14 times Sports Illustrated proclaimed a high school athlete the next big thing on the cover
1966: Rick Mount
Sports Illustrated looked at Rick Mount, a high school basketball player from small-town Lebanon, Ind., and declared him ready for big things, dubbing him the “brightest star.” The first high school athlete to make it onto the cover of the magazine, Mount went on to play at Purdue before a brief pro career.
1970: Tom McMillen
In 1970, Pennsylvania high schooler Tom McMillen was one of the nation’s most highly sought high school recruits—a near seven-footer with aspirations of becoming a doctor. He would later go on to star at Maryland, become a Rhodes Scholar, play in the NBA for 11 seasons and serve in the U.S. Congress, representing Maryland for four terms.
1971: Mike Peterson
Kansas kid Mike Peterson starred at baseball, football and basketball in high school. He went on to briefly play in an independent baseball league after attending Kansas State Teachers College.
1974: Bruce Hardy
Another All-American, all-around athlete, Bruce Hardy hailed from Murray, Utah, where he played basketball, football and baseball while excelling in the classroom. He decided to play football at Arizona State and proceeded to the NFL, where he spent more than a decade with the Dolphins.
1981: Bobby Carpenter
SI anointed Bay Stater Bobby Carpenter the best hockey prospect the U.S. had ever produced. The center was drafted by the Washington Capitals and went on to have a lengthy NHL career spanning nearly two decades, winning a Stanley Cup with the Devils in 1995.
1986: Kristie Phillips
For the first time, Sports Illustrated featured a female high school athlete on its cover, 14-year-old gymnast Kristie Phillips. The two-time national junior champion moved up to the senior ranks in 1987 and was a near sure bet to compete in the ’88 Seoul Olympics. However, injuries and a growth spurt derailed her opes and she did not make the U.S. team. She went on to LSU on a cheerleading scholarship.
1989: Jon Peters
When Jon Peters won a record 51 straight games as a high school pitcher, Sports Illustrated highlighted the 18-year-old from Brenham, Texas. He accepted a scholarship to Texas A&M but four arm surgeries before the age of 21 ended his baseball career.
1995: Kevin Garnett
Kevin Garnett made his first appearance on the cover of SI having recently graduated from Farragut Academy in Chicago. It would not be his last. At the time, Garnett had just turned 19 and was a lock to be picked high in the NBA Draft. He later was named NBA MVP in Minnesota, won a title in Boston and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
2002: LeBron James
In 2002, LeBron James was a high school phenom at St. Vincent-St. Mary High in Akron, Ohio. He would be selected with the first pick in the NBA draft right out of high school by his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003 and, well, you know the rest...
2004: Sebastian Telfair
Sebastian Telfair would not have quite the same NBA success as the last high school basketball player to grace the cover of the magazine, but he was still a huge high school superstar as a teenager in New York City. He jumped straight to the NBA, where he played for 10 seasons as a journeyman point guard.
2009: Bryce Harper
At 16, Bryce Harper was a super-prospect better than A-Rod or Ken Griffey Jr. at the same age. He entered the big leagues three years later, capping off his first season with Rookie of the Year honors, Ten seasons into his MLB career, he had been named an All-Star six times and league MVP twice.
2012: Jabari Parker
Chicago high school star Jabari Parker gets best “since LeBron" treatment on the cover. He went on to star as a one-and-done at Duke and was the second pick of the 2014 draft, beginning his NBA career with the Bucks. Since a knee injury in early 2017, he has only started 40 games, bouncing through six teams.
2017: Hunter Greene
Hard-throwing Hunter Greene landed on SI’s cover a month before being drafted with the second overall pick by the Cincinnati Reds. As a senior at Notre Dame High in Sherman Oaks, Calif., Greene’s fastball reached up 102 mph. Greene represented the Reds at the MLB All-Star Futures Game in 2018 but had his career slightly derailed after having undergone Tommy John surgery shortly thereafter.
2019: Emoni Bates
Not yet old enough to drive, Emoni Bates steered Ypsilanti High to a Michigan state title as a freshman. The next season the 6' 9" forward landed on SI’s cover. Emoni’s father agreed to the shoot figuring that national attention was coming and his son should learn to deal with it. Emoni had his own motivation: LeBron James had first appeared on the cover as a high school junior and Emoni would get there faster. Looks like his dad was right: Emoni won Gatorade national player of the year honors as a sophomore. Heading into his senior year, he reclassified, graduated early and enrolled at Memphis as the presumptive No. 1 pick of the 2023 NBA draft.