The final print edition of ESPN The Magazine hit newsstands Sept. 6 with the 11th Annual BODY Issue, a franchise created to celebrate the athletic form.
For The Mag’s last issue, the team uncovered all kinds of fascinating facts about its 21-year cover history. For example, LeBron James has been on the cover 12 times, the most of any athlete; Kobe Bryant is second with nine. The Bills and the Jaguars are the only two NFL teams not to have one of their athletes featured on a cover. Six dogs have graced an ESPN The Magazine cover — but no kitty-cats. And finally, athletes from six of the seven continents have made our cover. (Sorry, Antarctica).
Front Row sat down with ESPN The Magazine executive editor Scott Burton to get his thoughts.
You recently collected some of the staff’s favorite ESPN The Mag stories from over the years. Which topped the list of votes?
We received over 60 nominations, and I was impressed by the diversity of selections. But there were three stories that each received multiple votes: Tommy Tomlinson’s 2014 story on Jared Lorenzen, which senior writer Tim Keown described as “fun, sad, personal, prescient, weird.” [Editor’s note: Lorenzen died in July 2019 at the age of 38]; Mina Kimes’ 2017 profile of Aaron Rodgers, which senior writer Wayne Drehs called “masterful”; and Wright Thompson’s 2013 feature on Michael Jordan, which senior writer Don Van Natta Jr. labeled “astonishing.”
Which story selection was the most surprising?
Dan Le Batard and Pablo Torre are two of ESPN’s defining voices today, so it was cool to rediscover the brilliance of their writing for The Magazine back in the day. If you’ve never read Le Batard on Kimbo Slice or Danny Almonte, prepare to be blown away by the depth of his insight and the grace of his writing. Pablo has so many gears as a writer — he can write with humor, soul and intellect, as evidenced his 2015 story on the Sixers’ infamous Process.
Why do you think BODY continues to resonate with fans?
Simply put, Body resonates because it is deeply revealing. I don’t just mean that in the literal sense that we are revealing athletes in naked form. We are also able to reveal great emotional truths at the heart of each athlete, through our interviews and storytelling.
The official gallery, including photos and athlete story pages, is live now on ESPN.com/BODYISSUE. Additionally, this final print edition features a retrospective look back through the history of ESPN The Magazine including an essay by one of the founding editors, Steve Wulf, as he talks to the four original NEXT players – Kobe Bryant, (current ESPN MLB analyst) Alex Rodriguez, Eric Lindros and Kordell Stewart – who were on the inaugural cover in March 1998.