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Sports Illustrated is the largest weekly American sports magazine owned by media conglomerate Time Warner. It has over 3 million subscribers and is read by 23 million adults each week, including over 18 million men, 19% of the adult males in the United States. It was the first magazine with circulation over one million to win the National Magazine Award for General Excellence twice.

Its swimsuit issue, which has been published since 1964, is now an annual publishing event that generates its own television shows, videos and calendars.

The magazine's cover is the basis of a sports myth known as the Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx.


Two other magazines named Sports Illustrated were started in the 1930s and 1940s, but they both quickly failed. Following these events, there was no large-base general sports magazine with a national following. It was then that TIME patriarch Henry Luce began considering whether his company should attempt to fill that gap. At the time, many believed sports was beneath the attention of serious journalism and didn't think sports news could fill a weekly magazine, especially during the winter. A number of advisers to Luce, including Life Magazine's Ernest Havemann, tried to kill the idea, but Luce, who was not a sports fan, decided the time was right.[1]

After offering $200,000 in an unsuccessful bid to buy the name Sport for the new magazine, they acquired the rights to the name Sports Illustrated instead for just $10,000. The goal of the new magazine was to be "not a sports magazine, but the sports magazine." Many at Time-Life scoffed at Luce's idea; in his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, Luce and His Empire, W.A. Swanberg wrote that the company's intellectuals dubbed the proposed magazine "Muscle," "Jockstrap," and "Sweat Socks." Launched on August 16, 1954, it was not profitable (and would not be so for 12 years)[2] and not particularly well run at first, but Luce's timing was good. The popularity of spectator sports in the United States was about to explode, and that popularity came to be driven largely by three things: Economic prosperity, television, and Sports Illustrated.

The early issues of the magazine seemed caught between two opposing views of its audience. Much of the subject matter was directed at upper class activities such as yachting, polo and safaris, but upscale would-be advertisers were unconvinced that sports fans were a significant part of their market.[3]


From its start, Sports Illustrated introduced a number of innovations that are generally taken for granted today:

  • Liberal use of color photos - though the six-week lead time initially meant they were unable to depict timely subject matter
  • Scouting reports - including a World Series Preview and New Year's Day bowl game roundup that enhanced the viewing of games on television
  • In-depth sports reporting from writers like Robert Creamer, Tex Maule and Dan Jenkins.
  • High school football Player of the Month awards.
  • Inserts of sports cards in the center of the magazine.

In 1956, Luce asked Time, Inc. senior European Correspondent André Laguerre to come to New York and help define the magazine's character. Many of the staff had serious doubts that the English-born Frenchman could possibly know anything about American sports, but Laguerre won them over, and during his term as Managing Editor (1960 - 1974), SI became a model for other middle-class American magazines. One of the first changes was the beginning of a segment honouring unknown athletes called Faces in the Crowd. Its writers developed their own characteristic style by daring to tell people what was important. Many would say that the magazine legitimized sports — and being a sports fan — for a huge segment of the American population. The steady creation of landmark stories (e.g., "The Black Athlete — A Shameful Story" by Jack Olsen and "Paper Lion" by George Plimpton) showed that sports fans could be readers, and a generation of sportswriters patterned their own writing after what they read in SI.[4].

Color printing

The magazine's photographers also made their mark with innovations like putting cameras in the goal at a hockey game and behind a glass backboard at a basketball game. In 1965, offset printing began to allow the color pages of the magazine to be printed overnight, not only producing crisper and brighter images, but also finally enabling the editors to merge the best color with the latest news. By 1967, the magazine was printing 200 pages of "fast color" a year; in 1983, SI became the first American full-color newsweekly. An intense rivalry developed between photographers, particularly Walter Iooss and Neil Leifer, to get a decisive cover shot that would be on newsstands and in mailboxes only a few days later.[5]

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, during Gil Rogin's term as Managing Editor, the feature stories of Frank Deford became the magazine's anchor. "Bonus pieces" on Pete Rozelle, Bear Bryant, Howard Cosell and others became some of the most quoted sources about these figures, and Deford established a reputation as one of the best writers of the time.[6]

Regular segments

First Person: A feature that has been added in the spring of 2007 features a question and answer session with a featured athlete accompanied by an unusual photo of the athlete holding a hand mirror (the hand mirror concept in First Person donates the athlete as the center of attention). It's also the only photo taking by the athlete himself.

Who's Hot, Who's Not: A feature on who's on a tear and who's in a slump.

Inside the NFL, Baseball, NHL, NBA, College Football, College Basketball, NASCAR, Golf, Boxing, Horse Racing, Soccer and Tennis (sports vary from issue to issue) has the writers from each sport to address the latest news and rumors in their respective fields.

Faces in the Crowd: honors talented amateur athletes and their accomplishments.

The Point After: A back-page column featuring a rotation of SI writers as well as other contributors. Content varies from compelling stories to challenging opinion, focusing on both the world of sports and the role sports play in society.

Creative freedom that the staff had enjoyed seemed to diminish. By the 1980s and 1990s, the magazine had become more profitable than ever, but many also believed it had become more predictable. Mark Mulvoy was the first top editor whose background contained nothing but sports; he had grown up as one of the magazine's readers, but he had no interest in fiction, movies, hobbies or history. Mulvoy's top writer Rick Reilly had also been raised on SI and followed in the footsteps of many of the great writers that he grew up admiring, but many felt that the magazine as a whole came to reflect Mulvoy's complete lack of sophistication. Mulvoy also hired the current creative director Steven Hoffman. Critics said that it rarely broke (or even featured) stories on the major controversies in sports (drugs, violence, commercialism) any more, and that it focused on major sports and celebrities to the exclusion of other topics.[7]

The proliferation of "commemorative issues" and crass subscription incentives seemed to some like an exchange of journalistic integrity for commercial opportunism. More importantly, perhaps, many feel that 24-hour-a-day cable sports television networks and sports news web sites have forever diminished the role a weekly publication can play in today's world, and that it is unlikely any magazine will ever again achieve the level of prominence that SI once had.[8]

Another example of a big change in direction for the periodical is in its capitalizing on alternate covers. The concept took off in the 2000s. There was an alternate issue in fall 2000 for the 2000 World Series. One issue featured Derek Jeter with the heading Subway Series. In January 2004, the controversy over USC and LSU's share of the National Football Championship, resulted in SI creating one issue for the West Coast with USC as champions while the state of Louisiana had an alternate cover with LSU as National Champions. In 2006 alone, there have been three different weeks in which alternate covers have been featured. The August 21 issue featured the College Football Preview and had five alternate covers. The October 23 issue was the NBA Preview and featured three covers with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Carmelo Anthony. The College Basketball Preview was dated November 20 and had five alternate covers.

Sportsman of the Year

Since its inception in 1954, Sports Illustrated magazine has annually presented the Sportsman of the Year award to "the athlete or team whose performance that year most embodies the spirit of sportsmanship and achievement." Roger Bannister won the first ever Sportsman of the year award thanks to his record breaking time of 3:59.4 for a mile (the first ever time a mile had been run under four minutes).

Michael Phelps is Sports Illustrated's most recent Sportsman of the Year, for 2008. In the Beging Olimpics,he broke Mark Spitz's recod for gold Medals with 8 gold medals. Tiger Woods is the only athlete to win the award twice.

Cover history

Most covers by athlete, 1954-2003

Athlete Number of Covers
Michael Jordan 49
Muhammad Ali 37
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 29
Magic Johnson 22
Jack Nicklaus 22

Most covers by team, 1954-May 2008

Team Number of Covers
New York Yankees 66
Los Angeles Lakers 64
Dallas Cowboys 46
Boston Red Sox 44
Chicago Bulls 44
Boston Celtics 39
Los Angeles Dodgers 38
Cincinnati Reds 38
San Francisco 49ers 34
Notre Dame Football 33

Most covers by sport, 1954-2003

Sport Number of Covers
Pro Football 519
Baseball 510
Pro Basketball 302
College Basketball 200
Golf 155
College Football 153
Boxing 134
Track and Field 99
Hockey 83
Tennis 78

Celebrities on the cover, 1954-2003

Celebrity Year Special Notes
Ed Sullivan 1959 On cover as golfer
Bob Hope 1963 Owner of Cleveland Indians
Shirley MacLaine 1964 Wearing a football uniform
Steve McQueen 1971 Riding a motorcycle
Burt Reynolds and Kris Kristofferson 1977 Promoting the film Semi-Tough
Big Bird 1977 On the cover with Mark Fidrych
Arnold Schwarzenegger 1987 Caption on cover was Hot Stuff
Ice Cube 1999 On cover with Shaquille O'Neal
Chris Rock 2000 Wearing Los Angeles Dodgers hat

Fathers and sons who have been featured on the cover

Father Son
Archie Manning Peyton & Eli Manning
Calvin Hill Grant Hill
Bobby Hull Brett Hull
Bill Walton Luke Walton
Jack Nicklaus Gary Nicklaus
Phil Simms Chris Simms
Dale Earnhardt Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Cal Ripken, Sr. Cal Ripken, Jr. & Billy Ripken

Presidents who have been featured on the cover

President SI Cover Date Special Notes
John F. Kennedy December 26, 1960 First Lady Jackie Kennedy also on cover and Kennedy was President-Elect at the time of the cover.
Gerald Ford July 8, 1974 Cover came one month before President Richard Nixon announced he would resign from the Presidency.
Ronald Reagan November 26, 1984 On cover with Georgetown Hoyas basketball coach John Thompson and Patrick Ewing
Ronald Reagan February 16, 1987 On cover with America's Cup champion Dennis Conner
Bill Clinton March 21, 1994 On cover about the Arkansas college basketball team

Tribute covers (In Memoriam)

Athlete SI Cover Date Special Notes
Len Bias June 30, 1986 Died of a cocaine overdose just after being drafted by the Boston Celtics
Arthur Ashe February 15, 1993 Tennis great and former US Open champion who died from AIDS
Reggie Lewis August 9, 1993 Celtics player who died due to a heart defect
Mickey Mantle August 21, 1995 Died after years of battling alcoholism
Walter Payton November 8, 1999 Died from rare liver disorder
Dale Earnhardt February 26, 2001 Died in a crash on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500
Ted Williams July 15, 2002 Boston Red Sox who died of cardiac arrest
Johnny Unitas October 23, 2002 Baltimore Colts great who died from heart attack
Brittanie Cecil April 1, 2002 Fan killed as the result of being struck with a puck to the head while in the crowd at a Columbus Blue Jackets game
Pat Tillman May 3, 2004 Arizona Cardinals player who was killed in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan.


  • Robert Creamer (1954-1974)
  • Seth Davis (1995-present)
  • Frank Deford
  • Michael Farber
  • Ron Fimrite
  • Karl Taro Greenfeld
  • Ed Hinton (1995-2000)
  • Richard Hoffer
  • Dan Jenkins
  • Armen Keteyian (1982-1989)
  • Peter King (1989-present)
  • Tim Layden (1994-present)
  • Jackie MacMullan (1995-2000)
  • Arash Markazi (2005-present)
  • Tex Maule (1956-75)
  • Jack McCallum
  • Robert H. Rauh
  • Jack Olsen
  • Dan Patrick (2007-present)
  • S.L. Price
  • Rick Reilly (1985-2007)
  • Steve Rushin (1998-2007)
  • Michael Silver (1994-2007)
  • Gary Smith
  • Phil Taylor
  • Gary Van Sickle
  • Tom Verducci (1993-present)
  • Jon Wertheim
  • Herbert Warren Wind (1954-1960)
  • Paul Zimmerman (1979-present)


Sports Illustrated has helped launched a number of related publishing ventures, including:

  • Sports Illustrated KIDS magazine (circulation 950,000)
    • Launched in January 1989
    • Won the "Distinguished Achievement for Excellence in Educational Publishing" award 11 times
    • Won the "Parents' Choice Magazine Award" 7 times
  • Sports Illustrated Almanac annuals
    • Introduced in 1991
    • Yearly compilation of sports news and statistics in book form
  • sports news web site
    • Launched on July 17, 1997
    • Online version of the magazine and sports site for
  • Sports Illustrated Women magazine (highest circulation 400,000)
    • Launched in March 2000
    • Ceased publication in December 2002 because of a weak advertising climate
  • Sports Illustrated on Campus magazine
    • Launched on September 4, 2003
    • Dedicated to college athletics and the sports interests of college students.
    • Distributed free on 72 college campuses through a network of college newspapers.
    • Circulation of one million readers between the ages of 18 and 24.
    • Ceased publication in December 2005 because of a weak advertising climate

See also

  • Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue
  • List of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover models
  • University of South Carolina steroid scandal


  1. Template:Harv.
  2. "Henry Luce and Time-Life's America: A Vision of Empire." American Masters, 28 April 2004.
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  7. What's wrong with Sports Illustrated? by Josh Levin - Slate Magazine
  8. Template:Harv.


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External links