|Editorial Director||Chris Stone|
|First issue||August 16, 1954|
|Company||Authentic Brands Group|
|Based in||New York City|
It was the first magazine with circulation over one million to win the National Magazine Award for General Excellence twice. It is also known for its annual swimsuit issue, which has been published since 1964, and has spawned other complementary media works and products.
In 2018, the magazine was sold to Meredith Corporation by means of its acquisition of parent company Time Inc., but Meredith stated that it planned to sell Sports Illustrated as it did not align with its lifestyle properties. The following year, Meredith announced that it would sell Sports Illustrated to Authentic Brands Group. While Meredith initially planned to continue publishing its print and digital properties under license from ABG (who planned to leverage the Sports Illustrated brand in other markets), ABG later announced that it would instead give the publishing rights to theMaven, Inc.—a digital media company.
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 six 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.
In 1990, Time Inc. merged with Warner Communications to form the media conglomerate Time Warner. In 2014, Time Inc. was spun off from Time Warner. In November 2017, Meredith Corporation announced that it would acquire Time Inc., and the acquisition was completed in January 2018. However, in March 2018, Meredith stated that it would explore selling Sports Illustrated and several other former Time properties, arguing that they did not properly align with the company's lifestyle brands and publications.
On May 27, 2019, Authentic Brands Group announced its intent to acquire Sports Illustrated for $110 million. Authentic Brands Group will leverage its brand and other assets for new opportunities that "stay close to the DNA and the heritage of the brand." Upon announcement of the sale, it was stated that Meredith would enter into a licensing agreement to continue as publisher of the Sports Illustrated editorial operations for at least the next two years. However, on June 18, 2019, it was revealed that the rights to publish the Sports Illustrated editorial operations would be licensed to the digital media company theMaven, Inc. under a 10-year contract, with Ross Levinsohn as CEO. The company had backed a bid by Junior Bridgeman to acquire SI.
On October 1, 2019, editor-in-chief Chris Stone stepped down. On October 2, 2019, in preparation for the closure of the sale to ABG and Maven, The Wall Street Journal reported that Maven was preparing to lay off over 40 Sports Illustrated employees, with an intent to have their roles filled by contracted writers. The next day, ABG and Meredith confirmed that the acquisition had closed, with Meredith stating that staff cuts had been made. On October 29, it announced its hiring of veteran college sports writer Pat Forde.
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 round-up that enhanced the viewing of games on television
- In-depth sports reporting from writers like Robert Creamer, Tex Maule and Dan Jenkins.
- Regular illustration features by artists like Robert Riger.
- High school football Player of the Month awards.
- Inserts of sports cards in the center of the magazine (1954 & 1955)
- 1994 Launched Sports Illustrated Interactive CD-ROM with StarPress Multimedia, Incorporates player stats, video and highlights from the year in sports.
- In 2015 Sports Illustrated purchased a group of software companies and combined them to create Sports Illustrated Play, a platform that offers sports league management software as a service.
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, 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.
Performer of the Year
Sportsperson of the Year
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 2017 winners of the award are Houston Texans defensive end, J. J. Watt, and Houston Astros second baseman, José Altuve. Both athletes were recognized for their efforts in helping rebuild the city of Houston following Hurricane Harvey in addition to Altuve being a part of the Astros team that won the franchise's first World Series in 2017.
The 2018 winners were the Golden State Warriors as a team for winning their third NBA Title in four years.
Sportsman of the Century
Sports Illustrated's Muhammad Ali Legacy Award
In 2015, the magazine renamed its Sportsman Legacy Award to the Sports Illustrated's Muhammad Ali Legacy Award. The annual award was originally created in 2008 and honors former "sports figures who embody the ideals of sportsmanship, leadership and philanthropy as vehicles for changing the world." Ali first appeared on the magazine's cover in 1963 and went on to be featured on numerous covers during his storied career. His widow, Lonnie Ali, is consulted when choosing a recipient. In 2017, football quarterback Colin Kaepernick was honored with the Award, which was presented by Beyoncé. In 2018, WWE professional wrestler John Cena was honored with the award.
All-decade awards and honors
- Top 20 Female Athletes of the Decade (2009)
- Top 20 Male Athletes of the Decade (2009)
- All-Decade Team (2009) (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, college basketball, college football)
- Top 10 Coaches/Managers of the Decade (2009)
- Top 10 GMs/Executives of the Decade (2009)
- Top Team of the Decade (2009) (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, college basketball, college football)
- Top 25 Franchises of the Decade (2009)
- Major League Baseball honors
- National Basketball Association honors
- National Football League honors
- National Hockey League honors
- College basketball honors
- College football honors
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 great 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 turned U.S. soldier who was killed in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan.|
|Ed Thomas||July 6, 2009||Parkersburg, Iowa high school football coach who 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||Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker who committed suicide at 43 years of age|
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 Australia
- Launched in 1992 and lasted 6 issues **
- Sports Illustrated Canada
- Was created and published in Canada with US content from 1993 to 1995. Most of the issues appear to have the same cover except they say 'Canadian Edition'. These issues are numbered differently in the listing. A group of the Canadian issues have unique Canadian athletes (hockey mostly) and all the Canadian issues may have some different article content. The advertising may also be Canada-centric.
- Sports Illustrated Presents
- Launched in 1989
- This is their tribute and special edition issues that are sold both nationally or regionally as stand alone products. **Originally started with Super Bowl Tributes the product became a mainstay in 1993 with Alabama as the NCAA National Football Champions. Today multiple issues are released including regional releases of the NCAA, NBA, NFL, MLB champions along with special events or special people. Advertising deals are also done with Sports Illustrated Presents (Kelloggs).
- CNNSI.com a 24-hour 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
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