Oftentimes, magazines that cater towards a male audience tend to lean towards provocative covers and pictorial spreads in an effort to draw in readers. It’s the shock factor and sex appeal that seems to drive most magazines in finding new and inventive ways to try and draw in readers. While there are some magazines that are able to tastefully portray their cover models and pictorial subjects in an artful manner, most magazine shoots border on cheesy in their outlandish attempts at provoking sexiness in print.
Conversely, ESPN magazine has a totally different approach to how they wish to portray their pictorial subjects. While they definitely have had their fair share of provocative covers, the premise of all of their pictorial spreads and photo shoots has surrounded around celebrating the body in all its glory. Accrediting their athletic ability to the beauty of their form, ESPN has a history of trying to make the world see the human figure as more than just a means to provoke sex appeal.
Highlighting some of the world’s most prestigious athletes, ESPN magazine has become a major outlet for sports celebrities to express themselves outside of their immediate field. From the soccer field to riding a big wave, ESPN magazine has all the esteem and name recognition that puts these pictorial spreads on a different level than any other publication. Check out some of the 15 sexiest photo spreads for ESPN magazine, and see how sexy the female body can be when put into motion.
15 Brittney Griner
When asked to pose for the 2015 Body Issue for ESPN, Brittney Griner was already being hailed for her stellar athletic skill as the Phoenix Mercury center player. While the public knew Griner for her skills on the court, her beauty was often obscured by the loose basketball uniform and pinned back locks. At an astounding six feet and eight inches in height, Griner has had to tackle some definite challenges in being accepted in the world. Obviously, the characteristics of an ultra feminine and sexy woman doesn’t usually come at 204 pounds, but Griner has chosen to fully embrace her stature. In the editorial, she talks about her life struggles in being accepted, by saying, “I mean, [in the Body Issue] it's out there. Let me show that I embrace the flatness! I just want people to see somebody who embraces being naked, embraces everything about them being different.” While she may not fit the stereotype for what a sexy woman is supposed to look like, her confidence in owning her body is definitely sexy by anyone’s measure.
14 Susan Francia
Susan Francia is a professional rower that is affiliated with the U.S. Rowing Training Center. Winning gold medals in multiple Olympic Games, Francia has branched off to both coach and speak professionally. Like many Olympic athletes, Francia is a highly sought-after motivational speaker that has been influential in molding young female minds into pursuing their dreams. Posing nude for the 2009 Body Issue for ESPN magazine, Francia showed off her formidable body in a way that really highlighted the athleticism required in such a physical sport as rowing. From the built up back and arms to the shapely legs, Francia looked strong in every sense of the word. With stoic beauty and grasping her row, this is an Olympic gold medalist that definitely caught the attention of ESPN readers. While there is a place for dainty females and toothpick figures in magazines, ESPN highlighted Francia as an athlete and a force to be reckoned with in her pictorial spread.
13 Natalie Coughlin
Olympic swimmer, Natalie Coughlin, is an athlete that has always embraced her body and its natural beauty. She has appeared in a number of provocative magazine shoots throughout her professional career, including a nude shoot for the Swimsuit Issue for the 2012 Sports Illustrated. However, she seemed most excited about landing the cover to ESPN’s 2015 Body Issue. She released the cover via her social media page stating, “Celebrating the bodies that allow us to be successful in our sport.” Rather than using her body as a way to provoke sexuality, she uses it as a means to express the beauty behind her athleticism. The cover photo shows Coughlin nude with a coy smile, but it’s the pictorial spread that really showcased her artful form in the water. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any sexier, Coughlin made a few comments in the editorial piece that had men drooling. Stating, “I can touch my toes with my elbows. I’m hyper flexible,” Coughlin may not have set out to be sexy, but she definitely accomplished it nonetheless.
12 Lolo Jones
Olympic athlete, Lori (Lolo) Jones has won multiple gold medals for her athleticism in track and field and bobsled. Specializing in 60 and 100 meter hurdles, it’s ironic that Jones has similarly overcome hurdles in her personal life. Her story of triumphs and failures garnered so much interest that ESPN Films decided to create a documentary about her life entitled, Lolo. It gave a detailed background on her upbringing, even touching on her roots in poverty and homelessness. Earning her way to the USA Olympic Track and Field team, Jones had the will to persevere that equaled major star power in the sports world. Jones posed nude for the 2009 Body Issue of ESPN magazine, and impressed readers with her ultra feminine look. While other athletes seem more like female bodybuilders than models, Jones had a super sultry look that made it hard to think of her purely as an Olympic gold medalist.
11 Gretchen Bleiler
Professional snowboarder, Gretchen Bleiler, isn’t often seen without all her winter gear when unleashing her athleticism on the slopes. Yet, she doesn’t seem to have any qualms about showcasing her perfectly toned body when she poses for magazine covers and spreads. From the cover of FHM in 2004 where she only wore body paint to a Jane magazine spread where she was only covered by a thin sheet, Bleiler isn’t the type to shy away from an ultra provocative photo spread. So, when she was asked to pose for the 2011 Body Issue of ESPN Magazine, it should come as no surprise that she accepted the position wholeheartedly. Bleiler had been asked by ESPN to pose for their Body Issue twice before, but she didn’t accept until she felt truly confident in herself and in the way the magazine would portray her. Third time must be the charm for Bleiler, since her Body Issue spread was something more than just a sneak peek at the gorgeous athlete. Showcasing six pack abs that would make any man jealous, Bleiler managed to pull off ultra feminine and super strong all-in-one glorious photo spread.
10 Ali Krieger
Alexandra (Ali) Krieger is an American soccer player that plays primarily as a defender of the U.S. women’s national soccer team. Krieger recently made headlines for making her long-awaited debut as a U.S. Olympian. This Washington Spirit defender has had a difficult road to the Olympics, since tearing her ACL during the Olympic qualifying tournament back in 2008 when she was an alternate. She made her way to the Olympics through a replacement status after replacing teammate, Crystal Dunn, and became the oldest debuting Olympian in all of the U.S. women’s soccer program history. Yet, when she posed nude for the Body Issue of ESPN magazine in 2015, she looked anything but old. Set in a desert backdrop, Krieger is seen poised with a golden soccer ball with full tan lines visible. There are some conflicting thoughts on whether or not tan lines are truly sexy, but in Krieger’s case the public has opted to make an exception.
9 Laird Hamilton And Gabrielle Reece
There aren’t many sports celebrities that have been able to make a successful run at marriage, much less two stellar athletes like Laird Hamilton and Gabrielle Reece. Laird Hamilton is renowned for his ingenuity in crossover board sports as an American big wave surfer, and Gabrielle Reece is one of the world’s most famous volleyball players of all time. Proving wrong all the naysayers, the couple posed together in the 2015 Body Issue for ESPN. At 51-years-old, Hamilton didn’t look the least bit rundown and instead he seemed to continue to be in the same shape of his heyday. The same can be said for Reece, but that should come as no surprise since she was able to parlay her volleyball fame into a life of modeling, acting, and broadcasting. With a waist that doesn’t appear sizeable by any means, Reece has remained trim and looking just as hot as in her volleyball days. Athletes aren’t always known for making their relationships last, but these two seem to have the mysteries unlocked for a hot and steamy marriage.
8 Maya Gabeira
While she may look like the ultimate California girl, Maya Gabeira is actually a Brazilian big wave surfer that has made a splash in more ways than one. Competing in surfing competitions throughout the globe, Gabeira has been awarded some of the highest accolades in her field. From winning the 2009 Best Female Action Sports Athlete at the ESPY Awards to being sponsored by both Red Bull and Lululemon, Gabeira has become much more than just a girl that could surf. In 2012, Gabeira posed for ESPN’s 2012 Body Issue completely nude. The photo was taken underwater as she held firmly to her surfboard, but readers focused on more than just the beautiful watery background in her spread. Her perfectly proportioned silhouette and stellar form just made the shot that much more appealing. In 2013, Gabeira nearly drowned to death in Nazaré, Portugal while setting out on a 50-foot wave. After intense therapy and multiple surgeries, Gabeira not only survived but continued to thrive in her sport; which only makes her even sexier.
7 Dallas Friday
Times have definitely changed since water skis were regarded as the utmost in excitement in water sports. Just as snowboarding revolutionized skiing, there are whole new advancements in water sports that have opened the door to adventure seekers that aren’t afraid to be adventurous on the water. Dallas Friday is more than just adventurous on the water, she is an athlete that is willing to push her body to the limits. As a female wakeboarder, she has won numerous gold medals and held prestigious titles throughout the world. In 2015, Friday shot a spread for the ESPN Body Issue that had her out on the water completely nude. Reminiscent of a daydream from a National Lampoon movie, Friday appeared confident and sexy without an ounce of regret. The editorial piece within the magazine, offered some great quotes that gave insight into the mind behind that beautiful body. Stating, “I grew into being really proud of [my body], knowing that that’s what has enabled me to do what I do,” Friday showed how she attributed her success to her remarkable body.
6 Ronda Rousey
Females that enter the realm of mixed martial arts aren’t usually known for their looks, but rather for their skill in the ring. Yet, there is something oddly erotic about a girl that knows how to fight, and it doesn’t hurt if they look a little like Ronda Rousey. At the height of her fame, Rousey could be seen on the pages of some of the most prestigious magazines and even dabbled in acting. Starring in the film adaptation of HBO’s hit television series, Entourage, Rousey played a fictionalized version of herself in a way that only heightened her fame. After the crippling defeat by Holly Holm at UFC 193 on November 14, 2015, the world began to see Rousey in a new light. She was no longer the seemingly bionic woman that had both beauty and brawns, and instead she was humbled in a way the world hadn’t seen before. In an effort to remember her during her glory years, let’s take a look back at her pictorial spread for the ESPN: 2012 The Body Issue. Posing in the nude with nothing but her pink fighting gloves strategically placed to cover her breasts, Ronda exuded mass sex appeal.
5 Vera Zvonareva
Russian tennis star, Vera Zvonareva, has competed in a number of world-renowned tennis competitions around the globe including the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Respected as a solo tennis player, as well as a doubles player, Zvonareva has had her fair share of run-ins at the Australian Open and Wimbledon. While her athleticism and will to persevere has been undeniable, sometimes her beauty has been obscured on the tennis court. Coming out from behind the ponytail and cap, Zvonareva let it all hang out when she posed nude for the 2011 Body Issue for ESPN magazine. Looking like something out of a James Bond film, Zvonareva showed what a Russian bombshell looks like in the buff. The editorial piece touched on her confidence in her body type, and she accredited her activity in sports to maintaining her fit shape throughout her life. While she isn’t the standard toothpick thin model the public is used to seeing in the pages of certain magazines, she has a sex appeal that comes from staying in shape and embracing one’s body type.
4 Hope Solo
It’s ironic that Hope Solo is one of the most revered female soccer goalkeepers in the one country that doesn’t hold her particular sport in very much regard. As an American soccer player, it’s interesting that the U.S. doesn’t hold soccer as popular of a sport than all the other countries in the world. Solo represents the U.S. women’s national soccer team, and has won multiple gold medals throughout her professional career. While her athletic skill and ability may not be fully appreciated here in America, her shoot for the 2011 Body Issue for ESPN was definitely appreciated by all who viewed it. Standing completing nude with only her hand and arm as coverage, the photo was shot in a profile pose that showed off Solo’s ultra toned abs and perfectly proportioned backside. Letting down her usually pinned up pair, her dark flowing locks and model-like bone structure were just a bonus in making the spread ultra steamy.
3 Aly Raisman
Aly Raisman has had quite an amazing career as an artistic gymnast, and has proudly represented America at a number of Olympic Games. From being named captain of the U.S. women’s team to winning numerous gold medals, Raisman has earned her spot of being one of the most decorated gymnasts as an American gymnast. While she may have been ultra focused in honing her skill as a gymnast, that didn’t mean she would turn down a chance at partaking in Dancing with the Stars in 2013. Although she didn’t take home the Mirror Ball Trophy, she did manage to further ingratiate herself towards all of the viewers of the show. Posing for the 2015 Body Issue for ESPN, Raisman appeared nude in an extremely compromising position on a pair of gymnast rings. In a profile silhouette that would make any man dream about the advantages of dating a gymnast, Raisman flaunted more than just her athletic ability.
2 Sylvia Fowles
In 2011, Sylvia Fowles was named the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year with the Chicago Sky as their center player. As a renowned female basketball player, Fowles has exceeded every expectation in her field and has quickly made a name for herself in the game of basketball. In her inaugural appearance in ESPN’s Body Issue, Fowles stripped down to pose completely nude in a picturesque desert setting. Quoted by ESPN, Fowles released a statement saying, “It’s not just about the baggy shorts.” Fowles proved that even an athletically toned body can still look ultra sexy, and it doesn’t help to have silky chocolate-toned skin to go along with her surprisingly feminine physique. While her body has the obvious build of an athlete, she has an almost model-like form that lends itself well to being photographed. As the perfect example of what a female athlete should look like, Fowles is able to walk the line between beauty icon and pro athlete with ease.
1 Venus Williams
Venus Williams is considered one of the most decorated and skillful female tennis player of all time, and has held some of the most prestigious titles in tennis throughout her professional career. Yet, it’s difficult to mention Venus without also mentioning her equally accomplished sister, Serena Williams. Since the two go toe-to-toe in regards to Grand Slam singles titles and achievements in the Open Era, it’s up to interpretation as to which sister is the more skilled player. The same can be said for their ESPN spreads, since Serena was chosen as the cover model for the 2009 ESPN Body Issue. While the cover focused on her infectious smile, Venus had a different focus when she posed for the 2014 Body Issue for ESPN. There were a variety of different poses to pick from, but it was her silhouette pose sans flowing fabric that was the major money shot. Her curvaceous derriere seemed almost inhuman in its sex appeal, and the same can be said about her phenomenal cheekbones (no pun intended).
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