In the issue’s opening essay, poet, writer and cultural critic Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib notes that heroes are made to be broken. The piece explores what it means to be famous in sports in the social media era, describing this iteration of fame as a “living, breathing thing. A machine that grows and is, in many ways, fed by the athletes themselves.” Examining the curse of modern fame, starring Kobe Bryant, Bryce Harper, D’Angelo Russell, Damian Lillard … and a white Ford Bronco.
ON THE COVER: In “The Secret History of Tiger Woods,” senior writer Wright Thompson explores Woods’ relationships, career and history—and how the death of his father set a battle raging inside the world’s greatest golfer. How he waged that war, through an obsession with the Navy SEALs, is the tale of how Tiger lost his way. To download cover: http://bit.ly/26rIAyB
Issue highlights and features:
Waiting for LeBron
Cavs fan Charles Wakefield’s 5-month-old daughter was shot in Cleveland in October, the fourth infant killed by random gunfire in a historically terrible time for gun violence in the city. Hours after it happened, LeBron James tweeted about it, condemning gun violence in Cleveland and elsewhere and then calling for gun restrictions. Then he went silent. Against that backdrop, The Magazine examines LeBron’s struggle to embrace activism and establish his cultural legacy under the intense scrutiny his fame engenders. By Eli Saslow
This is the story of how a random phone call in 1997 from Michael Jackson greatly informed and influenced Kobe Bryant’s exceptional 20-year career, encouraging him to surround himself only with those at the very highest level of their fields. For the next 19 years, Kobe’s reputation as a bad teammate and mentor preceded him, but he did have a circle around him: Kareem, Michael, Larry, Magic. And it all stemmed from a 15-minute call from the King of Pop, who Kobe claims is the most influential mentor he’s ever had. By Jackie MacMullan
What’s it like to be an athlete-bachelor in the digital age? It’s fun. It’s frightening. Welcome to a brave new world of digital-born-and-bred romance where Tinder, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Snapchat, etc., create romantic connections and, all too often, heaps of drama for a new generation of jocks on the prowl. In interviews with The Mag, some 80 athletes across all sports talk openly about scouring social media for Mr. or Mrs. Right (or Right Now), the tricks to find lasting love (or safe flings) in this emerging trade, and the horror stories that have some athletes itching to get out of the game—or at least the apps. By Sam Alipour
Who is the most famous professional athlete in the world? We set off to find out using data: earnings, endorsements, social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and Google search interest. Now we present the list of sports’ 50 most famous athletes. By Ben Alamar
When boxer Claressa Shields won gold in London in 2012, she thought she would arrive back in the U.S. to attention, sponsorships and media interviews. Instead, she got back to Flint, Michigan, and discovered that not much had changed. As she prepares to return to the Olympics in Rio, she’s starting to regain some attention, but with a new knowledge of the reality of Olympic success. By Maya A. Jones
Also in this issue:
MLB: Orioles 3B Manny Machado talks about his move to third base, growing up in Miami and which of his teammates is the best—and worst—dresser. By Marly Rivera
MLB: If everybody knows that the exit speed of a certain hitter’s line drives is MLB-level, he’s no hidden gem. So how do you find those 16th-round future big leaguers when everyone has all the same information? The secret is … hard work, through information-gathering that’s almost more of a journalist’s skill set than a traditional scout’s. In this age when everyone has better, newer analytics seemingly daily, the pendulum is swinging back toward the scouts. Bruce Schoenfeld reports.
Olympics Confidential: Athletes weigh in on the greatest of all time, which sports should (and shouldn’t) be included in the Olympics and the changes they think the Games need to address.
Voices: Looking ahead to the Invictus Games, where he will be competing, Sgt. Israel Del Toro writes of his experiences in Afghanistan recovering from injuries that left him with a 15 percent chance of survival.
The Truth: All Jackie Robinson did was shatter baseball’s color barrier. He probably deserves more than just one day. By Howard Bryant
Carrie Kreiswirth, ESPN PR at firstname.lastname@example.org