If you're of a certain age, you probably recall the iconic sports posters of the John and Tock Costacos, better known as the Costacos Brothers. The scenes they captured—Michael Jordan dunking the moon, Roger Clemens holding a rocket, Troy Aikman dressed as a cowboy—always managed to present superstar athletes in a unique way.
As Walls of Fame: The Unforgettable Sports Posters of the Costacos Brothers—a highly entertaining new coffee table collection of the posters and their fascinating backstories—makes clear, some of their prints aged better than others. Naturally, considering the antiquated cultural standards of the late 80s and early 90s, a few posters wouldn't fly today: One print, for instance, features Packers cornerback Mark Lee, an African American, in a Confederate Army jacket with the accompanying tagline "GENERAL LEE." Yikes. ("When we ask ourselves whether we would shoot this poster today, the answer is a big, fat no," the Costacos acknowledge in Walls of Fame.)
But most Costacos creations only feel outdated for their distinctly retro vibe, which, if we're being honest, somehow makes them even more endearing to the modern eye. Here's a look at a few of our favorites.
Lawrence Taylor (1986)
The laser CGI is a great touch. Modern sports posters need more CGI. Also, according to Walls of Fame, after the shoot L.T. bet his agent $100 he could throw a football into the upper deck at Giants Stadium. Naturally, the linebacker's heave easily reached the third deck.
Jim McMahon & Walter Payton (1987)
Whoever thought these suits would stand the test of time should be busted. A fun Walter Payton anecdote from the book: After a camera snafu, the Costacos had to delay the shoot by 30 minutes. When Payton showed up on time and learned he had to wait 30 extra minutes, he declared he was leaving and walked out of the room, sending the brothers into a panic—until he came back in and said he was messing around. Sweetness!
Brian Bosworth (1987)
According to Walls of Fame, this set was the most expensive the Costacos Brothers ever created. Another fun fact from the book about this take on the Wizard of Oz: The Costacos' in-house artist wore the Cowardly Lion costume, while Seattle radio personalities Gary Crowe and Mike West served as the Scarecrow and Tin Man. The Bozkins in the lower left corner were children of the Costacos' friends. And Dorothy? That's Ava Fabian, who was Playboy's Playmate of the Month for August 1986.
Jose Canseco & Mark McGwire (1988)
In Walls of Fame, the Costacos detail the process of outfitting the two sluggers for their Blues Brothers-themed shoot. I enjoyed this tidbit: "We rented the suits according to Jose and Mark's measurements and had a scare when Jose tried on his pants and they only came halfway down his shins—luckily, there was enough extra material to take the hem down to a normal length. The only thing hard to find were shoes like those worn by John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd in the movie. (We finally found them, of all places, at Sears.)"
This is one of the brothers' best-selling prints, and it's not hard to see why. Canseco should have used it as the cover for Juiced.
Karl Malone (1988)
A modern version of this print would almost certainly carry the tagline "free two-day shipping."
Michael Jordan (1990)
LeBron might be challenging MJ's G.O.A.T. status on the court, but this Costacos print remains unmatched.
David Stern (1993)
This is the image I had in my head while reading Chris Ballard's excellent story about Stern's second act.