Although ESPN The Magazine covers sports in a variety of different ways all year long, no edition brings more mainstream attention to the publication than the Body Issue. The same can be said for Sports Illustrated and its Swimsuit Issue.
One thing this year's version of the Body Issue does well is display the wide variety of body types that have enjoyed success in the top levels of sports. The inclusion of Prince Fielder, who certainly doesn't possess the same physique as Michael Phelps or Angel McCoughtry, highlights those differences.
Here's a look at the complete lineup of athletes for 2014:
|Ginger Huber||Cliff Diving|
|Travis Pastrana and Lyn-Z||Motocross and Skateboarding|
It's a diverse group of stars from across the sports spectrum. The magazine marks the sixth time ESPN has been able to convince athletes, including some marquee household names, to showcase their bodies for the world to see.
Carrie Kreiswirth of ESPN MediaZone passed along comments from Chad Millman, the magazine's editor-in-chief, about the ultimate goal of the Body Issue.
"We somehow manage to raise the bar each year," Millman said. "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."
Six athletes from six different sports were each given the honor of being on one of the covers. They range from Phelps, who's one of the most well-known athletes in the world, to Jamie Anderson, a breakout star during the 2014 Winter Olympics.
ESPN The Magazine provided a look at all the covers on Instagram:
Although not everybody is a fan of the issue, the amount of attention it receives both inside and outside the sports world speaks to its success. It's a unique approach that will probably be around for as long as athletes embrace it.
Molly Lambert of Grantland is among those who applaud the magazine's effort to feature a wide range of athletes:
I love the ESPN Body Issue, because they give equal playing time to men and women and it's always fantastic— Molly Lambert (@mollylambert) June 24, 2014
Former MLB pitcher and current broadcaster C.J. Nitkowski joked that the steady stream of Fielder photos was a little over the top:
That thing where Twitter gives you a preview of tweeted photos is cool, except on ESPN The Body Issue day. No more Prince skin please.— CJ Nitkowski (@CJNitkowski) July 9, 2014
The athletes involved can be sure the pictures will live on long beyond the release of the magazine. Teammates and coaches will likely use them as gags moving forward, creating wall-sized portraits of the most awkward photos.
That's all part of being included in the Body Issue, though. It's a cool idea that's really taken off in recent years, and the heavy involvement of athletes shows the interest is mutual, which should ensure it remains one of the most talked-about issues of the magazine for years to come.