ESPN: The Magazine is set to drop its annual "Body Issue" on readers and Web surfers alike this week. And the first set of images has been released.
Beautiful snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler and sultry soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo each grace one of the Body Issue covers looking hotter (and wearing less clothing) than ever.
In contrast to last year's very much hit-or-miss issue, most of The Mag's 2011 subjects look pretty damned good. You can almost understand why they're willing to appear in public au naturel.
Follow along—won't you?—as we run through the images released thus far and rank them from nottest to hottest.
Stats: 5'8", 147 pounds
"Hey there, dudes! Check me out posing nude in a tire in ESPN's Body Issue!" Helio Castroneves seems to be saying in this photo.
Pretty funny pose from the three-time Indy 500 champ, but not exactly hot.
Stats: 5'7", 160 pounds
Kulick has bowled fans over in becoming the first woman ever to win an event on the men's PBA Tour. Now she's bowling them over with her buffness.
"I looked at the photos on set," she told ESPN, "and saw the definition in my arms and legs. I thought, 'Wow, that's me?'
"Bowlers aren't considered to be in great shape...but I spent the last three years working out to get stronger and better—and it's all about being an athlete in your realm."
Stats: 6'4", 205 pounds
Jon Jones is one of the most feared men in the octagon, and rightly so, him being the UFC light heavyweight champion and all.
But "to be honest," he told ESPN, "I wasn't in shape for this photo shoot. I had been in the Bahamas, where I spent four days sipping Bud Lights and eating island food."
Yeah, champ, you look awful.
Stats: 5'7", 150 pounds
"There are girls who take this sport incredibly seriously," Suzy Hotrod tells ESPN. "I'm in my seventh season now, and roller derby has changed my outlook on sports and my body.
"It's all about the quads and the bum. The first thing that happens in training is your jeans get tighter; moving up a size is a way to quantify hard work."
Stats: 5'10", 130 pounds
Hall has represented the USA in the Olympics and holds the U.S. record for the half-marathon, but as a youngster, he had different visions of his future.
"I wanted to be a baseball player," he tells ESPN, "but I was too small.
"But the minute I started running, I felt like I was doing something my body was made to do."
Stats: 6'2", 202 pounds
Kesler was an NHL All-Star and the winner of the Selke Trophy in 2010-11 for the Western Conference-winning Vancouver Canucks.
Still, he knows he'll be made fun of for posing in the buff.
"I'm definitely going to get flak from my teammates for this photo shoot," he told ESPN. "They were all over me last year when I posed in my underwear for my clothing line."
Let the mocking begin.
Stats: 5'8", 148 pounds
Next up is U.S. women's hockey player Julie Chu, who has played with the full national team since about 2000. The Harvard grad says that she started on the ice with boys, but eventually realized that wasn't the wisest approach.
Starting when she turned 17, she told ESPN, "I took a bone-crushing hit every game, and that's when I knew my time with the boys was over. I made the transition to the national team that same year."
Stats: 6'3", 215 pounds
"I was born without a right fibula," Jeremy Campbell tells ESPN, "so to me, I don't have a missing leg, because my first step was on a prosthetic."
That didn't stop him from being all-district in football, basketball and track.
Now, he's a U.S. Paralympian who took home the gold in the pentathlon and discus at the 2008 Games in Beijing.
Stats: 6'1", 200 pounds
Jose Reyes is a stud ballplayer and four-time All-Star for the Mets, and this photo is pretty sick, too.
But when it comes to working out during the season, he spends most of his time on his lower half:
"My biggest challenge is my legs," he tells ESPN. "I had some problems this year with my hamstrings, but right now it's all good."
Stats: 5'5", 125 pounds
Bleiler, a four-time X Games gold-medal winner and a silver medalist in the halfpipe in the 2006 Winter Games in Torino, says doing the "Body Issue" is different from the FHM shoot she did eight years ago.
"Back then, I felt like I had to do it," she tells ESPN. "I needed to get exposure for myself and the sport. That shoot was all about being sexy.
"But I wanted to do the Body Issue because it's more about power and strength."
Stats: 5'5", 140 pounds
The diminutive Vito looks almost cherubic in this shots. Either that or he's auditioning for the main role in Swan Lake.
But the shots (and tattoos) look great, especially for a snowboarder who's immersed in the constant party of that X Gamey sport, right?
"The general public sees us as party animals," he tells ESPN, "but we can't really do that anymore because the tricks are getting so gnarly and the consequences are serious.
"That's why I work on my body, to prevent injuries, bounce back quickly and handle the impact of landing after going 20 feet out from a 22-foot pipe wall."
Stats: 5'8", 147 pounds
A U.S. sprinter who earned gold in the 4x400m relay in Beijing in 2008, Hastings doesn't play the tomboy role even though she's a world-class athlete.
"I can still be a girly girl and an athlete," she tells ESPN. "That's just me. That's my personality. My college coach used to say, 'If you look good, you'll feel good, and if you feel good, you'll perform well.' I totally agree."
Stats: 5'10", 158 pounds
The WBC Diamond middleweight champion of the world, Martinez retained his title this past weekend in Atlantic City, N.J. with an 11th-round knockout of Darren Barker.
"I'm not successful because I'm the strongest or the fastest," he told ESPN. "It's my work ethic that has made me the champ."
Stats: 5'7", 125 pounds
This native of Spain is a four-time All-American at USC and is currently a rookie on the LPGA and European Tour.
"I love that my body is one piece of muscle," she tells ESPN. "It's strong. It's fit. I like that I can feel the hard work I put into it."
Something tells me her fans like seeing the hard work she's put into it, as well.
Stats: 6'10", 251 pounds
Sure, he's won the NBA Slam Dunk contest and the Rookie of the Year Award for the Clippers in 2010-11, but how does Blake Griffin look in the nude?
Pretty jacked, actually.
"My body is unusual in that my waist is really skinny, which makes buying jeans hard, but jumping even easier," he tells ESPN. "And you know what? I think I can get even more explosive."
Stats: 6'6", 200 pounds
OK, Sylvia Fowles may have been called "Slim Jim and Green Giant and Shaq" as a youngster, but Big Syl looks great!
"I'd get upset and want to fight," the WNBA star and recently named Defensive Player of the Year tells ESPN. "But in the eighth grade, I found basketball and finally felt at home."
Stats: 6'2", 240 pounds
"I'm blessed not to have any insecurities," the St. Louis Rams star and three-time Pro Bowler tells ESPN. "I've never tried to look like anyone else or wished I was bigger or smaller. I don't stare at myself in the mirror.
"Some people might have better abs or better biceps, but I'm here to represent that you should be fully comfortable in your own skin."
Stats: 5'9", 150 pounds
Finally, the much-awaited shots of U.S. Women's Soccer Team netminder Hope Solo! And she's...watering her lawn?
Well, she still looks good.
"Growing up, I felt insecure about my build," she tells ESPN. "Guys would say, 'Look at those muscles! You can kick my ass!' I didn't feel feminine."
"But that's changed in the past four years," she continues.
"I saw the connection between my body and my accomplishments. I couldn't have been a great goalkeeper without power, agility and quickness."
And you couldn't have been a star of the Body Issue without them either.
Stats: 5'8", 145 pounds
The super-lithe Ohno has already won eight Olympic medals and shown his skills on Dancing With the Stars, so what's the big deal about posing in the buff, right?
And why not, especially when he can show off his ridiculously ripped quads?
"When I weighed 141 pounds," Ohno tells ESPN, "I could leg-press 2,000 pounds on a Cybex machine. I was so leg-dominant for so long; I'm just trying to be more balanced."
Consider your work done, sir.
Stats: 5'10", 147 pounds
This tall drink of water hails from Down Under and is a four-time world champ on the waves.
"It's daunting for female surfers to match the image of being a tan, fit beach girl in a bikini," she told ESPN, "so posing naked for these photos was liberating and helped me stop stressing about my insecurities."
Stats: 5'7", 130 pounds
Zvonareva, a gorgeous tennis star from Moscow, reached the finals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2010 and is currently ranked No. 4 in the world.
But even at the tender age of 27, she says that injuries and preventing them remain a huge part of her success on the court.
"When I take my shoes off after a match, I can hardly walk," she tells ESPN. "But overcoming pain is part of the job. You forget about it when you're playing."
In Zvonareva's defense, lots of fans forget about what they're doing when they see her.
Stats: 5'1", 117 pounds
Sacramone may be small in stature, but she packs quite a wallop into that body of hers.
A gold medalist in the vault at the 2010 World Championships and a member of the U.S. team that won silver at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Sacramone tells ESPN she's "really not that flexible. I can do the splits and touch my toes, but for a gymnast, I can barely move."
"Wearing spandex as a teenager in front of a billion people is tough," Sacramone tells ESPN. "I'd look in the mirror before a competition and think, I hope I don't look fat."
No, ma'am. Looking just fine from here.