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These Are the Best Sport Illustrated Features of All Time

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Kurt Warner with Sports Illustrated executives (Colleen Hayes/USA Network/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Kurt Warner with Sports Illustrated executives (Colleen Hayes/USA Network/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

 

Sports Illustrated recently celebrated its 60th anniversary. In celebration of its storied tenure, the magazine republished, in full, its best stories to ever hit the presses. Reading all of them would be a major homework assignment, so RealClearLife has selected 10 of our favorites for you below. Enjoy.

“Yogi” by Roy Blount Jr.

Originally published in the April 2, 1984, issue, this profile of New York Yankees baseball legend Yogi Berra would come to define his legacy after his death at age 90 in 2014. Blount Jr. explores the popular aphorisms (example: “It ain’t over ’til it’s over”) that helped bolster Yogi’s lore. Read it here.

Catcher Yogi Berra #8 of the New York Yankees poses for a portrait during Spring Training circa 1950's in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Kidwiler Collection/Diamond Images/Getty Images)
Catcher Yogi Berra #8 of the New York Yankees poses for a portrait during Spring Training circa 1950’s in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Kidwiler Collection/Diamond Images/Getty Images)

 

 

“Hut-Two-Three … Ugh” by George Plimpton

The feature was one of Plimpton’s most memorable, and it would morph into a book and later, a film entitled Paper Lion starring Alan Alda. The second in a three-part series, the article (originally published in the September 14, 1964, issue) chronicles Plimpton’s brief career as the scrimmage quarterback for the Detroit Lions. Read Plimpton’s piece here.

Author George Plimpton confers with Alan Alda on the set of the 1968 comedy Paper Lion, a film adaptation of Plimpton's best-selling book. (Bettmann/Getty Images)
Author George Plimpton confers with Alan Alda on the set of the 1968 comedy Paper Lion, a film adaptation of Plimpton’s best-selling book. (Bettmann/Getty Images)

 

 

“Pure Heart” by William Nack

In 1973, Secretariat became the first racehorse in 25 years to win the Triple Crown. In Nack’s story, which originally ran in the June 4, 1990, issue, the writer reflects on the horse’s historic life—shortly after it was euthanized. Find it here.

Portrait of racehorse Secretariat running in field. (George Silk/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
Portrait of racehorse Secretariat running in field (George Silk/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

 

 

“The Smell Of Death Was In The Air” by Mark Kram

First published in the July 27, 1970, issue, this profile of daredevil Karl Wallenda is a story of overcoming adversity and a triumphant, never-quit attitude. Kram met up with a then 65-year-old Wallenda, who was preparing to cross a wire 750 feet above a gorge. Read it here.

Karl Wallenda, patriarch of the Flying Wallendas tightrope troupe, walks a tightrope across the Tallulah Gorge, as an audience of 35,000 look on. (Bettmann / Contributor)
Karl Wallenda, patriarch of the Flying Wallendas tightrope troupe, walks a tightrope across the Tallulah Gorge, as an audience of 35,000 look on. (Bettmann/Contributor)

 

 

“A Different Drummer” by John Papanek

Unequivocally among the top basketball players of all time, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a superstar on the court and mercurial when off it. Papanek’s profile, written at the height of Abdul-Jabbar’s career and in the midst of his record-setting sixth MVP-winning season, helped shape the towering superstar’s image. Originally published in the March 31, 1980, issue, the article let Abdul-Jabbar come “out of his shell.” You’ll find the full Papanek piece here.

Los Angeles Lakers' center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar #33 jumps for a layup during a game against the Denver Nuggets circa the 1980's in Denver, Colorado. (Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Lakers’ center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar #33 jumps for a layup during a game against the Denver Nuggets circa the 1980’s in Denver, Colorado. (Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

 

 

“On And On And On And . . . ” by E.M. Swift

Five decades of playing any professional sport will take a toll on the body—even more so, if you’re a hockey player. The fact that Gordie Howe was even alive at the end of his 51 years of playing was impressive, but his talent and love of the game were even more noteworthy. Read E.M. Swift’s profile of a man who just couldn’t walk away from the ice here.

Gordie Howe #9 of the Hartford Whalers poses for a portrait in January, 1980 in Hartford, Connecticut. (Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)
Gordie Howe #9 of the Hartford Whalers poses for a portrait in January, 1980 in Hartford, Connecticut. (Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

 

 

“Playing In The Bush League” by Curry Kirkpatrick

Former President George H.W. Bush was well known for his athletic endeavors outside of the White House. And Kirkpatrick caught up with the POTUS just after his 67th birthday in 1991, while Bush was vacationing at his summer home in Maine. His conversation with Bush and the resultant feature made for a fascinating read to the political- and sports-minded alike. Read it here.

President George Bush laying on ground lining up golf putt. (David Valdez/White House/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
President George Bush laying on ground lining up golf putt (David Valdez/White House/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

 

 

“The Heart Of Football Beats In Aliquippa” by S.L. Price

The people of Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, certainly make a case for the merits of triumphing over adversity. The steel mill town, hit hard by a half-century of economic depression, struggled with curbing crime and racial tensions. Yet, despite this, or perhaps because of this, Aliquippa produced a staggering amount of star NFL players, including Tony Dorsett and Darrelle Revis. You’ll find Price’s full account, originally published in the September 9, 2014, issue here.

New York Jets Darrelle Revis poses for a portrait in the backyard of the house he grew up in on March 10, 2010 in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
New York Jets Darrelle Revis poses for a portrait in the backyard of the house he grew up in on March 10, 2010 in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

 

 

“The Curious Case of Sidd Finch” by George Plimpton

For a player to emerge out of nowhere and play a professional sport is not unprecedented, but certainly rare. The odds of a dropout and vagabond, who’d recently returned from Tibet (and threw a 198 mph fastball) is downright unbelievable. Such is the tale of Sidd Finch, a completely made-up Mets’ rookie pitcher, fabricated by the MLB franchise and Plimpton himself. The story ran in an issue published on April Fools’ Day in 1985. Read the parody piece here.

New York Mets pitcher Dwight Gooden throwing ball with other Mets pitchers during spring training. (Mickey Pfleger/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
New York Mets pitcher Dwight Gooden throwing ball with other Mets pitchers during spring training. (Mickey Pfleger/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

 

 

“The Mourning Anchor” by Rick Reilly

Often, we end up a lot like our parents. Sports anchor Bryant Gumbel is no exception to that rule. His father, a Chicago judge and World War II veteran, instilled in Gumbel a work ethic and moral standard that made it difficult for anyone to measure up in the sports anchor’s eyes. Reilly explores Gumbel by essentially profiling his father—as a part of the anchor we all know and love. It’s an insightful tale of family and fatherhood, which you can read here.

Host Bryant Gumbel speaks onstage during the 'Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel' panel at the HBO portion of the 2015 Winter Television Critics Association press tour at the Langham Hotel on January 8, 2015 in Pasadena, California. (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Host Bryant Gumbel speaks onstage during the ‘Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel’ panel at the HBO portion of the 2015 Winter Television Critics Association press tour at the Langham Hotel on January 8, 2015 in Pasadena, California. (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

 

If you’d like to peruse the entire list, you’ll find it here.