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Sports Illustrated

SI's most regrettable covers, from weird to offensive to worst ever

Sports Illustrated has produced 3,069 covers over the last 60 years. Many of them are keepers, perhaps even iconic, and you can check out some of our favorites here. We're proud of that work over the last six decades.

Then there are some covers we're not so proud of at all. In fact, we'd probably take them back if we could, but in the spirit of transparency, we've instead presented them here for your amusement. Here's a key to help you keep track of the categories:

 
Politically incorrect
 
Why? (We don't know.)
 
Oops (Our biggest screw-ups.)
 
Animals
 
Generally weak topics

 

 
POLITICALLY INCORRECT
  •  
    Charles Barkley (2002)
    Sir Charles in the context of slavery -- what could go wrong?
     
     

  •  
    Danny Lopez (1979)
    Clearly the Redskins name debate was a non-issue.
     
     

  •  
    Joe Gilliam (1974)
    Pittsburgh's black quarterback -- not the NFL's first or only.
     

  •  
    Kill the umps (1998)
    Because "slash the umps' tires" was playing it too safe?
     

  •  
    Lee Trevino (1969)
    Lee Trevino as Pancho Villa. But why? Nobody knows the answer.
     
     

 

WHY?
  •  
    DEION SANDERS (1989)
    Feel free to bring this cover to your next 80's party.
     

  •  
    MCGWIRE AND SOSA (1998)
    This cover has everything (except foresight).
     
     

  •  
    Steinbrenner (1993)
    On a horse. Dressed as Napoleon. Not photoshopped.
     
     

  •  
    Dennis Rodman (1995)
    Biggest regret: Rodman's shorts weren't shorter.
     
     

  •  
    Mike Ditka (1998)
    He calls his time with the Saints his "three worst years" ever.
     

  •  
    Shirley MacLaine (1964)
    Nothing about this cover makes much sense.
     
     

  •  
    Steve McQueen (1971)
    This is admittedly pretty badass, but again -- why?
     

  •  
    BOB HOPE (1963)
    Hope looks like he's not sure about this cover, either.
     
     

OOPS
  •  
    Michael Jordan (1994)
    This cover made MJ never speak to us again. Oops, indeed.
     
     

  •  
    NL CENTRAL (2000)
     

  •  
    Should we still love this game? (1999)
    Reports of the NBA's death are greatly exaggerated.
     

  •  
    Wood bats are doomed (1989)
    It's been 25 years...but sleep with one eye open, wood bats.
     

  •  
    Cubs will win the World Series (2004)
    Um, never mind about the Cubs winning the World Series.
     

  •  
    Cubs will win the World Series (2008)
    Um, never mind about the Cubs winning the World Series, again.
     

  •  
    TONY MANDARICH (1989)
    To be fair, we did say best offensive line prospect.
     
     

  •  
    DAVID DUVAL (1999)
    Okay, so this one might have been a stretch.
     

  •  
    Dennis Miller (2000)
    Not credited with saving MNF.
     
     

  •  
    Can NFL be saved? (1993)
    A $10 billion damsel in distress.
     

  •  
    Mets (1999)
    Best ever seemed a little short-sighted.
     

  •  
    SEBASTIAN TELFAIR (2004)
    His career averages: 7.4 points, 3.5 assists.
     

  •  
    Doug Flutie (1985)
    Q: Can Doug Flutie save the USFL? A: Nope. 
     
     

  •  
    Death of TV Sports (1986)
    Imminent death narrowly avoided.
     

  •  
    Lance Armstrong (2006)
    Just one of 10 Armstrong covers we now regret.
     

 

ANIMALS/CREATURES
  •  
    Animal Moods (1957)
     
     

  •  
    War on Bears (1969)
     
     

  •  
    Big Itch (1975)
     
     

  •  
    Elephant Seals (1958)
     
     

  •  
    Everglades birds (1956)
     
     

  •  
    Dachshunds (1955)
     
     

 

GENERALLY WEAK TOPICS
  •  
    Nature walks (1957)
     

  •  
    Night driving (1961)
     

  •  
    Yachting etiquette (1963)
     

 

OUR MOST UNFORTUNATE COVER?

We won't call this 1999 cover the worst ever, because it's not quite as memorable as some of the others on this list. But it sits at the comical intersection of being terribly wrong (Tim Couch did not lead the Browns to greatness; Akili Smith was a bust for the Bengals), having a weird creature on the cover and being generally strange.

Have a better pick for the most unfortunate SI cover? Tweet it to us at @SINow.

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