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 country. It was the first magazine with circulation over one million to win the National Magazine Award for General Excellence twice.
Two other magazines named Sports Illustrated were started in the 1930s and 1940s, but they both quickly failed. In fact, there was no large-base, general sports magazine with a national following when TIME patriarch Henry Luce began considering whether his company should attempt to fill the 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.
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) 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.
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.
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..
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.
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.
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, Motor Sports, Golf and Tennis (sports vary from issue to issue) has the writers from each sport to address the latest news and rumors in their repective 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.
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.
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).
Brett Favre is Sports Illustrated's most recent Sportsman of the Year, for 2007. At age 38, Favre unexpectedly produced one of his most statistically successful seasons; the article also implied that Favre was being recognized for his career's body of work. Tiger Woods is the only athlete to win the award twice.
Most covers by athlete, 1954-2003
|Athlete||Number of Covers|
Most covers by team, 1954-2003
|Team||Number of Covers|
|New York Yankees||61|
|Los Angeles Lakers||60|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||38|
|Boston Red Sox||36|
|San Francisco 49ers||33|
|Notre Dame Football||32|
Most covers by sport, 1954-2003
|Sport||Number of Covers|
|Track and Field||99|
Celebrities on the cover, 1954-2003
|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|
|Hulk Hogan||1985||Caption on cover was Mat Mania|
|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
|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 due to old age|
|Johnny Unitas||October 23, 2002||Baltimore Colts great who died due to old age|
|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
- 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
- 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
- SI.com sports news web site
- 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
- Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue
- List of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover models
- University of South Carolina steroid scandal
- 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.
- Page of the magazine at SI.com
- Headline Sports - The Largest Selection of SI Back Issues from 1954-Current
- Sports Illustrated Subscription - Official Site
- Sports Illustrated for Kids
- SI Mobile Swimsuit
- SI On Campus