Real Madrid.

In addition to this media frenzy, his wife Victoria was the subject of a reality television special entitled Victoria Beckham: Coming to America, and David is also the subject of an hour-long documentary entitled David Beckham: New Beginnings.

Beckham made his debut for the Galaxy on July 21, in a friendly against English club Chelsea. Due to a sore ankle, he was limited to just 12 minutes of action. However, judging by reports from the game, it seemed he was well received in Tinseltown, as the crowd roared every time his cleats touched the ball (including one touch in which he was returning a ball to the referee that had gone out of bounds).

The hoopla didn't stop there, the capacity crowd included famous faces such as Jennifer Love Hewitt and Katie Holmes, the wife of Beckham's personal friend Tom Cruise.

The next night, Cruise and Holmes, along with actor Will Smith and his wife Jada PinkettSmith, threw a welcome-to-L.A. party for the Beckhams at the Museum of Contemporary Art's Geffen Contemporary gallery. The star-studded welcoming committee included Bruce Willis, Quincy Jones, Jim Carrey, Eva Longoria and athletes LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.

Beckham is not only an amazing soccer player and sporting superstar, he is a pop icon. His official website, while mentioning his football/soccer news, also has small blurbs on his fashion, his hairstyles and his long list of tattoos.

It's something that is truly unique in the world of sport.

However, for his part, Beckham has remained quite humble. He even said in an interview that the atmosphere during his debut was amazing, but that it made him "feel a little bit embarrassed at times."

Surely, if Beckham makes his first MLS league start of the season in Toronto Sunday night, it will be a media circus.


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