☀️ Good morning! Yesterday, somewhat on a whim, I asked if I should dedicate today's entire newsletter to highlighting old ESPN The Magazine covers.
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:
P.S. ... Apparently, Tom Brady and Drew Brees are both "ENFP" (Extraverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving) — a personality type historically associated with major busts.
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.
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).
"I'm nowhere near my peak!" is the understatement of the century.
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.
The 2004 Summer Olympics marked the return of the Olympic Games to the city where they began: Athens, Greece.
"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
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.
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)
Regular season: Alexander Ovechkin won MVP for the second straight year and the Washington Capitals finished No. 2 in the Eastern Conference.
In 2011, the highest-paid athletes in the four major sports (based on 2010-11 salaries) were:
Today (based on 2018-19 salaries):
* 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.
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.
Watch: RG3 rookie highlights
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."
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
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.
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:
See you tomorrow,
Kendall "How's that for a TBT" Baker
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