Gender equity is a wonderful thing, especially when it gives you an excuse to get intimate with the most athletic babes of all time. Last week, we ran down our list of the top male sex symbols in sports history, and far be it from us to deny the girls their rightful turn in the spotlight. Fairness. Justice. Equality under the law. These aren't just buzzwords around Bleacher Report headquarters—they're fundamental principles, guiding lights in our struggle to level every playing field they'll let us near. Remember, Meat: if a man can do it, so can a woman—and she can look a whole lot better doing it in short shorts, if you know what we mean.
Of course, the list that follows isn't just an ode to physical assets, just as athletic success isn't just a function of natural gifts. If we're sure of anything here at the Five Spot, it's that sex appeal is only as strong as the woman who wields it; like they say about speed, it doesn't matter how fast you are if you don't know where you're going. Yes, the jock vixens who made our cut were born with the tools of the trade—the curves, the eyes, the metabolism to keep the whole package from falling apart when they hit age twenty-five. More importantly, though, they all figured out how to use those tools, how to take what they'd be given and make the thing work, for their own good and the good of everyone around them. They learned how to shake their respective moneymakers, is what it comes down to, and the Y-chromosomed among us ought to be forever grateful for the outcome—
So go ahead, Meat, put your feet up and take in the view. The talent might be light-years out of your league—and hey: you ain't the only one—but you don't have to play the game to appreciate the beauty of it, and what are we, all of us, if not spectators at heart...
No one ever quite gets over the girl next door. Maybe it was the ponytail. Or the tomboyishness. Or the way she drove you young-colt crazy without even trying—without even realizing she was doing it, really. Whatever the case, you take a little piece of her with you wherever you go, and you spend the rest of your life looking for her—unconsciously, maybe, but still looking for her—in every face you pass on the street. Enter Mia Hamm, the girl next door who grew up to become one of the most recognizable female athletes in the world. Between the lines, she was scary good, the rough equivalent of Michael Jordan in a sports bra and soccer cleats. As high as her star climbed, though, Hamm never lost her irresistibly unassuming charm, and in the end the American sporting public was hopelessly smitten before it even knew what hit it. Plus, her 2003 marriage to Nomar Garciaparra gave hope to big-schnozzed men all over the globe, proving once and for all that a prominent proboscis doesn't have to be a permanent romantic handicap. For that, we at the Spot can only offer this small hymn of gratitude: thank you, Mia, thank you so very very much.
Number Four: Serena Williams
Cracks the list in spite of what is so far as we can discern an utter lack of physical exceptionalism. Okay, okay: maybe not an utter lack—we love us a badunkadunk as much as the next streetwise urban hipster—but suffice it to say that Williams has gotten more mileage on less gas than any sex symbol in recent memory. Her secret? Plain-old-fashioned moxie, along with a strong head for marketing and the, well—the balls to get things done. In the last five years, Serena has run a clinic on how to make friends and influence people on a titanic scale, using her brains and her brawn to fashion a sort of postmodern empowered-woman chic that's left Madison Avenue and the international tabloids begging for more. It's contrived, of course, and maybe even a little bit conniving—but it's contrived and conniving in the grandest and most American sense of the words, contrived and conniving in a way that even Benjamin Franklin himself would have to admire. Or Poor Richard Williams, for that matter, because whatever you say about Serena, you've got acknowledge this much: schemer and dreamer that she is, she's nothing if not her Daddy's daughter.
Number Three: Gabrielle Reece
Let's be honest, Meat: beach volleyball is a softcore skin flick masquerading as a competitive sport. The bikinis, the oil, the grunting, the bouncing—there's more eroticism in a single sideout than there is in a weekend's worth of Duke lacrosse parties...which makes it all the more remarkable that Reece stands so entirely alone as the sexiest spiker to ever slather on the Coppertone. When she wasn't preoccupied with Nike campaigns and modeling gigs—Elle ranked her among the world's five most beautiful women in 1989—the 6'3" Trinidad native also found time to establish herself as one of the elite sand players on the planet, amassing a small fortune of laudatory hardware in a career that took her from Florida State to the Federation of International Volleyball circuit. Even better, she married surfing stud Laird Hamilton in 1997, and the two are by all accounts well on their way to siring a race of really really ridiculously good-looking uberbabies. The world can only titter in anticipation.
Number Two: Katarina Witt
In the fifty some-years of its publishing history, Playboy has sold out exactly two issues. The first was the magazine's inaugural printing in December 1953, which featured no less a seminal sex goddess than Marilyn Monroe in the centerfold spot. The second? December 1998, with Witt staring lustily from the cover flap. (And a heck of an interview with David Duchovny on page 63, for all you Fox Mulder fans out there.) The East German siren captured figure skating gold in the 1984 Sarajevo Games and again at Calgary in 1988, but her legacy is about looks more than laurels. Witt on the ice was a phenomenon unto herself, a show-stopping honey with the grace of a ballerina and the accent of a Bond girl who managed, somehow, to make life on the shady side of the Berlin Wall seem alluring. And let's not forget the cross-cultural exchange, Meat: never before had so many Bud-drinking, Barca-lounging American males been so consumed by the finer points of the triple toe loop. Witt's mystique didn't quite end the Cold War, but it certainly helped to warm things up, and for that alone the fans of the world—bourgeois and proletariat alike—owe her a collective tip of the cap.
Number One: Anna Kournikova
Simply put, the alpha and omega of sex and sports in the modern era. Kournikova changed the rules of the game in a way unseen since the days of George Mikan, proving once and for all that it really is how you look, not how you play. In fairness to Anna, tennis is a hard sport, and there were those handful of doubles titles with Martina Hingis, but come on: like you or anyone else cared what she was doing on the court, other than frolicking hither and yon like a lob-stroking Lolita. She's become such a ubiquitous figure in the last decade that it's gotten hard to remember the pre-Kournikovian era—gotten hard to imagine a global marketplace without the world's most-heralded Muscovite, in that time before men of all colors and creeds found themselves compulsively watching Enrique Iglesias videos on continuous loop at three o'clock in the morning. There is Anna, when you get right down to it, and then there is everybody else—and we'd take her as a doubles partner eight days a week, even if it means we've got to do all the heavy lifting. After all, wins and losses come and go, but the surreptitious oggling, Meat—
The surreptitious oggling lasts a lifetime.