Yes, much of the popularity of ESPN The Magazine's annual body issue stems from the pictures of athletes in their birthday suits, but the interviews are just as interesting.
How in the world does the 5'11", 275-pound Prince Fielder, up until this year, go eight seasons with just 13 total missed games? How does Serge Ibaka get ruled out of the playoffs and return just three games later? How does Marshawn Lynch—well, there's no need for a question there. Just an interview with Marshawn Lynch is plenty compelling.
And that's just a small fraction. The magazine does a fantastic job of finding a wide range of athletes with different body types and different stories that build off of those bodies.
Here's a look at the complete list of athletes who can be found in the newest issue, which hits newsstands Friday, July 11:
|2014 ESPN The Magazine Body Issue Athletes|
|Ginger Huber||Cliff Diving|
|Travis Pastrana and Lyn-Z||Motocross and Skateboarding|
Might as well start with this year's most talked about athlete. Fielder has a lot of meat on his bones, and the internet pretty much exploded when ESPN revealed the cover issue featuring the Texas Rangers first baseman:
Jokes about his luscious curves were the most typical response, but as Fielder explained, via ESPN's Morty Ain, you can be an athlete without looking like the predisposed image of one:
You don't have to look like an Under Armour mannequin to be an athlete. A lot of people probably think I'm not athletic or don't even try to work out or whatever, but I do. Just because you're big doesn't mean you can't be an athlete. And just because you work out doesn't mean you're going to have a 12-pack. I work out to make sure I can do my job to the best of my ability. Other than that, I'm not going up there trying to be a fitness model.
As Bleacher Report's Ian Kenyon argued, even as the jokes continue to roll in, you probably shouldn't weep for Fielder, who has done pretty decent for himself:
Ibaka's postseason roller coaster has been one of the more fascinating stories of the season. The Oklahoma City Thunder rim protector was originally ruled out of the postseason with a calf injury, but he didn't accept that answer, via Ain:
I told them, 'Hell no, no surgery.' [The doctors] told me I was going to be out for the rest of the playoffs: 'The MRI showed that you are bleeding a lot in your calf and you're going to be out the rest of the playoffs.' But my heart was telling me, 'You're going to be back.'
Well, he was right. After missing the first two games, which resulted in blowout losses against the San Antonio Spurs, Ibaka returned and immediately made a massive impact. He averaged 12.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.5 blocks and 1.0 steals over the next two games, both wins for the Thunder.
Considering the circumstances, it was truly remarkable he was not only able to play, but also play at such a high level. Of course, being built like a chiseled robot helps:
Then we have Lynch.
Although the Seattle Seahawks running back is usually closed off when it comes to the media, Beast Mode is a can't-miss interviewee no matter the subject and no matter the final word count. His discussion of his body, via Ain, is no different:
I got to show some love for the fat backs. 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.
Here's a look at Lynch's cover:
It doesn't stop there. From 49-year-old time-defying Bernard Hopkins to Paralympic star Amy Purdy to a slew of others, this year's magazine is jam-packed with captivating stories and unique bodies.
The annual body issue seems to up its game with each subsequent year, and with this newest issue featuring such an array of sizes and shapes, it looks like ESPN is continuing that trend.