Perhaps it was the wordless image of the United States Olympic hockey team celebrating.miracle on ice, Perhaps this was the perfect frame for Dwight Clark’s creation.”HuntTo send the San Francisco 49ers to the 1982 Super Bowl. Or it could have been the announcement that 17-year-old LeBron James “SelectedHe played his first NBA game 20 months ago.
For sports fans of a certain age, the memory of running to the mailbox to see what was on the cover of the latest weekly issue of Sports Illustrated is indelible. For decades, the magazine’s photographers, writers and editors had the power to anoint the stars and provide the definitive account of sports’ biggest moments, often with just a photo and a few words on the cover. It was the most powerful real estate in sports journalism.
Nate Gordon, former sports illustrated picture editor who now heads The Content, said, “When I was a kid and getting SI, you didn’t have an immediate 24-hour news cycle that would go over your head. Was.” Players’ Tribune. “You’ll get that cover and you’ll say: ‘Man, that’s what happened last week. That’s great.'”
The power that any magazine used to have has now reduced considerably. But the road has been especially difficult for Sports Illustrated, as its staff has shrunk and print frequency has decreased. Last week, most of the staff were either laid off or told their employment would become indefinite after 90 days, leaving the future of the publication uncertain.
However, Sports Illustrated’s power to define sports discussion faded long before 2024. A combination of factors such as the growth of sports on cable channels, the presence of more team-controlled media, and the dominance of the Internet have steadily diminished the influence of the magazine and its covers over the years. But it is difficult to exaggerate the power it possessed.
Robert Beck was one of the last remaining Sports Illustrated photographers when the magazine laid off all of its photojournalists in 2015. Brandi Chastain wearing a sports bra Celebrating the US soccer team’s victory in the penalty shootout at the 1999 Women’s World Cup Final.
Dozens of photographers were present at the match, and Mr. Beck was not the only one who took a photo of Ms. Chastain’s celebration — although unlike others, he captured her image not from an angle, but from the head. The photo’s placement on the Sports Illustrated cover made it famous.
“As far as Joe Norm knows, he thinks Robert Beck got the only picture of it,” Mr. Beck said.
Famous athletes such as Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods have appeared on the cover of the magazine dozens of times. For Fred Vuycht, an image of Mr. Woods emerges.
Mr. Vuychi was on his first assignment for Sports Illustrated at the 2001 Masters. Standing on the 16th hole for Sunday’s final round, he thought he would have a chance to beat Mr. Woods with a birdie to win his fourth consecutive Tiger Slam. But Mr. Woods missed the birdie putt and Mr. Vuych did not have enough time to reach the far 18th green.
Instead, using a silent camera without a motor to avoid disturbing Mr. Woods’s backswing, Mr. Vuych took a wide shot from the tower of his tee shot on the final hole, almost surrounded by fans. The editors of Sports Illustrated put it on the cover with one word: “Work.,
“That photo made my career,” Mr. Vuychi said, pointing out the similarity in its composition with the cover photo. First issue of Sports Illustrated1954, which depicts Milwaukee Braves third baseman Eddie Matthews in a crowded stadium in a small frame at home plate.
In addition to capturing classic moments, Sports Illustrated can introduce athletes to the wider world. Mr. James was still in high school when he first appeared on the cover in 2002.
“The cover pushed me onto the national stage, whether I was ready for it or not,” he said. Book published in 2009 With journalist Buzz Bissinger.
Superstar athletes, long before and after Mr. James appeared on the cover, clamored for a spot and promised hours of their time to photographers and writers. Sports Illustrated’s influence was so great that its annual swimsuit issue helped usher in the rise of supermodels like Kathy Ireland, Tyra Banks and Brooklyn Decker. But with great power also comes great responsibility – and one superstar never forgave the magazine because she felt it treated her unfairly on its cover.
Mr. Jordan has not given an interview to Sports Illustrated writers for three decades, despite a cover asking him to do so “Bag it, Michael” and called his short-lived baseball career “embarrassing”. Steve Wolf, who wrote the accompanying article but did not write the cover line I have been apologizing for this ever since,
Other athletes had more complicated relationships with the cover of Sports Illustrated. In 1989, the magazine named Michigan State Tony Mandarich on the cover And he was called “the best offensive line prospect ever” shortly before being taken second in the NFL Draft.
In his 2009 autobiography, Mr. Mandarich recalled seeing 50 copies of the magazine at a news stand at Los Angeles International Airport. “Then I realized I was an item for the national press, big time national press,” he wrote. “That was another heady experience, one that boosted my ego and sense of superiority.”
Three years later, as he was fading out of the league, Sports Illustrated declared Mr. Mandarich “The NFL’s Incredible Bust.” In his autobiography, Mr. Mandarich acknowledges that it was accurate, but adds that he “felt an emotional pounding in my heart, I believe that is what Sports Illustrated intended when it published it.” He would boycott Sports Illustrated journalists for 12 years.
Some were also alarmed by the so-called Sports Illustrated cover jinx, which was said to cause injury to those who graced the cover or have their game ruined. Jinx only did a cover once – which featured a picture of a black cat – and that was topic of a long article Finding out if it was real.
Over the years, as the economics of publishing changed, so did the cover selection.
“It became less of a news thing and more of a personality thing,” said Al Tielemans, who has been a staff photographer for nearly 20 years. He described the evolution of editors wanting a key moment in the game, and then a nice photo of the game’s star, and then a photo featuring the most famous person in the game, and then finally just a headshot of the star.
Last year, perhaps as a result of the celebrity buzz, and possibly the longer time required to print the magazine, Sports Illustrated Deion Sanders named Player of the Year, At one point in his first years as coach, his Colorado Buffaloes were 3–0 and ranked 18th in the college football rankings. But by the time the magazine with Mr. Sanders appeared on the cover, the Buffaloes were 4-8.
The Internet and social media platforms like Instagram mean that more people are being exposed to more photography than ever before. Now that fans see every angle of every game, with highlights and shots instantly available on social media, no single image has the power that the cover of Sports Illustrated had.
In 2014, Mr. Tielemans shot a memorable cover A 13-year-old girl, Mo’Anne Davis, pitching in the Little League World Series. He dreamed of having a 20 or 30-year career as a photographer at Sports Illustrated, which he achieved. But he hoped that they would eventually be replaced by a new generation of photographers who would shoot their own famous covers.
Instead, when he was fired from the job in 2015, he was not replaced at all.