Sports Illustrated

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Sports Illustrated
Sportsillustrated firstissue.jpg
The first issue of Sports Illustrated, showing Milwaukee Braves star Eddie Mathews at bat and New York Giants catcher Wes Westrum in Milwaukee County Stadium
Editorial DirectorChris Stone
Staff writers

Managing Editor Stephen Cannella
Managing Editor SI Golf Group: Jim Gorant
Creative Director: Christopher Hercik
Director of Photography: Brad Smith [1]
Senior Editor, Chief of Reporters: Richard Demak
Senior Editors: Mark Bechtel, Trisha Lucey Blackmar, MJ Day (Swimsuit); Mark Godich; Stefanie Kaufman (Operations); Kostya P.

Kennedy, Diane Smith (Swimsuit)


'Senior Writers: Kelli Anderson, Lars Anderson, Chris Ballard, Michael Bamberger, George Dohrmann, David Epstein, Michael Farber, Damon Hack, Lee Jenkins, Peter King, Thomas Lake, Tim Layden, J. Austin Murphy, Dan Patrick, Joe Posnanski, S.L. Price, Selena Roberts, Alan Shipnuck, Phil Taylor, Ian Thomsen, Jim Trotter, Gary Van Sickle, Tom Verducci, Grant Wahl, L. Jon Wertheim
Associate Editors: Darcie Baum (Swimsuit); Mark Beech, Adam Duerson, Gene Menez, Elizabeth Newman, David Sabino (Statistics)
Staff Writers: Brian Cazeneuve, Albert Chen, Chris Mannix, Ben Reiter, Melissa Segura
Deputy Chief of Reporters: Lawrence Mondi
Writer-Reporters: Sarah Kwak, Andrew Lawrence, Rick Lipsey, Julia Morrill, Rebecca Sun, Pablo S. Torre
Reporters: Kelvin C. Bias, Matt Gagne, Rebecca Shore
CategoriesSports magazine
PublishertheMaven, Inc. (brand licensee)
Total circulation
(Dec 2020)
1,618,476 [2]
First issueAugust 16, 1954
Company ABG-SI, LLC (brand owner)
CountryUnited States
Based inNew York City
ISSN 0038-822X

Sports Illustrated (SI) is an American sports magazine owned by Authentic Brands Group, and was first published in August 1954.

It was the first magazine with circulation over one million to win the National Magazine Award for General Excellence twice. It is also known for its annual swimsuit issue, which has been published since 1964, and has spawned other complementary media works and products.

In 2018, the magazine was sold to Meredith Corporation by means of its acquisition of parent company Time Inc., but Meredith stated that it planned to sell Sports Illustrated as it did not align with its lifestyle properties. The following year, Meredith announced that it would sell Sports Illustrated to Authentic Brands Group. While Meredith initially planned to continue publishing its print and digital properties under license from ABG (who planned to leverage the Sports Illustrated brand in other markets), ABG later announced that it would instead give the publishing rights to The Arena Group (formerly theMaven, Inc.)—a digital media company.


There were two magazines named Sports Illustrated before the current magazine was launched on August 9, 1954. [3] In 1936, Stuart Scheftel created Sports Illustrated with a target market for sportsman. He published the magazine from 1936 to 1938 on a monthly basis. The magazine focused on golf, tennis, and skiing with articles on the major sports. He then sold the name to Dell Publications, which released Sports Illustrated in 1949 and this version lasted six issues before closing. Dell's version focused on major sports (baseball, basketball, boxing) and competed on magazine racks against Sport and other monthly sports magazines. During the 1940s these magazines were monthly and they did not cover the current events because of the production schedules. There was no large-base, general, weekly sports magazine with a national following on actual active events. 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 did not 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. [4]

The goal of the new magazine was to be basically a magazine, but with sports. 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 9, 1954, it was not profitable (and would not be so for 12 years) [5] 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. [6]

Mark Ford, President of the Sports Illustrated Group in 2010 Mark Ford David Shankbone 2010 NYC.jpg
Mark Ford, President of the Sports Illustrated Group in 2010

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. [7]

After more than a decade of steady losses, the magazine's fortunes finally turned around in the 1960s when Andre Laguerre became its managing editor. A European correspondent for Time, Inc., who later became chief of the Time-Life news bureaux in Paris and London (for a time he ran both simultaneously), Laguerre attracted Henry Luce's attention in 1956 with his singular coverage of the Winter Olympic Games in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, which became the core of SI's coverage of those games. In May 1956, Luce brought Laguerre to New York to become the assistant managing editor of the magazine. He was named managing editor in 1960, and he more than doubled the circulation by instituting a system of departmental editors, redesigning the internal format, [8] and inaugurating the unprecedented use in a news magazine of full-color photographic coverage of the week's sports events. He was also one of the first to sense the rise of national interest in professional football. [9]

Laguerre also instituted the innovative concept of one long story at the end of every issue, which he called the "bonus piece". These well-written, in-depth articles helped to distinguish Sports Illustrated from other sports publications, and helped launch the careers of such legendary writers as Frank Deford, who in March 2010 wrote of Laguerre, "He smoked cigars and drank Scotch and made the sun move across the heavens ... His genius as an editor was that he made you want to please him, but he wanted you to do that by writing in your own distinct way." [10]

Laguerre is also credited with the conception and creation of the annual Swimsuit Issue , which quickly became, and remains, the most popular issue each year.

In 1986, co-owned property HBO/Cannon Video had inked a pact to produce video versions of the magazine for $20 on the sell-through market, running just 30-45 minutes on the tape. [11]

In 1990, Time Inc. merged with Warner Communications to form the media conglomerate Time Warner. In 2014, Time Inc. was spun off from Time Warner. In November 2017, Meredith Corporation announced that it would acquire Time Inc., and the acquisition was completed in January 2018. However, in March 2018, Meredith stated that it would explore selling Sports Illustrated and several other former Time properties, arguing that they did not properly align with the company's lifestyle brands and publications. [12]

Sale to Authentic Brands Group, theMaven

On May 27, 2019, Authentic Brands Group announced its intent to acquire Sports Illustrated for $110 million. Authentic Brands Group stated that it would leverage its brand and other assets for new opportunities that "stay close to the DNA and the heritage of the brand." Upon the announcement of the sale, it was stated that Meredith would enter into a licensing agreement to continue as publisher of the Sports Illustrated editorial operations for at least the next two years. [13] [14] However, on June 18, 2019, it was revealed that the rights to publish the Sports Illustrated editorial operations would be licensed to the digital media company theMaven, Inc. (now The Arena Group) [15] under a 10-year contract, with Ross Levinsohn as CEO. The company had backed a bid by Junior Bridgeman to acquire SI. [16] [17]

On October 1, 2019, editor-in-chief Chris Stone stepped down. [18] On October 2, 2019, in preparation for the closure of the sale to ABG and Maven, [19] The Wall Street Journal reported that Maven was preparing to lay off over 40 Sports Illustrated employees, with an intent to have their roles filled by contracted writers. [20] The next day, ABG and Meredith confirmed that the acquisition had closed, with Meredith stating that staff cuts had been made. [21]

On October 29, 2019, Sports Illustrated announced its hiring of veteran college sports writer Pat Forde. [22] In January 2020, it announced an editorial partnership with The Hockey News , focusing on syndication of NHL-related coverage. [23] [24] In 2021, it announced a similar partnership with Morning Read for golf coverage, with its website being merged into that of Sports Illustrated. [25] It also partnered with iHeartMedia to distribute and co-produce podcasts. [26]

In 2022, ABG announced several non-editorial ventures involving the Sports Illustrated brand, including an apparel line for JCPenney "inspired by iconic moments in sports" (it was not the brand's first foray into clothing, as it launched a branded swimsuit line in conjunction with its Swimsuit Issue in 2018), [27] and resort hotels in Orlando and Punta Cana. [28]


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

Color printing

In 1965, offset printing began. This allowed 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. [29]

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, Woody Hayes, 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. [30]

Regular segments


Performer of the Year

Maya Moore of the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx was the inaugural winner of the Sports Illustrated Performer of the Year Award in 2017. [31]

Sportsperson of the Year

Since 1954, Sports Illustrated magazine has annually presented the Sportsperson of the Year award to "the athlete or team whose performance that year most embodies the spirit of sportsmanship and achievement." [32] [33] 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). [32] [34] Both men and women have won the award, originally called "Sportsman of the Year" and renamed "Sportswoman of the Year" or "Sportswomen of the Year" when applicable; it is currently known as "Sportsperson of the Year."

The 2017 winners of the award are Houston Texans defensive end, J. J. Watt, and Houston Astros second baseman, José Altuve. [35] Both athletes were recognized for their efforts in helping rebuild the city of Houston following Hurricane Harvey in addition to Altuve being a part of the Astros team that won the franchise's first World Series in 2017. [36]

The 2018 winners were the Golden State Warriors as a team for winning their third NBA Title in four years.

Sportsman of the Century

Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Century Muhammad Ali Muhammad Ali NYWTS.jpg
Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Century Muhammad Ali

In 1999, Sports Illustrated named Muhammad Ali the Sportsman of the Century at the Sports Illustrated's 20th Century Sports Awards in New York City's Madison Square Garden. [37]

Sports Illustrated's Muhammad Ali Legacy Award

In 2015, the magazine renamed its Sportsman Legacy Award to the Sports Illustrated's Muhammad Ali Legacy Award. The annual award was originally created in 2008 and honors former "sports figures who embody the ideals of sportsmanship, leadership and philanthropy as vehicles for changing the world." Ali first appeared on the magazine's cover in 1963 and went on to be featured on numerous covers during his storied career. His widow, Lonnie Ali, is consulted when choosing a recipient. [38] In 2017, football quarterback Colin Kaepernick was honored with the Award, which was presented by Beyoncé. [39] In 2018, WWE professional wrestler John Cena was honored with the award. [40]

All-decade awards and honors

Top sports colleges

For a 2002 list of the top 200 Division I sports colleges in the U.S., see footnote [42]

Wrestler of the Year

Cover history

The following list contains the athletes with most covers. [48]

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

Most covers by athlete, 1954–2016

AthleteSportNumber of covers
Michael Jordan Basketball50
Muhammad Ali Boxing40
LeBron James Basketball25
Tiger Woods Golf24
Magic Johnson Basketball23
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Basketball22
Tom Brady Football20

Most covers by team, 1954 – May 2008

TeamSportNumber of covers
Los Angeles Lakers Basketball67
New York Yankees Baseball65
St. Louis Cardinals Baseball49
Dallas Cowboys Football48
Boston Red Sox Baseball46
Chicago Bulls Basketball45
Boston Celtics Basketball44
Los Angeles Dodgers Baseball40
Cincinnati Reds Baseball37
San Francisco 49ers Football33

Most covers by sport, 1954–2009

SportNumber of covers
Pro Football-NFL550
Pro Basketball-NBA325
College Football202
College Basketball181
Track and Field99

Celebrities on the cover, 1954–2010

CelebrityYearSpecial notes
Gary Cooper 1959Scuba diving
Bob Hope 1963Owner of Cleveland Indians
Shirley MacLaine 1964Promoting the film John Goldfarb, Please Come Home!
Steve McQueen 1971Riding a motorcycle
Burt Reynolds and Kris Kristofferson 1977Promoting the film Semi-Tough
Big Bird 1977On the cover with Mark Fidrych
Arnold Schwarzenegger 1987Caption on cover was Softies
Chris Rock 2000Wearing Los Angeles Dodgers hat
Stephen Colbert 2009Caption: Stephen Colbert and his Nation save the Olympics
Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale 2010Promoting the film The Fighter
Brad Pitt 2011Promoting the film Moneyball

Fathers and sons who have been featured on the cover

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
Mark McGwire Matt McGwire
Drew Brees Baylen Brees
Boomer Esiason Gunnar Esiason
Chuck Liddell Cade Liddell

Presidents who have been featured on the cover

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

Tribute covers (In Memoriam)

AthleteSI cover dateSpecial notes
Len Bias June 30, 1986Died of a cocaine overdose just after being drafted by the Boston Celtics
Arthur Ashe February 15, 1993Tennis great and former US Open champion who died from AIDS after a blood transfusion
Reggie Lewis August 9, 1993Celtics player who died due to a heart defect
Mickey Mantle August 21, 1995Died after years of battling alcoholism
Walter Payton November 8, 1999Died from rare liver disorder
Dale Earnhardt February 26, 2001 Died in a crash on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.
Brittanie Cecil April 1, 2002Fan killed as the result of being struck with a puck to the head while in the crowd at a Columbus Blue Jackets game
Ted Williams July 15, 2002 Boston Red Sox great who died of cardiac arrest
Johnny Unitas September 23, 2002 Baltimore Colts great who died from heart attack
Pat Tillman May 3, 2004 Arizona Cardinals player turned U.S. soldier who was killed in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan.
Ed Thomas July 6, 2009 Parkersburg, Iowa high school football coach who was gunned down by one of his former players on the morning of June 24, 2009.
John Wooden June 14, 2010 UCLA basketball coaching legend who died of natural causes at 99 years of age.
Junior Seau May 2, 2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker who committed suicide at 43 years of age




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

See also

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  • MacCambridge, Michael (1997), The Franchise: A History of Sports Illustrated Magazine, Hyperion Press, ISBN   0-7868-6216-5 .
  • Fleder, Rob (2005), Sports Illustrated 50: The Anniversary Book, Time Inc., ISBN   1-932273-49-2 .
  • Regli, Philip (1998), The Collectors Guide to Sports Illustrated and Sports Publications, Beckett, ISBN   1-887432-49-3 .

Further reading