Kansas Freshman Basketball Star Andrew Wiggins on Cover of This Week’s Sports Illustrated

42COVv23_nat_PromoAndrew Wiggins, a 6′ 8″, 200-pound versatile forward from outside Toronto was the No. 1 prospect in the class of 2013 and is widely considered the likely No. 1 pick in the ’14 NBA draft. The once-in-a-generation talent has Kansas fans in a frenzy, but it’s not the first time a first-year Jayhawk has had that effect, writes Luke Winn in this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED—on newsstands now. Winn compares the arrival of Wiggins, who appears on SI’s cover, to the arrival of former Kansas greats Wilt Chamberlain and Danny Manning. “The notion of what Andrew Wiggins could be, if he can cultivate a relentlessness to pair with his talent, is why he is being received differently—even at a school that’s won nine straight regular-season Big 12 titles and has two other potential first-rounders in guard Wayne Selden and center Joel Embiid,” writes Winn. “Even in a college town that’s seen this already, twice.” (PAGE 61)

When Wiggins arrived on campus in June, Kansans coach Bill Self told him, “If you handle this right, you could potentially have everything you ever dreamed of and go down as one of the most loved athletes to ever come through this university.” (PAGE 61)

The chase for Chamberlain was college basketball’s first truly national recruiting battle. Winn writes it had everything in the way of subplots: “Racial overtones. Boosters with fat wallets. NBA teams scheming for his draft rights. Spurned rivals, skeptical journalists and relentless NCAA investigators.” (PAGE 63) Chamberlain’s debut was in the annual series between the Kansans freshmen and varsity teams. Wilt led the freshmen to their first win in the 33-year history of the series.

Manning’s arrival in Lawrence meant more to Kansans than Wiggins’s does now, since many believe Wiggins will be a one-and-done player.  While Chamberlain’s Jayhawks could not beat North Carolina in the 1957 national championship game, Kansas coach Larry Brown was able to secure Manning’s commitment over the Tar Heels in 1983. At the time Brown proclaimed, “Danny Manning is the most complete young player I have ever seen. He’ll be the best.” (PAGE 62) Manning wound up graduating as the Big Eight’s career leading scorer, and carried the underdog Jayhawks to the ’88 national title.

Wiggins’s recruitment was kept very quiet. That’s because he not only got his athletic prowess from his parents (his father played in the NBA and his mother was a silver medal winning member of Canadian relay teams in the ’84 Olympics), but he also inherited a quiet and humble nature from them. “I wouldn’t really talk to college coaches,” he says of his recruitment process. For a time it was widely assumed he was going to either Florida State or Kentucky. “I was wide open,” Wiggins says, “but no one else was recruiting me.” (PAGE 64) Wiggins, who says he is used to the attention now, describes himself on this Twitter bio as “Just a average kid trying to make it.” “I used to be an average kid, when I put that up,” he insists. “But that . . . was a while ago.” (PAGE 61)

As Wiggins prepares for his debut on Nov. 8 at Allen Fieldhouse, he tries not to think about the weight on his shoulders or next year’s NBA draft. “You’re just not going to get a reaction out of him, with things like the draft,” fellow freshman Wayne Selden says. (PAGE 66)


Kate Upton Joins the Braves’ Upton Brothers on This Week’s SI Cover

41COVv22_PromoThe MLB postseason is under way, and in this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED—on newsstands now—senior writer Tom Verducci says it’s all about which team gets hot, because the playoffs are more random and chaotic than ever. Verducci writes, “With parity across the sport, no dominant team among 10 postseason entrants and four rounds of playoffs, welcome to Anybody’s October, a two-fortnight roll of the dice.” (PAGE 36)

SI’s Ben Reiter wonders if brothers B.J. and Justin Upton can get hot and power the Atlanta Braves to a World Series title. The Upton’s, along with SI Swimsuit model Kate Upton appear on the cover of this week’s issue. Kate Upton makes history as the first swimsuit model on the SI cover for a non-Swimsuit issue and joins celebrities such as Bob Hope, Brad Pitt, Stephen Colbert and Mark Wahlberg who have appeared on the cover.

***Visit SwimDaily.com for an album of photos and video from the Uptons’ cover shoot | Click here to view a gallery of SI celebrity covers

As for the Bravess World Series chances, Reiter acknowledges that they do strike out a lot and have been devastated by injuries, and their highest paid player (B.J. Upton) had a really bad debut season. However, in October that may not matter, since Atlanta demonstrated for extended stretches this season that the team can get as hot as any club in baseball. “No team has demonstrated the potential to get hotter than the as-whole-as-they’re-going-to-get Braves, their beleaguered centerfielder included,” says Reiter. “It will all come down to the timing.” (PAGE 46)

*** Click here for more info on Tom Verducci’s article and here for more on Ben Reiter’s article


Flaw of Averages

41COVv22_PromoThey strike out a lot and have been devastated by injuries, and their highest paid player (B.J. Upton) had a really bad debut season in Atlanta. But SI’s Ben Reiter says that might not matter in October, especially since for extended stretches this season Atlanta demonstrated that they can get as hot as any club in baseball. “No team has demonstrated the potential to get hotter than the as-whole-as-they’re-going-to-get Braves, their beleaguered centerfielder included,” says Reiter. “It will all come down to the timing.” (PAGE 46)

Although the Braves won 96 games and had the NL East locked up by mid-August, their regular season was very disjointed. The Braves’ No. 1 starter, Tim Hudson, was lost for the season in late July with a broken ankle, and outfielder Jason Heyward recently returned from a fractured jaw suffered in August. In all, 18 Braves spent at least 15 days on the disabled list. As Atlanta gears up to host the Dodgers, flaws include a pitching staff that, despite its MLB-best 3.19 ERA, does not feature an ace in the mold of Clayton Kershaw or Adam Wainwright, and an offense that has a propensity to strike out. Nobody struggled more on the offense than B.J. Upton, who batted just .186 with nine home runs, 26 RBIs and the major’s second-worst OPS (.561) among players who made at least 400 plate appearances.

Upton has been largely silent about his struggles, perhaps because he knows few will feel sorry for the franchise’s highest-paid player in history.  “You know what, man—it can wear on you over time,” he says. “In the midst of searching for things to get right, I kind of didn’t help myself. If I’d just stuck with what my body knows to do at the plate, I think things might have turned out a little better. Tinkering with the wrong things, when I should have left those things alone.” (PAGE 40)

A rival scout tells Reiter that the presence of B.J.’s younger brother Justin, who had a solid season (27 home runs, a .354 OBP, a 122 OPS+), has not helped him. “B.J. is in pull mode, trying to hit home runs like his brother, when he’s really a gap-to-gap guy,” the scout says. “Having his brother there puts pressure on B.J. to perform, especially when he’s making all the money.” (PAGE 42)

In the past, however, October has proved to be a fresh start for B.J. In 2008, when he was a 24-year-old Tampa Bay Ray, he had a bad regular season but then produced one of history’s great playoff performances. He hit seven home runs and drove in 16 runs, leading the Rays to the World Series.

Reiter notes that for stretches this season, the Braves’ offense has actually produced at a very high level. In the month of July, the Braves were second in the majors in runs scored and ranked an acceptable 12th in strikeouts. They also had three winning streaks this season of at least eight games. “For two, three, four weeks at a time, it was like we were just playing slo-pitch softball,” says Braves hitting coach Greg Walker. “If that happens at the right time, watch out.” (PAGE 46)


Sports Illustrated NHL Preview: Blackhawks Will Repeat As Stanley Cup Champs

40COVv25blackSPORTS ILLUSTRATED’s NHL Preview—on newsstands now—breaks down the 2013-14 season with 20 pages of scouting reports chock full of analysis, 40COVv25pengstory lines and conference power rankings, as well as SI’s Stanley Cup prediction. Who will take home the most famous trophy in sports? SI predicts that the Blackhawks will defeat the Penguins and become the first team to repeat as Cup champs since the 1997–98 Red Wings. Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane is featured on the national cover of this week’s SI, his first cover appearance. Penguins center Sidney Crosby (sixth SI cover) appears on a regional cover.

SI NHL Power Rankings

Eastern Conference (by Brian Cazeneuve)
1.    Pittsburgh Penguins
2.    Boston Bruins
3.    New York Rangers
4.    Detroit Red Wings
5.    Ottawa Senators
6.    Montreal Canadiens
7.    Toronto Maple Leafs
8.    New York Islanders
9.    Philadelphia Flyers
10.    Columbus Blue Jackets
11.    Washington Capitals
12.    Tampa Bay Lightning
13.    Carolina Hurricanes
14.    Buffalo Sabres
15.    New Jersey Devils
16.    Florida Panthers

SI’s Brian Cazeneuve writes: “It’s hard to pick against the defending conference champs, especially in the wake of their total domination of the Pens last June, but Pittsburgh has the most talent. They’re the favorites.” (PAGE 68)

Western Conference (by Sarah Kwak)
1.    Chicago Blackhawks
2.    Los Angeles Kings
3.    San Jose Sharks
4.    St. Louis Blues
5.    Vancouver Canucks
6.    Minnesota Wild
7.    Edmonton Oilers
8.    Anaheim Ducks
9.    Nashville Predators
10.    Winnipeg Jets
11.    Phoenix Coyotes
12.    Dallas Stars
13.    Colorado Avalanche
14.    Calgary Flames

Sarah Kwak writes: “The Blackhawks will benefit from playing in the weak (now that Detroit is gone) Central Division. Oh, yes, Toews and Conn Smythe winner Patrick Kane (23 goals, 55 points), 24, are entering their prime. There’s no other pick. Not even close.” (PAGE 72)

SI’s Stanley Cup finals pick: Blackhawks over Penguins

SI’s Al Muir previews a breakout player, a coach on the hot seat and a hidden gem from the Metropolitan and Atlantic divisions in the Eastern Conference and the Central and Pacific divisions in the Western Conference.

Metropolitan Division:
Breakout Player: Chris Kreider, forward, Rangers
Coach on the Hot Seat: Peter Laviolette, Flyers
Hidden Gem: Andrew MacDonald, defenseman, Islanders

Atlantic Division:
Breakout Player: Jonathan Bernier, goalie, Maple Leafs
Coach on the Hot Seat: Kevin Dineen, Panthers
Hidden Gem: Dennis Seidenberg, defenseman, Bruins

Central Division:
Breakout Player: Jonas Brodin, defenseman, Wild
Coach on the Hot Seat: Claude Noel, Jets
Hidden Gem: Kari Lehtonen, goalie, Stars

Pacific Division:
Breakout Player: Kyle Palmieri, forward, Ducks
Coach on the Hot Seat: Todd McLellan, Sharks
Hidden Gem: Mark Giordano, defenseman, Flames


Exit Sandman: Yankees Closer Mariano Rivera On the Cover of This Week’s Sports Illustrated

39COVv21Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is the template for what it means to be a pitcher, a teammate and a friend, says senior writer Tom Verducci in the cover story for this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, on newsstands Wednesday.  “Closing time for the game’s greatest closer has arrived,” Verducci writes. And as Rivera—baseball’s alltime leader in regular-season and postseason saves—ends his iconic career, Verducci presents an oral history of Rivera with commentary from coaches, teammates, opponents and fans whose lives Rivera has touched. The Yankees’ closer appears on SI’s cover for the fourth time, with the billing “Exit Sandman.”

“Probably not since Koufax have we seen anyone leave the game with so much respect,” says Joe Torre, Rivera’s manager with the Yankees for four of his five World Series championships. (PAGE 36)

Former Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, a teammate of Rivera’s from 1997 to 2011, reflects on how good Rivera always looked, even when they were in the minors. Posada says, “He was always very tailored—even in the minors. We would blouse our pants, but he would always look perfect in his uniform. His jeans were perfectly tailored and he was always very well dressed. He would wear these leather sandals from Panama—I remember because he has ugly feet. Don’t tell him I said that. Now he gets manicures and pedicures.” (PAGE 38)

Orioles manager Buck Showalter, the Yankees’ manager from 1992 to ’95, admits that he wasn’t sure about Rivera’s future when he saw him throw in spring training in 1993, the year after Rivera had elbow surgery. That would change. Showalter says, “His hand and fingers were born to pitch. He has really long fingers and the perfect wrist; he can’t move his hand much side to side, but it’s very flexible up and down.” (PAGE 38)

Rivera and Derek Jeter played in a combined 26 All-Star games and 10 world championship rings. However, after a tough start to both of their careers, the Yankees sent both of them back to the minors on June 11, 1995. Jeter:  “We were devastated. You can say depressed. Once you come here, you never want to go back. . . . It wasn’t exactly current times back then, you know what I’m saying? We had the Boss then. You don’t do your job and he’ll trade you in a minute. Kids have it easy nowadays. Seriously. It’s so different now.” (PAGE 39)

Joe Girardi, Yankees manager, and Rivera’s teammate from 1996 through ’99: “In all the years I caught him, he never threw a ball in the dirt. I don’t ever remember having to drop to my knees to block a pitch in the dirt. I know he never threw a wild pitch that bounced. His control is that good.” (PAGE 39)

Mike Borzello, Yankees bullpen catcher from 1996 to 2007: “In 1996 he became the setup guy, and John Wetteland, our closer, started talking to him every day. Wetteland knew Mariano would take over for him the following year. The closer doesn’t usually take the next closer under his wing. Wetteland did, and Mariano did [the same] with every other reliever that came through.” (PAGE 39)

Joe Torre: “I’m not sure how long my tenure with the Yankees would have been if not for Mo pitching the seventh and eighth innings in 1996. He allowed me to manage just six innings of a game.” (PAGE 40)

Rivera has pitched in 96 postseason games and lost just once: Game 7 of the 2001 World Series against the Diamondbacks. Luis Gonzalez dumped a broken-bat single over Jeter’s head, barely onto the outfield grass, to drive in the winning run. Gonzalez: “I was very fortunate to get that hit off one of the best of all time. I think a lot of relievers would have been crushed by that loss. With Mariano, that was just a small bump in the road that didn’t slow him down any.” (PAGE 40)

Phillies righthander Roy Halladay says that Rivera taught him how to throw a great cutter at the 2008 All-Star Game. “The biggest thing was his finger placement and how his thumb was under the ball,” says Halladay. “I was throwing a cutter, but it was inconsistent. Once he told me about the thumb, it became a big pitch for me.”

Halladay adds: “What he did for me was unbelievable. That to me is what great players do: They leave marks on the game, an impression that is about who they are and not just about their numbers and accomplishments. My favorite players of all time have done that—left a mark based on their character: Derek Jeter, Chase Utley and Mariano Rivera.” (PAGE 42)

CC Sabathia, Yankees lefthander: “This is what I would tell people about Mariano: Believe everything you hear about him, because it’s all true. You always hear nobody can be that nice, nobody can be like him, nobody can shrug off wins and losses the way he does. . . . It’s unbelievable. I never met or played with a guy like that. If you want to be a better player or a better person, you watch him.” (PAGE 42)

Dr. Fran Pirozzolo, psychologist, Yankees mental-skills coach from 1996 to 2002: “I have worked with elite performers ranging from Navy SEALs, U.S. Secret Service, NASA astronauts, to athletes. Mariano Rivera may be the single most impressive performer and leader I have ever known. He is the exemplar that I point to when I discuss the mental attributes of champions.” (PAGE 42)

In his last season, Verducci writes that in ever road season Rivera wanted to meet “behind-the-scenes” people who had dedicated their lives to baseball or had known illness or tragedy. On May 11, Rivera met with Ryan Bressette and his family in Kansas City. Bressette, a Royals clubhouse attendant from 1981 to ’94 dealt with tragedy when a flight-status display board fell on his family in the Birmingham, Ala., Airport. His 10-year-old son, Luke, was killed, while he, his wife, and son Sam all suffered serious injuries. Rivera met with the family and fulfilled a promise to Sam to give him the ball from the last out of the game. Ryan Bresette says, “This is something I haven’t told too many people. When Mariano came over to me, I stuck out my hand to shake his hand, and he gave me a hug, pulled me close and whispered in my ear, ‘You’re a stronger and braver man than I ever could be.’ ” (PAGE 43)


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