When I was kid, there were three magazines I could not wait to get my hands on. World Wrestling Federation Magazine, MAD Magazine and Sports Illustrated. I would run to the mailbox in anticipation for them to show up or even just go grab a copy from the store. Sadly, WWF/WWE stopped their regular publications in 2014 and MAD stopped in 2018. Last week Sports Illustrated announced lay-offs, and with that could very well mean the end of Sports Illustrated as a whole. Digital included.
I loved everything about the SI Magazine. The covers that they had are some of the most iconic images in sports history. My three favorites of all time were (and I still have them) are April 29, 1985 (Hulk Hogan cover), February 18, 2002 (LeBron James The Chosen One) and February 19, 2001 (The Greatest Show On Court).
I remember in high school my journalism and year book teacher subscribed to SI and would give them to me every week. I thought it was so cool that he read them. He was the first person to encourage my writing and photography. This was in 2001 and that is when I got The Greatest Show On Court issue. It featured the Sacramento Kings, my favorite NBA team. The NBA was in a bit of a transition. Jordan’s career was winding down and the Los Angels Lakers were a force to be reckoned with. However, the Kings were playing a faster pace than everyone else, they were just faster and quickly became a team that everyone wanted to tune in to see. The fact that SI had them on the cover was huge for me.
Later that year, a young man by the name of LeBron James was taking the world by storm. He was just a teenager and the NBA had had some youngsters come out of high school before and be instant impact players, but LeBron hit different. The hype and anticipation was unparalleled. Keep in mind that we did not have the instant gratification of picking up our cell phones and watching highlights or reading biographies. Sports Illustrated was our main outlet for sports literature. This issue was a challenge to get. My friends and I walked all over the streets of Patterson trying to get our hands on it. Finally, my friend got a copy and told me where to get it. We quickly met up and went to Round Table Pizza and read it.
The Hulk Hogan issue is the mecca of my collection. Hulk was larger than life to me growing up. In 1984 he became world champion and very quickly became a pop culture phenomenon. He was all over television, MTV, Saturday Night Live, morning talk shows and when he graced the cover of SI, it was history. The first and only pro wrestler to be featured on the cover. The cover featured Hogan with a white sweat band that said “Hulkster” and the background was a hot pink color with lightning bolts crashing down. In neon green letters it says “Mat Mania!” and “Hulk Hogan: Pro Wrestling’s Top Banana” in yellow. The magazine featured Hogan’s incredible beginning of Hulkamania, a force that still runs wild today (just celebrated its 40th anniversary).
So many great shots made the cover and the writers did a marvelous job with their stories on the pages. SI will forever be a part of my childhood and I will always look back and be thankful that I grew up in the time period that I did. The thrill of chasing down each issue, the cool inserts and collector cards inside. I even have Sports Illustrated for Kids (known as SI Kids) that was a ton of fun to read as a youngster!
Dennis D. Cruz is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. He may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 847-3021.