An Exclusive Look at Tim Duncan, the Most Successful Star of His Generation
Eric Hosmer Is Front and Center in the World of Baseball’s New Economics
The Irritable John Tortorella Has Led the Rangers to Their First Conference Finals in 15 Years
The Success or Failure of the London Olympics Falls on One Man
(NEW YORK – May 16, 2012) – Jabari Parker, a junior at Simeon Career Academy in Chicago, is the best high school basketball player since LeBron James, but there’s something more important to him than hoops stardom: his faith. Parker—who was the 2011 USA Basketball athlete of the year and is being recruited by all the top college programs including Kentucky, Kansas and Duke—is a devout Mormon. After his freshman year in college, when top players will head to the NBA draft, Jabari will have to decide whether he will declare for the draft or—like thousands of other Mormon men who turn 19—embark on a two-year mission to spread the faith in the U.S. or a foreign country.
Parker appears on the cover of the May 21, 2012, issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands now. Parker is the first high school athlete on the cover since Bryce Harper appeared on the June 8, 2009 cover.
Jabari wakes up each morning at five and says a prayer, and three days a week, he is at Bible study by 5:30. Parker also accompanies a Bishop of his church on visits to the sick, the poor and the elderly—an assignment designed to teach young men the importance of service and self-sacrifice. Parker tells contributing writer Jeff Benedict, “I realize why I’m in the position I’m in right now. It’s not because of me. It’s because of God.”
He knows his decision will be difficult. His brother Christian, who has already served a mission, has told Jabari that it was the best thing he’s ever done. Jabari says, “When he came home from his mission, we talked a lot about it. I want to go. But I have doubts. The NBA is the biggest dream of basketball players, and I’m not different.”
On the Tablet: Podcast with Richard Deitsch and Jeff Benedict and a video montage of Jabari Parker.
21 SHADES OF GRAY – CHRIS BALLARD (@SI_ChrisBallard)
Tim Duncan is the most successful player of his generation, maybe even its best. In the 15 years since Duncan was drafted, no other team in the four major pro sports has had a better winning percentage than the Spurs. Now Duncan is the foundation of yet another Spurs team that could win it all. So why haven’t the masses fallen for him? Senior writer Chris Ballard breaks down the 21 reasons why Duncan, compared with his peers, remains practically anonymous (page 36).
Duncan said, “Winning should be the only thing that matters. I can’t manipulate how people see me. I could be more accessible and be the darling of everybody. I could open up my life and get more endorsements and be out there and be a fan favorite. But why would that help?”
WHEN WILL ERIC HOSMER GET HIS? – ALBERT CHEN
George Brett is the greatest baseball player to play for the Kansas City and he thinks the world of the Royals young first baseman Eric Hosmer. Brett said, “These kids in our farm system, most of them weren’t born when I was playing…. But if they make a big splash, then suddenly they are getting compared to me. Hos is getting the comparisons now, but let me tell you, he’s the real deal. And hopefully he’ll be in Kansas City for the next 20 years.”
If the Royals are going to keep Hosmer in their organization, they will have to persuade him to sign a contract extension. Many teams have begun to sign their young talent to long-term deals before they hit the free-agent market. It’s a strategy that has worked for a number of mid-market teams including Tampa and Cincinnati (page 44).
Hosmer’s agent, Scott Boras, doesn’t love this new world. He said, “Evaluating and understanding the value of that kind of player and talent, that’s a process that takes years. Whether it’s a Madison Bumgarner or a Matt Moore or any of those other deals, I find those contracts to be unconscionable.”
A POSTSEASON ON THE BRINK – MICHAEL FARBER
The postgame press conferences for New York Rangers coach John Tortorella are so quick that they have become one of the most popular topics of conversation during the 2012 NHL playoffs. Hockey networks in the U.S. and Canada have super imposed a stopwatch on the screen to see how long they will last. This shouldn’t diminish the fact that Tortorella has led his team to its first conference finals in 15 years. He has molded them to fit his image; the Rangers are relentless, driven and confrontational (page 52).
On the Tablet: A look at John Tortorella’s best press conference moments.
LONDON’S MAIN MAN – ALEXANDER WOLFF
Sebastian Coe won gold medals in the 1,500 meters at the 1980 and ’84 Olympics, but his biggest challenge is about to take place. As the driving force behind the London Games, Coe has assured everyone that this summer’s Games will be a complete hit. Coe became chairman of the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) in early 2004, just 18 months before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) made its decision on a host city for 2012. Coe’s efforts in that short time are what led to London’s receiving the bid and many believe he is the perfect fit for this tough task (page 56).
Jonathan Edwards, who heads LOCOG athletes’ committee, said, “He believes that if you have the right attitude, you’ll succeed. If the Games go well, it’s Seb. It the Games don’t go well, it’s Seb. No on will point the finger at the prime minister or Boris Johnson [London Mayor]. Seb himself wouldn’t say he set the world on fire as a politician, but as a sports politician he’s been a real leader.”
On the Tablet: A photo of the 1979 Sports Illustrated cover that featured Sebastian Coe.
NBA PLAYERS POLL
Which athlete from another sport could play in the NBA today?
Calvin Johnson, Lions WR 16%
Jimmy Graham, Saints TE 10%
Terrell Owens, Free-Agent WR 7%
Antonio Gates, Chargers TE 7%
Cam Newtwon, Panthers QB 6%
[Based on 146 NBA players who responded to SI’s survey]
FAST FACTS: Graham, Gates and Tony Gonzalez (who was sixth, with 5%) played D-I basketball. Graham averaged 4.2 points at Miami, Gates 16.5 at Eastern Michigan and Kent State (where he was an honorable mention All-America in 2003), and Gonzalez 6.4 at Cal. . . . Of the 39 athletes named, 29 play pro football—19 as receivers or tight ends. . . . Usain Bolt (3%) received the most votes for a nonfootball player. . . . In a similar poll on Facebook, 56% of SI readers named Johnson.
SCORECARD: VOICES FROM HEAVEN – STEVE RUSHIN (@SteveRushin)
When Red Sox public-address announcer Carl Beane died last week, at 59, the team honored him not with a moment of silence but with three hours of it. For one game there were no introductions. Every hitter strode to home plate, bat in hand, in silent eloquence (page 15).
The baseball P.A. announcer is a voice from the heavens, but we seldom know the names and almost never know the faces of these disembodied voices. These voices eventually became a piece of a team’s persona. Bob Sheppard’s run at Yankee Stadium echoed almost the entire history of the profession. At Wrigley Field, Pat Piper was as familiar as the ivy. In Philadelphia, Dan Baker has manned the microphone for 40 years. Carl Beane’s passing reminds us of the soothing sounds of subtlety.
POINT AFTER: THIS ACT IS A FLOP– PHIL TAYLOR (@SI_PhilTaylor)
The NBA is at the height of the playoffs, but senior writer Phil Taylor says that flopping during games could undermine the terrific athleticism. He would like players to stop taking dives and he isn’t alone. ESPN NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy said during the Heat-Knicks series, “It just ruins the game. I can’t believe with all the brilliance we have in the NBA office that we can’t find a way to eliminate this part of the game.” (page 68).
INSIDE THE WEEK IN SPORTS
- NBA (page 28): The Case for the Truth – Paul Pierce’s name rarely comes up when talking about the best players in the game, but no opposing coach wants the ball in his hands when the game is on the line. Jack McCallum
- MLB (page 33): Texas-sized Dilemma – Josh Hamilton is set to hit free agency this off-season. What will determine how much he is worth, his immense talent or his age and cautionary past? (@Joe_Sheehan)
- Soccer (page 34): Homes Sweet Homes – Major League Soccer continues to mature as more teams begin to play in venues designed with soccer as a top priority. (@GrantWahl)
THIS WEEK’S FACES IN THE CROWD (page 24)
- Kayden Porter (Spanish Fork, Utah/Spanish Fork High) – Baseball
- Shayla Sanders (Pompano Beach, Fla./Boyd Anderson High) – Track and Field
- David Heron (Mission Viejo, Calif./Mission Viejo High) – Swimming
- Gabrielle Jennings (Slidell, La./First Baptist Christian School) – Track and Field
- Michael Pelletier (Burnt Hills, N.Y./Springfield College) – Volleyball
- Stephanie Ricketts (San Jose/Hawaii) – Softball