My favorite SI stories: Hugging Harold Reynolds

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• Who's Kidding Whom?By Bruce Newman, April 29, 1985

HHR's Take: One of the standout covers and stories of my youth. For a good four or five years I had three favorite athletes whose images hung on the walls of my bedroom; Don Mattingly, Joe Montana and Hulk Hogan. I'd imagine Hogan hung on many a wall for most of the 1980'. When SI decided not only to do an entire article about the wrestling business, but to splash a professional wrestler on its cover, it proved wrestling was legitimate. Maybe not a legitimate sport, but a legitimate business. I feel this SI issue marked a major change in the magazine; covering not only the mainstream sports but digging deeper into other athletic endeavors. (Fat Willard)

• Dodging a BulletBy Curry Kirkpatrick, May 29, 1989

HHR's Take: With one of the most indelible and lasting images in sports journalism as the backdrop, this SI cover story was the culmination of years of cheating within the University of Kentucky basketball program and the ultimate humiliation for one of the proudest sports legacies in America. Observers had long suspected UK of paying cash under the table to get top-flight recruits to Lexington, but no one ever had any proof -- that is, until an Emery World Freight employee reported a damaged envelope with $1,000 cash mailed from a UK assistant to a recruit's house. The NCAA investigation that followed found multiple other infractions including academic fraud, and landed the Wildcats on three years probation. The bright side: then-NY Knicks coach Rick Pitino was hired to rebuild the program, ushering in a golden era for UK basketball. (Rev. Shaw Moore)

• I'll Deal With It, By Magic Johnson, November 18, 1991

HHR's Take: I don't like the NBA. Never have. I love college basketball but, for a variety of reasons, I just can't stomach the pro game. So it's odd that I'm writing about an NBA story. Except it's much more than that. For Magic Johnson, already a larger-than-life character, to announce he had HIV made everyone sit up and take notice. Although America had known about HIV/AIDS for a few years, it was still something you didn't talk about except in hushed tones or as something that only happened to degenerate drug users and gay men. With his press conference and subsequent SI article -- his own story in his own words -- Johnson almost singlehandedly brought HIV out of the shadows and squarely into the spotlight. I was 16 years old when Magic's story came out and, after that, things changed just a bit. For the first time, the line between the beauty of sports and the ugliness of the real world started to get a little bit blurry. (Throw the Flag)

• Greetings From Jersey CityBy Rick Telander, November 23, 1992

HHR's Take: Undersized and over-achieving, Bobby Hurley's quest for perfection and desire to prove himself at every level were insatiable. The brightness of Bob Jr.'s collegiate career helped shed additional light on the growing case for sainthood that his father was making in run-down Jersey City, NJ. From those dank gyms in Hudson County to the hallowed courts of Tobacco Road, Bobby's success, for the brief time we were able to witness it, was mesmerizing. He was the orchestrator of some of the finest teams of the era, leading St. Anthony's HS to four parochial state championships, Duke to the Final Four four times, including back-to-back championships during that period and solidifying all six-feet of himself among the best college guards ever. (Ren McCormack)

• As Time Runs OutBy Gary Smith, January 11, 1993

HHR's Take:Jimmy Valvano may not have had the win totals of Bob Knight or the calm sideline demeanor of Coach K, but make no mistake about it, Jimmy V was one of the greatest coaches to pace the sidelines in college basketball. Remembered by most for his Cinderella story N.C. State championship team from 1983, no one can forget his moving speech at the 1993 ESPY awards. Helped to the stage by Coach K and Dick Vitale, Jimmy V. memorably urged us to never give up. Cancer would soon take him from us, but even in death he persevered, giving birth to one of the most well known cancer foundations in the world. This article was written shortly before that infamous speech and his impending death. It paints us a portrait of a man broken, but not defeated. Jimmy V was a consummate competitor who faced down and beat everything he ever faced, save cancer. In his story, though, we find inspiration and a desire to be better than ourselves. I've read a lot about Jimmy V, but nothing quite captures his raw essence as this article from Sports Illustrated. (Rusty)

• Paternity WardBy Grant Wahl and L. Jon Wertheim, May 04, 1998

HHR's Take: Fathering out-of-wedlock kids has become commonplace among athletes, many of whom seem oblivious to the legal, financial and emotional consequences The stories about Wilt Chamberlain sleeping with thousands of women during his heyday helped create an image of professional athletes as traveling man-whores. This cover story only confirmed that perception, proving that pro athletes are not only promiscuous, but surprisingly fertile as well. According to the story, former pro basketballer Shawn Kemp preposterously fathered seven children by six different women. Other notable sports stars on the out-of-wedlock rap sheet included Oscar de la Hoya, Larry Bird, Mark Messier, Patrick Ewing, and Pete Rose. (Rev. Shaw Moore)

• Glove AffairBy Tom Verducci, September 6, 1999

HHR's Take: This was the Sports Illustrated that featured the New York Mets on the cover with John Olerud, Robin Ventura, Rey Ordonez, and Edgardo Alfonzo and begged the question, "Are they the best infield of all time?" For Mets fans, this article signaled an official return to prominence for the Amazins', as they would go on to the World Series in 2000. Ordonez couldn't bat .300 in Williamsport, but he was a vacuum in the field -- making plays that made Ozzie Smith smile. Alfonzo, in his prime, helped create an amazing double play combination. Olerud was rejuvenated in New York after winning the batting crown in Toronto and then falling off. Always donning his fielding helmet, his big frame helped lockdown first base. Ventura was the final piece to the puzzle, making the quartet one for the record books. They are halfway there these days with Wright and Reyes, but still have some room to grow. (Cadillac Mescallade)

• A Rite Gone Terribly WrongBy Grant Wahl and L. Jon Wertheim, December 22, 2003

HHR's Take: With the growth of the internet has come the increased awareness and exposure of unsavory practice and horrors of high school sports-related hazing. Described in the article as "firmly entrenched in an American sports culture that values tradition, team bonding, leadership hierarchies and assertiveness," we often laugh at the antics of professional sports teams when multimillionaires parade around or are subjected to embarrassing ritualistic teasing. The incident highlighted in the article describes Long Island high school football players subjecting their peers to criminal and physically and emotionally distressing practices. Sadly, since the article, while awareness of the practices has been raised, so too has the continued disregard by teens in pushing the limits of "team bonding" through hazing. (Ariel)

• The Little School That Can't Be BeatBy Kelley King, August 23, 2004

HHR's Take: In a world and era where high school athletics has become a billion dollar racket with agents, recruiters, parents and the athletes themselves reflecting a parasitic desire to grab the quick buck, King's piece on De La Salle Catholic High School cuts right to the true nature of what most average weekend warriors remember about what was humbly rewarding about high school sports. With "deliberately unassuming" and outdated facilities, undersized players, and a Christian work ethic in the image of St. John the Baptist de La Salle, former Bill Walsh assistant, Bob Ladouceur was racking up a 151-game win streak at that time with a 49-7 average score on a 5-figure salary, and making the San Fran-area, 1,000-student all-boys school a national powerhouse. (Ren McCormack)

• A Death in the Baseball FamilyBy S.L. Price, September 24, 2007

HHR's Take: Aside from the gut-wrenching, super-emotional human drama -- which of course is vividly illustrated in this tribute to the late Mike Coolbaugh, a cup-of-coffee major leaguer who died on a baseball field while managing a minor-league team -- I loved how S.L. Price showed Coolbaugh's absolute devotion to an often-unforgiving game. Baseball is my favorite sport, and I used to cover the minors as a newspaper reporter. I understand how the game can test players' souls, and the fact that Coolbaugh struggled so hard to get where he was, only to be killed by a line drive on the field makes his story all the more tragic -- and worth reading. (Cubbie Chaser)