Sports Illustrated Exclusive Cover Story: LeBron James on His MJ Moment and Why This Road to the Ring Was Twice As Tough

27COVv15LeBron James thought winning his first title would be the most difficult thing he’d ever do. He was wrong. Miami’s repeat—which took every ounce of energy from the best player alive—was even harder, says senior writer Lee Jenkins in an exclusive cover story for this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, on newsstands now. James, who appears on his 20th SI cover, reflects on how difficult the road to his second title was and describes his Game 7 jump shot that put the Heat up by four with 28 seconds left as his “MJ moment.”

“I know it wasn’t the magnitude of MJ hitting that shot in ’98, but I definitely thought about him,” says James, whose game-high 37 points in Miami’s 95— 88 Game 7 win helped earn him a second consecutive Finals MVP. “It was an MJ moment,” Then, after a pause, “It was an LJ moment.” (PAGE 60)

It could’ve been the shot that never happened. James reveals he was reluctant to shoot because of his struggles outside the paint in the first six games of the finals. Before Game 7, Heat coaches pleaded with him to shoot more. They showed James video of the San Antonio defense leaving him alone near the free throw line and emphasized his sterling percentages in that area this season. James’s 20 outside shots in Game 7 were the most since he joined the Heat. “Even the best have self-doubt at times when what they’re doing isn’t working,” James says. “You need a reminder.” (PAGE 60)

Jenkins writes that for three weeks during the NBA playoffs, James barely ate and rarely slept more than two hours. He was anxious before games and wired after. After almost every playoff game he required treatment from a Heat trainer and off days were spent either doing Pilates or hitting the heavy bag at the gym. “I was trying reverse psychology,” James says, “so my body wouldn’t think it was tired.” (PAGE 58)

James was able to ignore his pain while competing for a title, but he felt different on the morning after Miami’s Game 7 win. “I felt all these nicks and bruises and little injuries I didn’t know I had,” James says. “My back, my hamstring, my ankle, both my elbows, they were all aching. I guess I just didn’t pay attention to them.” Says Heat forward Shane Battier, “He is strong and he’s fast and he can jump, but what separates him is how far he goes. It’s preternatural. He is telling his body, Here’s the deal: You’re not allowed to break down.” (PAGE 60)

Battier also credits James’s leadership with helping the Heat succeed this year. After the first win of Miami’s 27-game winning streak in the regular season, James insisted that the team stay an extra night in Toronto for a team Super Bowl party. “We were always close, but that took it to another level,” says Battier. “I believe that night was the impetus for the streak.” (PAGE 62)

Whether or not the Heat wins a third straight title next year, James has one more year until he can opt out of his contract. He says his decision will be handled in a more understated way than the one in 2010. “I’m a totally different person on the court, off the court and everywhere in between,” he says. “I know it will come up, but it’s not going to come up until it’s at that point.” (PAGE 62)


Dwyane Wade’s Knee Has A Cold

dwayne wadeWith the Miami Heat trailing two games to one against the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals, the team’s championship hopes and dynastic ambitions have come to hinge on Dwayne Wade’s injured knee says senior writer S.L. Price in this week’s SI. While Wade’s injury has contributed to slowing down the Heat’s momentum since entering the finals last week, Price finds that Wade’s strength throughout his life during personal issues has enabled him to play through extreme pain. However tough he is, his production needs to improve if the Heat have a chance.

“I can feel for him, but I can’t really understand what he’s going through. You appreciate when someone puts their body on the line each and every night when they’re not even close to 100 percent” says teammate LeBron James (PAGE 48).

The seemingly unstoppable and energetic Wade’s scoring average has plummeted since suffering a deep bone bruise against Orlando on March 6. His focus has shifted to hours of treatment before and after each game. Although uncertainty lingers about Wade’s performance, the player finds comfort from his mother, Jolinda Wade, praying for his knee. During the second-round playoff series against the Chicago Bulls, Wade yelled to his mom, “Ma! Come and touch my knee and pray on it” (PAGE 48), which she continued to do throughout the Eastern Conference finals.

“People don’t understand the pain that he’s experiencing… but he doesn’t let it stop him. He understands that the body he’s playing in now is not the body that he played in when he came to the league,” says Wade’s mother Jolinda (PAGE 49).

Aside from his injury, Wade also has been dealing with personal and legal issues surrounding his divorce during this year’s postseason play. His spirits, however, remain positive with everything he is going through. “Me, the last couple days I’ve been coming in, get my work in that I need to, and the last two games that I’ve stepped on the court, I felt better physically… Hopefully I can continue” (PAGE 49).

Wade’s injured body leads to another concern for the Heat after the finals: The possible break-up of the ‘Big Three.’ Lebron James can opt out of his contract with Miami and become a free agent after next season.  Price concludes “the state of Wade’s knees figures to be a heavy factor in whether LeBron stays or ends up somewhere else next year” (PAGE 50).


The Unique Ubiquity of LeBron James on the Cover of This Week’s Sports Illustrated

23COVv27promoLeBron James’s ability to contribute at a high level at all five positions places him among the most versatile players the NBA has ever seen. This week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, which features James on the cover, breaks down James’s stunning array of skills, position by position, with takes by Lee Jenkins, Chris Ballard, Ian Thomsen, Mark Jackson and Bill Walton. This is the 19th SI cover for James; the last time he appeared was when he was named the 2012 SI Sportsman of the Year.

Small Forward: Since every player requires a position, Heat coach Erik Spoelestra pencils in James at small forward. Often manned by the most versatile player on the floor, the three spot is where the 6′ 8″, 250-pound star seems to fit best. Jenkins says, “James performs all the job’s diverse duties: slashing inside for layups and stepping out for three-pointers, handling the ball and hitting the glass, accepting the toughest defensive assignments and smothering them.” (PAGE 32)

Point Guard: Warriors coach Mark Jackson, a former point guard for 17 years in the NBA, says James’s skills at the point are similar to Magic Johnson’s, if Johnson had possessed the ability to score 30 every day. “To me, he has the chance to be the leading scorer in the history of this game and one of the top five assists guys,” says Jackson. “That’s how special he is.” (PAGE 33) Jackson says that in addition to being an excellent passer, James uses his length and strength to disrupt opposing point guards on the defensive end. “Even if he had to play only point guard on both offense and defense, he’s my Number 1 pick at the position right now,” says Jackson. (PAGE 33)

Shooting Guard: When James entered the league, he struggled with his outside shooting—teams dared him to shoot threes as he often took off-balance shots. Since his days in Cleveland, Ballard finds that James has worked with a shooting coach to create a “calmer” shot, which has helped turn him into a better long-range shooter. Now, Spoelestra takes James off the ball for large chunks of time, which enables James to take more efficient spot-up jump shots.“LeBron James could be, would be and is an excellent shooting guard,” says Ballard. “He can drive, he can score and he can defend opposing twos.” (PAGE 34)

Power Forward: James recently developed a post-up game, in which he bangs and bruises like a power forward, writes Ian Thomsen. After working on post moves with Hakeem Olajuwon before last season, teams now fear James inside—a place where he is one dribble from the basket and one kick-out pass from finding a wide-open shooter. “When the time is right, James could yet become the league’s most challenging power forward, having both an unparalleled ability to pass out of the post combined with a touch that will stretch defenses out to the three-point line,” says Thomsen. “It’s shocking to be the best player in the world and continue to improve,” says Pacers coach Frank Vogel. (PAGE 36)

Center: Hall of Fame center Bill Walton says James, who has played some center in the Heat’s small-ball lineup, can handle the pivot for even longer stretches of time should his team need him to. “He’s an outstanding passer and has outstanding footwork, which are two things you look for in a center,” says Walton. “Plus, who could guard LeBron? What center is equipped to take on that challenge? He can post you up and take you outside and shoot effortless jump shots.” (PAGE 37)


The 8 Debate – The NBA’s Greatest One-On-One Player

Great 8 DebateWith input from league scouts and executives, Sports Illustrated Staff Writer Chris Mannix put together a list of the one-one all-stars, scorers who excel at getting the job done on their own (PAGE 20).  

1.      LeBron James, SF, Heat

2.     Chris Paul, PG, Clippers

3.     James Harden, SG, Rockets

4.     Derrick Rose, PG, Bulls

5.     Joe Johnson, SG, Nets

6.     Jamal Crawford, SG, Clippers

7.     Russell Westbrook, PG, Thunder

                                                                     8.     Kobe Bryant, SG, Lakers

Fans can join the debate on SI’s App for Windows 8. Launch the SI app for Windows 8 on your tablet or computer, then tap or click on the 8 Debate live tile in the app timeline. There, you can also watch exclusive video of Joe Johnson talking about going one-on-one.


Editor’s Letter: Once Again, He’s the Chosen One

By Paul Fichtenbaum, Editor, Time Inc. Sports Group

One of the most intriguing parlor games played here at SPORTS ILLUSTRATED begins in January, when our attention turns to the coming year and we think about the tantalizing possibilities the next 12 months could bring. As the events on the sports calendar slowly unfold, and distinguished moments, performances and achievements start piling up, a question inevitably starts to echo around the offices—whom should we be considering for Sportsman of the Year?

It makes for fun discussion and, yes, disagreement. But it’s not a topic we take lightly. The award, which SI has been handing out since our inception in 1954, honors those athletes, teams or executives whose accomplishments embody the spirit of sportsmanship combined with a high level of on-field success. Ask any SI editor or writer at any time of the year who their choice would be and you’ll likely initiate a thoughtful and pointed conversation. Opinions matter around here, and there are lots of them.

Read the rest of this entry »


This Week’s Issue: King James, Revised

LeBron James Makes Good on His Promise to Deliver a Championship to South Beach

The Dream Team’s Legendary Scrimmage: Michael Jordan vs. Magic Johnson

Royce White’s Fear of Flying Makes Him the NBA Draft’s Mystery Pick

Giancarlo Stanton Leaves His Imprint on Outfield Walls and Scoreboards

Drug-Free Cyclists Prepare for the Tour De France and Olympics

(NEW YORK – June 28, 2012) – Twenty-nine teams should be very afraid, because LeBron James has breached the championship levee, just as Michael Jordan did in 1991. Jordan was 28, and he won five more titles in the next seven years, even with a break for baseball. James is 27, and for the first time, he will get to play, as Heat president Pat Riley acknowledged, “with freedom.” LeBron making good on his promise to bring an NBA Championship to South Beach is the cover story for the July 2, 2012 issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands now.

James punctuated one of the best regular seasons in the modern era with one of the best playoffs, leading the Heat with 30.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists, while shooting 50% and guarding everyone from Carmelo Anthony and Rajon Rondo to Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.  In the series clinching Game 5 versus the Thunder he scored 26 points with 11 rebounds and 13 assists, eight of which led to three-pointers by five different teammates, accounting for 60 points in a 121–106 throttling of the Thunder.

“It’s time to make a new challenge. I’ve got to figure out what that is. I know I can get better. And I know I’m not satisfied with one of these. That’s the next challenge to do it again.” said LeBron James.

Senior writer Lee Jenkins points out that the championship could not have been won without a change in philosophy from one of the team’s best players. LeBron couldn’t carry the Heat if Dwyane Wade was going to claim the load.

“He basically looked at me one day and told me, ‘I need you to lead this team now,’ ”James says. “And then he did it during games. He’d say, ‘I need you to lead us right here.’ ” By the time the playoffs began, roles were defined. James was the headliner. Wade, suffering from an injured left knee, was the sidekick. “It was hard for me to do it,” Wade admits, “but it was easy for me to do it for the team.”

THE GREATEST GAME NOBODY EVER SAW – JACK MCCALLUM (@JackMcCallum)

The Dream Team, arguably the most dominant squad ever assembled in any sport, played 14 games 20 years ago, and their smallest margin of victory was 32 points.  The toughest competition faced by the best team in basketball history was at a closed scrimmage in Monaco between sides led by Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson.  The details of the game remained a secret to the world for nearly 20 years, until now.

Most of the 12 names on the roster remain familiar to fans decades later, and all are members of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.  The common matrices of statistical comparison are simply not relevant in the case of the Dream Team, whose members could be evaluated only when they played each other. The video of that scrimmage, therefore, is the holy grail of basketball.

“You have a tape? Of that game? Man, everybody asks me about that Game. It was the most fun I ever had on a basketball court,” said Michael Jordan.

THE MYSTERY PICK IS ROYCE WHITE – PABLO TORRE (@SIPabloTorre)

Iowa State’s Royce White was the only player in Division I to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. College coaches around the country praise his all-around game, but his spot in this Thursday’s NBA draft remains a mystery. He has been projected to be a lottery pick or end up in the second round. The main reason for this is that White has a generalized anxiety disorder and suffers from a severe fear of flying, which worries many NBA executives.

White was allowed to drive to a few games last season, but in sit-downs with White, NBA officials have warned him that the pros will be less accommodating. The Heat informed him that they won’t allow a player to drive from even Miami to Orlando. White said, “It’s understandable. But in my head, I’m going, you want me to drive. You’re paying me millions of dollars to perform … the point is, we’re not all alike.”

Royce’s talent is not lost on his contemporaries as none of the projected top 15 picks have agreed to work out against White for NBA teams. During the second round of the NCAA tournament against Kentucky, a game that was close into the second half, White had 23 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals. Projected No.1 pick Anthony Davis said after the game, “Royce was beating us by himself.”

NAME CHANGER, GAME CHANGER – ALBERT CHEN

Long before he became Giancarlo Stanton, the young Marlins slugger left an unmistakable imprint – on scouts, not to mention countless outfield walls and scoreboards. The outfielder was called up to the big leagues as a 20-year old along with the legend of having bludgeoned baseballs out of ballparks and into parking lots, golf courses and lakes. Before games opposing players and coaches linger to watch Stanton take batting practice. This past May, Stanton had historic month, hitting .343 with 12 home runs and 30 RBIs to become the youngest player since Joe DiMaggio to reach those totals in any month.

Stanton mashed 56 home runs after his first two seasons in the majors, only Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez had as many before age 22 in the last 45 years. His teammates call him by his nickname: Bigfoot.

“He does things no human should be able to do. The only guy I have ever heard players talk about like they talk about [Stanton] is Darryl Strawberry,” said teammate Randy Choate.

“People have said that homegrown power arms is the most important commodity in the game, but the middle-of-the-order, 30-home-run guy is becoming almost as valuable, given how few of them there are now,” said an American League G.M.

I SEE LONDON, I SEE FRANCE – AUSTIN MURPHY (@si_AustinMurphy)

Cycling has been plagued by doping scandals for years, but recent USADA regulations have made cheating much more difficult.  Today’s top cyclists are minutes slower than athletes in EPO’s heyday.  And with the 99thTour de France and 2012 London Olympics quickly approaching, spectators are bound to see a more authentic competition than in previous Games.

“Performances are less predictable, more human and, – as a result, more exciting,” write Austin Murphy.

In this article, Austin Murphy evaluates the top Olympic and Tour riders. Despite injuries and training challenges, Brad Wiggins and Mark Cavendish, two Brits on a British-based squad called Team Sky should dominate the field at both major events.

“Ten days after the Tour, Wiggins will roll down the ramp at Hampton Court Palace, hard by the Thames, as one of the favorites in the Olympic 44-km time trial around London,” writes Murphy.

SCORECARD: RINGING MOMENT ON CENTRE COURT – S.L. PRICE

It can be argued that tennis at the Olympics holds little weight in the game. Majors aside, there are 10 other tournaments this year that count more in the rankings than the London Games. This time however, the normal math can’t apply, because the Olympics will be held at Wimbledon and Wimbledon is where tennis gods are made.  It’s no accident that Novak Djokovic of Serbia and Rafael Nadal of Spain will serve as their nations’ flag bearers in the opening ceremony—and that Roger Federer is an odds-on favorite to do likewise for Switzerland.

If the Olympics are indeed the showcase for the planet’s best athletes, it’s only right that the three who’ve pushed the men’s game to unprecedented heights will be out front.

POINT AFTER: LIGHT FROM THE DARKNESS – PHIL TAYLOR (@SI_PhilTaylor)

Last week, Jerry Sandusky was found guilty on 45 of 48 counts of sexual abuse, the two-week trial reminded us all of over again of the revolting nature of his crimes.  But from that darkness came some light.  A groundswell at the legislative level, university level and the grassroots level has emerged to fight back against pedophiles.  Victims have been emboldened to come forward.

Dan Rost, a sophomore from Franklin County, Pa., along with three other students founded the One Heart Campaign to raise money and awareness to help fight child abuse.  Rost said, “I had no clue how prevalent an issue this was until then. Then I did some research and realized this was not just a Sandusky issue, not just a Penn State issue, but a national issue. I decided I didn’t want to live in a culture in which this was such a widespread problem, so I decided to see what could be done about it.”

INSIDE THE WEEK IN SPORTS

  • NHL (page 31): Value Added – NHL free agency begins this Sunday and some big names could be changing teams.  But the player most likely to reap the richest rewards is a defenseman many hockey fans have never heard of.  (@MichaelFarber3)
  • MLB (page 30) East or Famine – With interleague play done for the year, the game’s balance of power tilts decidedly to the right side of the map. (@joe_sheenhan)
  • Soccer (page 32) The Case for Cristiano – Lionel Messi may be more beloved, but the Euros confirm the claim of his rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, to the title of 2012 world player of the year.  (@GrantWahl)

THIS WEEK’S FACES IN THE CROWD (page 22)

  • Matt Nesmith (North Augusta, S.C./North Augusta High) – Golf
  • Danielle Aragon (Billings, Mont./Billings High) –Track and Field
  • Bakawsu Kinteh (Suwanee, Ga./Lambert High) – Soccer
  • Gina Medina Van Arsdall (Glendale, Ariz./Phoenix College) – Softball
  • Dayton Silva (Manhattan Beach, Calif./MiraCosta College) – Surfing
  • Gabrielle Clark (Chicago, Ill./Emory University) – Tennis
  • Dillon Pottish (East Quogue, N.Y./Emory University) – Tennis

To submit a candidate for Faces in the Crowd, go to SI.com/faces. Follow on Twitter @SI_Faces.

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This Week’s Issue: NBA Finals Preview – LeBron vs. Durant

NBA Finals Preview:  LeBron vs. Durant

Russell Westbrook Could Be the Leading Man in the NBA Finals

Andrew McCutchen Discovers That Being the Natural Is Not Enough

Manny Pacquaio’s Controversial Loss in Las Vegas Dealt Boxing a Crippling Blow

Sharapova’s and Nadal’s  French Open Victories were Achieved by Desire and Tenacity

The  Extraordinary Adventures of the 1956 Hungarian Olympic Team

(NEW YORK – June 6, 2012) – A new era in the NBA has arrived and it has taken two men to deliver it. LeBron James, 27, and Kevin Durant, 23, are the key players of this post-Kobe era, and each is seeking his first title at the other’s expense. The last Finals to launch a new generation with so much anticipation and promise was the showdown between the Lakers and the Celtics in 1984, when Magic Johnson’s Lakers lost to Larry Bird’s Celtics over seven memorable games. A look inside the much anticipated match-up of the two best players in the league during this year’s NBA Finals is the cover story for the June 18, 2012, issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands now.

Unlike Johnson (a point guard) and Bird (a small forward), who rarely guarded each other, James and Durant will match up for a majority of their minutes, making for must-watch TV. The two players forged a friendship this past off-season. Durant spent four days in Akron working out with James, where they consoled each other about their shared troubles with the veteran Mavs, who had KO’d the Thunder last spring before upsetting the Heat in the Finals.

LeBron James said, “We pushed each other each and every day. I envisioned us getting to this point.”

LEADING MAN—CHRIS MANNIX (@ChrisMannixSI)

Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook may not be the biggest name in the Finals, but how well he runs the Thunder’s offense will determine which team goes home with a championship. Consider Westbrook’s job description: Don’t just score, create, and do it while keeping the turnovers down, the shooting percentage up and, oh, yeah, making sure the NBA’s scoring champ, Kevin Durant, is getting enough shots. Not since Allen Iverson has an elite point guard been asked to play such a multifaceted role.

Westbrook’s relationship with Durant has been dissected at a Kardashian level. Critics have wondered whether two alpha males can coexist, bringing up examples of discord (a well-publicized blowup on the bench in Memphis last December) and statistics (Westbrook’s hoisting up nearly as many shots as Durant in a bumpy 2011 playoffs) as proof that they can’t. What’s rarely cited is how Westbrook and Durant were inseparable during All-Star weekend or how the two routinely text each other about anything, from basketball to video games, late at night. Nor is it often noted that the duo scored more points per game (51.6) than any other tandem this season, or that when the game is tight, Westbrook defers: With a minute to play and the score within three points, Durant has attempted 37 shots, Westbrook eight.

Says Westbrook:“People keep trying to break me and Kevin up. But we just keep getting closer.”

BEING THE NATURAL ISN’T ENOUGH – JOSEPH LEMIRE (@SI_JoeLemire)

Pittsburgh Pirates All-Star outfielder Andrew McCutchen was a naturally gifted high school ballplayer who was chosen 11th overall in a draft that has been hailed as one of the best in major league history.  McCutchen cruised through his first two years in the minors, dominating Rookie and Class A ball, but the moment he understood what it was to be a professional occurred when he faced adversity for the first time.  Struggling in Double A he recognized that for even the bluest of baseball’s blue chip prospects, his natural talent was not enough. After being presented with a list of flaws and recommended fixes, McCutchen looked his coach in the eye and said, “Let’s go do it.”

“Adversity is a great teacher,” says Pirates assistant G.M. Kyle Stark, who oversees player development. “Our philosophy here is that we’re trying to maximize what guys do naturally, so we want to see that before we change things.”

McCutchen is gunning to become part of an exclusive club: active players who have helped the Pirates finish .500. Pittsburgh is mired in a 19-year streak of losing seasons, but McCutchen sees reason to hope for the future of the organization. “Once that streak is beaten, you’re going to want something else,” McCutchen says. “Why not reach the playoffs and win the World Series? Why not do it all? Let’s open some eyes, man.”

WHAT WAS LOST IN LAS VEGAS—CHRIS MANNIX (@ChrisMannixSI)

After Manny Pacquiao lost his WBO welterweight title to Timothy Bradley, the boxing world was in turmoil. Last Saturday night, millions of boxing fans watched Pacquiao cruise to what appeared to be a comfortable 16th straight victory. Instead, the judges awarded a split-decision victory to Bradley, one of the worst calls in the history of boxing. Even boxing promoter Bob Arum said, “I’m ashamed for the sport.”

Lost in the controversy was an even bigger question: What’s next for Manny Pacquiao? The 33-year-old Filipino’s skills have diminished over time and fighting Floyd Mayweather Jr. no longer has the allure it once did. The money will always be there but what boxing lost last Saturday may haunt it forever.

THE PLOT THICKENS (AGAIN)—L. JON WERTHEIM (@Jon_Wertheim)

Maria Sharapova has regained the top ranking and Rafael Nadal finally took down his chief rival, setting the stage for Wimbledon and the Olympics. The 2012 French Open represented seven rounds of gladiatorial Hunger Games. Yes, the champions—Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova—succeeded because they were able to pound a ball over a net with the greatest force and accuracy. In the end, though, they survived because they were driven by superior motivation, desire and tenacity.

Nadal rebounded to defeat his rival Novak Djokovic, who had defeated him seven straight times.  The last time the two met, Nadal suffered a heart-wrenching six-hour marathon match at the Australian Open, a defeat that even his closest friends thought may deflate his spirit.  The following evening Nadal calmly told them, “I lost last night, but now I know I can beat him again.”

Reaching the final brought Sharapova the No. 1 WTA ranking, and winning gave her the career Grand Slam—singles trophies from each of the four majors—a feat that many other champions (Monica Seles, Venus Williams, Justine Henin, Martina Hingis) never achieved. An hour after the final Sharapova was still digesting her accomplishment. “No matter how many how punches I took, I’ve always gotten back up,” she said.

REVOLUTION GAMES – ALEXANDER_WOLFF (@Alexander_Wolff)

Charred automobiles and rotting corpses lined the streets as members of the 1956 Hungarian Olympic team made their way to the Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. The team had more than just performance pressures on their shoulders as they traveled to the Olympics. Their home and their families were under attack as the Soviets invaded their homeland.

“The Olympics, the whole thing has lost its importance, its beauty, because of what’s happening back at home,” said a water polo player named Istvan Hevesi.

The Hungarian athletes’ greatest feat was beating the Soviets 4-0 in the water polo semifinals.  Despite the team’s overall success, many of the athletes’ experiences were less than ideal.  “All you’re thinking about is a decision you’ll be making that will affect the rest of your life,” said Hungarian diver Frank Siak.

That decision was whether to defect or return to a country under Soviet occupation. Those who decided to defect did so with the help of a young, struggling sports magazine, Sports Illustrated.

SCORECARD: DIFFERENT STROKES – LYNN SHERR  

Every fourth summer, the pageantry and drama of the Olympics set our hearts soaring and ignites our imagination. “Wow! Look at those swimmers,” we say to ourselves, buoyed by their splashy, churning performances and bobbing, smiling postrace pool play. “Did you see Michael Phelps dolphin-kick his way to the finish? It just looked so . . . easy!” Careful. The next sentence is the tricky one. It so often goes like this: “I could do that.” Actually, you couldn’t.

Guest contributor Lynn Sherr writes, “Elite swimmers are different from the tips of their oversized hands to their flippersized feet, all of which scoop up oceans of water. They even walk differently.”  

POINT AFTER: CASEY MARTIN’S VICTORY LAP– PHIL TAYLOR (@SI_PhilTaylor)

The U.S. Open will feature a familiar name this weekend, Casey Martin.   The golfer who earneda spot in the Open by winning a sectional qualifier last week is the same Casey Martin who was competitive enough to earn five top 50 tournament finishes in 2000 despite needing a golf cart to play. He waged a four-year legal fight to keep playing even though many fellow golfers opposed his right to ride. (The Supreme Court ruled 7–2 in his favor on Jan. 17, 2001.) But he’s also a different Casey Martin—no longer a member of the Tour, he’s now the Oregon golf coach, and at 40 far more intense about his Ducks’ performances than his own.

Casey Martin says, “The thing is, I don’t really play golf. At least, I don’t play rounds of golf very often. I’ll go out and beat some balls with my guys at practice, maybe get out there half an hour early and hit some shots, but I’ve probably only played 12, 15 rounds in the past year.”

INSIDE THE WEEK IN SPORTS

  • MLB (page 30): Adapt or Die– Six weeks ago, the Angels were headed to oblivion. Angels manager Mike Scioscia, one of the most successful in the league, has turned things around.  (@SI_BenReiter)
  • Horse Racing (page 36): Rags to Riches – In Belmont without I’ll Have Another, Union Rags delivered a victory that saved the day for racing. (@SITimLayden)
  • Olympics (page 32): Running For No. 1 – Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake’s strong performance at the Adidas Grand Prix sets up an intriguing battle with his famous countryman Usain Bolt at the Olympics in London.   (@SIDavidEpstein)

On the Tablet: Truth and Rumors

THIS WEEK’S FACES IN THE CROWD (page 24)

  • Bill Stanley (South Park, Pa./South Park High) – Track and Field
  • Kimmons Wilson (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park Crew) – Rowing
  • Chris Brown (North Chelmsford, Mass./Brandeis University) – Track and Field
  • Shantana Kanhoye (Queens, N.Y./John Adams High)- Flag Football
  • K.C. Wilson (Winter Springs, Fla./The Masters Academy) – Waterskiing
  • Alli Cash (Overland Park, Kans./Shawnee Mission West) –Track and Field

To submit a candidate for Faces in the Crowd, go to SI.com/faces. Follow on Twitter @SI_Faces.

 

-SI-


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