ESPN the Magazine Body Issue 2012: Athletes Who Will Gain Popularity with Pics

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistJuly 11, 2012

Every athlete has different reasons for posing nude in ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue, but many of them will do it for attention and increased popularity.

This is not meant to sound negative. Every athlete, just like most people, would like to be as popular as possible.

Unfortunately, the magazine alone will not turn around a sport. As attractive as Maya Gabeira is, fans will likely not tune in to the latest big wave surfing contest because of her.

However, the rest of these athletes will get a boost in either long-term or short-term popularity after the Body Issue is released.

All photos courtesy of ESPN.


Abby Wambach

It really is a shame that the U.S. women's soccer team cannot get more notoriety. As one of the best teams in the world, fans should truly get behind it as it proudly represents the country.

Abby Wambach is the team's best player and leader. She was named U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year for the fifth time in 2011 and she does not look like she is slowing down soon.

Posing in this issue will build off last year's photos of Hope Solo to bring attention to a great team that should be idolized. If fans did not know who Wambach was before, they certainly should now.


Danell Leyva

Gymnastics is always one of the most popular sports at the Olympics, but casual fans often do not know the athletes until the competition begins. 

This year, fans should learn the name Danell Leyva now and not forget it. The Cuban gymnast won a gold medal last year at the World Championships and looks to get at least one more in the London Olympics.

In the issue, Leyva not only displays impressive physique, but feats of strength that few men on earth can match. He should gain a large amount of respect heading into the games.


USA Volleyball Team

This year, the entire volleyball team posed naked for the issue. It featured Destinee Hooker, Stacy Sykora, Alisha Glass, Cynthia Barboza, Megan Hodge, Nellie Spicer and Heather Bown.

The pictures will bring focus from a male audience on a team that is one of the favorites to bring home a gold medal at the Olympics this year. Beach volleyball competitors Misty May and Kerri Walsh received extra coverage due to looks, and now the indoor group can get the same treatment. 

The downside is that the popularity will undoubtedly be short-lived. Once the Olympics end, the group will likely be forgotten, but at least it will be more than nothing.


Maurice Jones-Drew

Unlike the others on this list, Maurice Jones-Drew is already a well-known athlete. He has been one of the best running backs in the NFL for a few years now and last season led the league in rushing yards.

However, this Body Issue highlights how much strength the man has in such a small frame, and it is truly impressive.

The photo does exactly what the issue is meant to do. It does not make people uncomfortable, but instead gives fans an insight into what it takes to be a world-class athlete.


    Iconic Sports Illustrated Writer Deford Dies at Age 78

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    Iconic Sports Illustrated Writer Deford Dies at Age 78

    Tyler Conway
    via Bleacher Report