ESPN recently produced an 80-page Serena Williams tribute print issue in partnership with Dotdash Meredith Premium Publishing.
The special draws upon ESPN’s wealth of archival content and explores her inspiring journey throughout her remarkable career and life that led her to become the greatest of all time, featuring stories from acclaimed journalists including Howard Bryant, Soraya Nadia McDonald, William C. Rhoden, Alyssa Roenigk, and more.
Ericka N. Goodman-Hughey, Deputy Editor, takes us inside the creation of this special edition and what she hopes readers take away.
What was it like trying to highlight Williams’ legacy on and off the court in 80 pages?
When Serena Williams’ Vogue cover dropped in August — we thought, ‘oh boy. Buckle up!’ Serena is evolving away from the sport, and this will be a larger-than-life moment. We weren’t sure if “evolving” from the sport meant Serena was retiring or doing more of a Tom Brady thing. So, the approach to a print issue that honored Serena’s legacy had to be thoughtful.
Serena is the GOAT of GOATs. Her career is decorated with top tennis accolades earned throughout her career on the court and extraordinary off-the-court achievements.
My colleagues, Susie Arth (Senior Editor), Scott Burton (Executive Editor), Rebecca Hudson (Senior Editor), and I had to move swiftly to turn this around.
We had to comb through 27 years of coverage, images, and more to ensure that the issue was comprehensive and would hit newsstand by Oct. 21. So, we dove in, got a pitch together, and gathered archival materials (a big thanks to Research Chief Gueorgui Milkov) that would best suit a possible tribute and the rest is history.
What are your favorite moments and stories from this project?
Serena’s journey to greatness always felt personal for me in so many ways. I’ve grown up with her; I’ve seen myself in her every step of the way. But, in particular, rereading “On the Road to 23” by Alyssa Roenigk and Howard Bryant’s beautiful tribute to her farewell are standouts. Overall, recalling Serena’s triumphs and trophy hoists was special for me.
What do you hope readers take away?
Serena is a remarkable athlete and human. She has forever changed how we look at the game of tennis, women’s sports, and pay equity. However, her impact goes far beyond the 23 Grand Slams, endorsements, and twirls. As she evolves away from competitive tennis, we will continue to see and feel how powerful she is with the change she’ll continue to make in the world.