|Editorial Director, Time Inc. Sports Group||Chris Stone|
|First issue||August 16, 1954|
|Based in||New York, USA|
Sports Illustrated is an American sports media franchise owned by Time Inc. Its self-titled magazine has over 3 million subscribers and is read by 23 million people each week, including over 18 million men. 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.
There were two magazines named Sports Illustrated before the current magazine began on August 16, 1954. In 1936, Stuart Scheftel created Sports Illustrated with a target market for the sportsman. He published the magazine from 1936 to 1938 on a monthly basis. The magazine was a life magazine size and 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 6 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.
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 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.
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 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, 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.
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."
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.
From its start, Sports Illustrated introduced a number of innovations that are generally taken for granted today:
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 1980s and early 1990s, 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.
Who's Hot, Who's Not: A feature on who's on a tear and who's in a slump.
Inside the NFL, MLB, 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 Christopher Hercik. 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 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.
Nevertheless, Sports Illustrated remains the predominant sports publication in print journalism with a consistent weekly circulation topping 3 million per issue.
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." 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). 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 most recent winner of the award is LeBron James, winning in 2016. The basketballer was the NBA Finals MVP, the NBA Champion and led his team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, to their first title in franchise history. James became only the second man, following Tiger Woods, to be named Sportsperson of the Year more than once.
The following list contains the athletes with most covers.
Most covers by athlete, 1954–2016
|Athlete||Sport||Number of covers|
Most covers by team, 1954 – May 2008
|Team||Sport||Number of covers|
|Los Angeles Lakers||Basketball||67|
|New York Yankees||Baseball||65|
|St. Louis Cardinals||Baseball||49|
|Boston Red Sox||Baseball||46|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||Baseball||40|
|San Francisco 49ers||Football||33|
Most covers by sport, 1954–2009
|Sport||Number of covers|
|Track and Field||99|
Celebrities on the cover, 1954–2010
|Gary Cooper||1959||Scuba diving|
|Bob Hope||1963||Owner of Cleveland Indians|
|Shirley MacLaine||1964||Promoting the film John Goldfarb, Please Come Home|
|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 Softies|
|Chris Rock||2000||Wearing Los Angeles Dodgers hat|
|Stephen Colbert||2009||Caption: Stephen Colbert and his Nation save the Olympics|
|Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale||2010||Promoting the film The Fighter|
|Brad Pitt||2011||Promoting 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
|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 after a blood transfusion|
|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.|
|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|
|Ted Williams||July 15, 2002||Boston Red Sox 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 who was killed in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan.|
|Ed Thomas||July 6, 2009||Parkersburg, Iowa high school football coach that 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||NFL Hall of Fame linebacker who committed suicide at 43 years of age|
Sports Illustrated has helped launched a number of related publishing ventures, including:
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