Los Angeles has no NFL team, and the Lakers missed the playoffs for just the sixth time in the franchise's history last season, but fans of two other sports teams in town will have plenty to cheer about.
The Los Angeles Kings, who have won two of the last three Stanley Cups, and the Dodgers are primed again to make championship runs. The two franchises are led by Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw and Kings forward Anze Kopitar, who are on this week's regional cover of Sports Illustrated, which previews the MLB postseason and upcoming NHL season.
"We had been planning on doing Lee Jenkins's Kershaw and Eric Nusbaum's Kopitar stories all along in this issue," Sports Illustrated managing editor Chris Stone said. "With the convergence of the two previews, we thought 'these guys play less than five miles apart and might find it pretty cool to be shot together.' These guys and teams belong to the same larger community, yet we think of them as being very separate. They shouldn't be thought of that way. Bottom line, we wanted to do something fun and different that the subjects found fun and different, which they did."
Also featured on the regional covers are St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie, Baltimore Orioles slugger Adam Jones and Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin.
"Once we got Kershaw and Kopitar, we thought there was a real opportunity to expand the idea to other cities where the two sports mean a lot—and where there would be a baseball team guaranteed to be playing beyond Wednesday. That's how we settled on St. Louis and the Beltway," Stone said.
Kershaw has won two Cy Young awards and four straight ERA titles, but it's the October glory that still eludes him. Jenkins writes that baseball is less craft than combat for Kershaw, who went 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA this season.
"I'm not a big thinker. The less thinking the better," quips Kershaw.
While he doesn't like to think, one thing he does care about is his work load. "If I don't go 200 innings, it's been a tough year," he says. Kershaw finished the 2014 campaign with 198.1 innings pitched.
Less than 10 minutes south from where Kershaw dominates, Kopitar and his Kings teammates are also focused on winning. Kopitar, who led Los Angeles with 29 goals and 41 assists last season, is center stage in that regard, using his 6-foot-3 inch, 235 pound frame to its full advantage. Kopitar has the ability to use his soft hands and supreme vision to put teammates in prime positions to score against defenses that dare to underestimate the Kings.
It wasn't always so smooth for the Kings. That losing mentality that existed years ago is now nowhere to be found.
"When I first got here, there wasn't much of a winning attitude, and we've definitely turned that around," Kopitar says to Eric Nusbaum. "It's not that we accepted losing my first couple of years. It's just things weren't clicking between us, and maybe the room was not as close as it is now. That makes a ton of difference on the ice."
For more on the upcoming NHL season and MLB playoffs, check out this week's Sports Illustrated (subscribe here). Also featured in this issue is Tim Layden's feature on Chicago Bears all-purpose back Matt Forte.