In only four days, ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue will hit newsstands. Since its creation in 2009, the magazine has generated a ton of buzz—both positive and negative—for the athletes involved.
A total of 22 different stars from sports as wide-ranging as boxing, tennis, cliff diving, hockey, yachting and snowboarding will be featured this year.
"We somehow manage to raise the bar each year," said Chad Millman, ESPN The Magazine's editor-in-chief, per ESPN.com. "This year's collection of exceptional athletes and stunning photography showcases an array of sports and body types. It inhabits our mission to pay tribute to these athletes' bodies and all they are capable of."
Among those athletes taking part in the Body Issue, these four will be the most heavily anticipated ahead of the July 11 release date.
When you think "athlete," you don't generally picture a guy with Prince Fielder's musculature. In fact, he's pretty much the opposite of what fans think a person needs to look like in order to compete at the highest level of any professional sport.
His inclusion in the Body Issue has been met with quite a bit of lighthearted banter:
Prince Fielder in the Body Issue? What’s ESPN going to do with the six pages it can’t fit?— Jesse Spector (@jessespector) June 25, 2014
Some probably feel that putting Fielder in the magazine is akin to painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa.
Sure, compared to many of the other athletes posing in the magazine, the 30-year-old will look out of place. But it's always good to appreciate the many shapes and forms our sports stars inhabit.
When you see Marshawn Lynch in the Body Issue, remember that you're looking at somebody who was offered his own personal Skittles dispenser in the locker room; that's how much he loves eating Skittles.
Despite his affinity for the candy, Lynch keeps himself fit enough to be one of the best running backs in the league.
In an online exclusive story from ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue, via ESPN.com, the Seattle Seahawks star spoke about his body, and you've got to love how defiant he is about not fitting what you'd consider to be the mold for an NFL running back.
"I got to show some love for the fat backs," Lynch said. "Don't matter if we don't get love, as long as I give mine. Even though I get butt-a-- naked, I'm still gonna let my body do the talking for me. I'm cool with my body, I love my body. I wouldn't trade it for no other body."
Instead of grabbing that bowl of Wheaties for breakfast in the morning, maybe you should go with a bag of Skittles. It's worked for Lynch.
This year, readers only have to look at a 49-year-old and feel out of shape. Seeing then-77-year-old Gary Player in last year's Body Issue was a bit jarring at first, and then you realized that a 77-year-old was probably in better shape than you were. That's how this writer felt, at least.
Bernard Hopkins is 49 years old and more in shape than guys half his age. You don't become the oldest title winner in boxing history by taking a break in the gym.
He spoke to The Ring Magazine's Lem Satterfield about appearing in the Body Issue:
Being a part of the Body Issue is something I will never forget. I am thrilled to be recognized with the great lineup of athletes included in this year's magazine as well as in past issues. I hope that these pictures inspire people to want to be healthy, especially the over 40 crowd who I work hard to represent in and out of the ring.
Clearly, Hopkins has found the fountain of youth with the way he continues to defy Father Time.
Venus Williams has followed her sister's lead. Serena was one of the athletes featured on the cover of the first Body Issue in 2009.
Now, Venus is taking a crack at it.
The elder Williams sister remains one of the biggest stars in tennis, even if she hasn't advanced past the fourth round of a Grand Slam since 2010. Ask the general sports fan to name a female tennis player, and her name is one of the first that comes up.
Williams is one of the biggest female stars to feature in this year's issue, so you know she'll demand a ton of attention.