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May 02, 2019

☀️ Good morning! Yesterday, somewhat on a whim, I asked if I should dedicate today's entire newsletter to highlighting old ESPN The Magazine covers.

  • A whopping 70% said yes, so I made it happen. Hope you enjoy the trip down memory lane.

🏈 April 1998

ESPN Mag cover, 1998
Courtesy: ESPN

What you know: The Colts drafted Peyton Manning No. 1 and he became an all-time great, while the Chargers took Ryan Leaf at No. 2 and he became an all-time bust.

What you might not: The Chargers had hired a "brain-typing" expert named Jonathan Niednagel during the pre-draft process, who had urged them not to draft Leaf because of his personality type (whoops). According to Niednagel:

  • Manning was "ESTP" (Extraverted, Sensing, Thinking, Perceiving), which is the same personality type of numerous Hall of Fame QBs (Montana, Elway, Favre, Namath, Unitas) and describes people who thrive under pressure.
  • Leaf was "ESTJ" (Extraverted, Sensing, Thinking, Judging), which describes people who go into "deer in the headlights" mode under pressure and can alienate teammates.

P.S. ... Apparently, Tom Brady and Drew Brees are both "ENFP" (Extraverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving) — a personality type historically associated with major busts.

⚾️ August 1999

ESPN Mag cover, 1999
Courtesy: ESPN

1998 HR leaders (full list):

  1. Mark McGwire (70)
  2. Sammy Sosa (66)
  3. Ken Griffey Jr. (56)
  4. Greg Vaughn (50)
  5. Albert Belle (49)

1999 HR leaders (full list):

  1. Mark McGwire (65)
  2. Sammy Sosa (63)
  3. Ken Griffey Jr. (48)
  4. Rafael Palmeiro (47)
  5. Greg Vaughn/Chipper Jones (45)

🏀 November 2000

ESPN Mag cover, 2001
Courtesy: ESPN

Welcome to the turn of the century.

P.S. ... Steve Francis shared his story in The Player's Tribune last year, and it's a must-read. Opening line: "I remember the exact moment when I realized NBA legends weren't SHIT." Continue reading.

🏈 August 2001

ESPN Mag covers, 2001
Clockwise from top left: Kittner, Harrington, Simms, Dorsey. Courtesy: ESPN

Entering the 2001 college football season, Kurt Kittner (Illinois), Joey Harrington (Oregon), Chris Simms (Texas) and Ken Dorsey (Miami) were all considered Heisman frontrunners.

How it played out: Nebraska QB Eric Crouch won the Heisman (162 first-place votes), followed by Florida QB Rex Grossman (137), Dorsey (109) and Harrington (54).

  • P.S. ... Finishing in fifth was Fresno State QB David Carr (34), who the Houston Texans took No. 1 overall a few months later — the franchise's first-ever draft pick.

🎾 August 2002

ESPN Mag cover, 2002
Courtesy: ESPN

"I'm nowhere near my peak!" is the understatement of the century.

  • Serena pre-August 2002: Three Grand Slam titles, one runner-up
  • Since then: 20 Grand Slam titles, seven runners-up

🏀 November 2003

ESPN Mag cover, 2003
Courtesy: ESPN

Bill Simmons in 2003 (full article):

"Everyone says James 'can't miss,' but real life says differently. There are no sure things. ... When some young athletes are built up before they've delivered the goods, they end up not being able to handle the pressure. Others tail off in what should be their prime, their quest for greatness suffocated by too much money and attention."
"LeBron has the skills, but what if he isn't mature like Kobe? Or obsessed with history like Tiger? Or pathologically competitive like MJ? It's a lot to ask, but he needs all of it to hit that outsize potential."

The bottom line: The fact that LeBron not only met the world's insane expectations but actually exceeded them is one of the most under-appreciated things in sports. He's a miracle.

🇬🇷 March 2004

ESPN Mag cover, 2004
Courtesy: ESPN

The 2004 Summer Olympics marked the return of the Olympic Games to the city where they began: Athens, Greece.

What happened:

  • Michael Phelps won eight medals (including a record six golds), becoming the first athlete to do so in a non-boycotted Olympics.
  • The U.S. men's basketball team struggled mightily, losing three games (after not losing a single game since 1992) and winning only a bronze medal. Everything went wrong.
  • Abby Wambach scored the gold medal-winning goal against Brazil in the final seconds of overtime, giving the U.S. women's soccer team their second gold in eight years.

⚾️ November 2005

ESPN Mag cover, 2005
Courtesy: ESPN


"Becoming a baseball star is a noble dream, but to do that, some players did the ignoble, ingesting and injecting dangerous and often illegal substances to enhance performance."
"And because the people who depend on baseball for livelihood and amusement wanted so much to believe in the essential goodness of the game and the greatness of the players, we missed or ignored the signs: the larger biceps, the back acne, the outsize statistics."

Go deeper: Full special report

⚽️ June 2006

ESPN Mag cover, 2006
Courtesy: ESPN

The 2006 World Cup in Germany was arguably the last World Cup in which international football was the pinnacle of the sport. I was 15 at the time, so my memories are coated in mass amounts of nostalgia.


  • Clint Dempsey's goal against Ghana? Iconic.
  • Italy beating France in the finals after Zinedine Zidane's infamous head-butt? I watched that game at a soccer camp at Rutgers University and will never forget it. I was eating pizza and drinking an orange Gatorade. Memories are weird.

🏀 July 2007

ESPN Mag covers, 2007
Courtesy: ESPN

Chris Sheridan in 2007 (full article):

"In the months leading up to this draft, people have been comparing it to the infamous 1984 draft when Hakeem Olajuwon went first, Sam Bowie second and Michael Jordan third. The prospect of being the next Portland GM to miss the next Jordan no doubt weighed heavily on the mind of Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard."

Top 5 picks (full draft): 1. Greg Oden (Trail Blazers); 2. Kevin Durant (SuperSonics); 3. Al Horford (Hawks); 4. Mike Conley (Grizzlies); 5. Jeff Green (SuperSonics)

Watch: Greg Oden Ohio State highlights

🏒 October 2008

ESPN Mag cover, 2008
Courtesy: ESPN

Regular season: Alexander Ovechkin won MVP for the second straight year and the Washington Capitals finished No. 2 in the Eastern Conference.

  • Postseason: The Capitals got out to a 2-0 series lead over the Penguins in the Eastern Conference semis but ultimately lost in seven games to the eventual champs. Ovi did all he could, finishing with 14 points — the highest single-series point total since 1995.

💰 May 2011

ESPN Mag cover, 2011
Courtesy: ESPN

In 2011, the highest-paid athletes in the four major sports (based on 2010-11 salaries) were:

  • MLB: Alex Rodriguez ($32 million)
  • NBA: Kobe Bryant ($24.8 million)
  • NFL: Tom Brady ($18 million)*
  • NHL: Vincent Lecavalier/Roberto Luongo ($10 million)

Today (based on 2018-19 salaries):

  • MLB: Stephen Strasburg ($38.3 million)
  • NBA: Steph Curry ($37.5 million)
  • NFL: Aaron Rodgers ($33.5 million)*
  • NHL: John Tavares ($15.9 million)

* Because of the way NFL contracts are structured, it's difficult to define "highest-paid player," so I used average annual salary over the length of their contract.

🏈 April 2012

ESPN Mag cover, 2012
Courtesy: ESPN

For the first time since the 1970 merger, five rookie QBs started in Week 1 of the 2012 season — first-round picks Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden, as well as third-rounder Russell Wilson.

  • Luck and Wilson were special, but RG3's insane 102.4 passer rating and 27 total TDs earned him Rookie of the Year. He also led Washington to its first division title since 1999.
  • A knee injury suffered in the Redskins' playoff loss to the Seahawks would ultimately derail a career that seemed destined for greatness.

Watch: RG3 rookie highlights

⚾️ October 2014

ESPN Mag cover, 2014
Courtesy: ESPN

J.R. Moehringer on Derek Jeter's retirement (full article):

"For 20 years, he's been more than a great player, he's been great company, and so he'll be missed, not like a limb, not like a friend — but something like [it]. And no one can truly gauge how much he'll be missed until he's gone, just as we didn't know how much we'd miss other things until they were gone, like peace, and privacy."

Watch: Derek Jeter's final (game-winning) at-bat.

⛳️ May 2016

ESPN Mag cover, 2016
Courtesy: ESPN

Wright Thompson in what remains one of the single-greatest articles ever written:

"Buddhists don't believe in heaven or hell, or at least not in the same way as Christians. According to Essential Buddhism, by Diane Morgan, either place can exist on earth, and there are 11 ways for believers to feel pain: lust, hatred, illusion, sickness, decay, death, worry, lamentation, physical and mental anguish, melancholy and grief."
"Since losing his father, Woods has burned with every single one of these, and in the years since he rammed his car into a fire hydrant, he's suffered nearly all of them all the time."

Go deeper: Read the whole thing

🤸‍♀️ July 2018

ESPN Mag cover, 2018
Courtesy: ESPN

Aly Raisman was one of more than 100 U.S. gymnasts to receive the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage after speaking out against sexual abuse by their former team doctor, Larry Nassar.

Watch: Raisman and her peers receive the award at the ESPYs

🎰 February 2019

ESPN Mag cover, 2019
Courtesy: ESPN

The Supreme Court overturned PASPA last May, which made it legal for you to lose your money on the Super Bowl for the first time this year. ESPN tried to warn you against it, but it didn't work.

By the numbers:

  • 22.7 million American adults said they planned on betting on the Super Bowl.
  • An estimated $6 billion total was bet on the game.
  • 52% said they'd bet on the Rams. Ouch.

See you tomorrow,

Kendall "How's that for a TBT" Baker

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