It's been a heck of a year—especially in the sports world, where the addition of the PyeongChang Olympics and the FIFA Men's World Cup to the calendar brought even more opportunity for elation, excitement and the emergence of stars. The stories that captivated Sports Illustrated readers the most in 2018 range from tales of record-setting performances, first-time triumphs and exhilarating (and sometimes unbelieveable) moments; to consequential, investigative reports on sports crime, punishment and misconduct; to in-depth narratives about some of the most pivotal figures in sports. Here are the 25 most-read Sports Illustrated feature and longform stories of 2018, in no particular order.  

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A Play Call for the Ages and a (Backup) QB That Amazes: How the Eagles Won Super Bowl LII

How do you halt a dynasty and thwart a living legend? It wouldn’t be the Philly way if it came easy. So: pluck a GM and a coach from the unlikeliest places. Watch injuries ravage your roster, and drop in a discarded QB. Then risk it all and green-light the gutsiest call in title game history ... and reap the reward: a glorious, franchise-first Super Bowl win.By Greg Bishop and Ben Baskin

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Exclusive: Inside the Corrosive Workplace Culture of the Dallas Mavericks

More than a dozen current and ex-employees characterize the Mavs' hostile work environment—ranging from sexual harassment to domestic violence—as an “open secret.” Sports Illustrated details the allegations in a special investigation.By Jon Wertheim and Jessica Luther

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Belichick and Saban: The Stories Behind Football’s Most Powerful Friendship

A little more than 35 years ago, Bill Belichick was introduced to Nick Saban over dinner at the home of Belichick’s parents. How the two coaches—and their friendship—evolved as they conquered the highest levels of football. By Jenny Vrentas

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The Crane Kick Is Bogus: A Karate Kid Oral History

Nearly three dozen members of the cast and crew of the original 1984 "The Karate Kid" share behind-the-scenes moments and filming secrets of an all-time classic movie.By Alex Prewitt

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Exiled by the Cubs, Sammy Sosa Is Enjoying the Life He Wants You to See

Twenty years ago he and Mark McGwire juiced baseball with their home run chase—and while we view that era differently now, time has largely healed baseball's PED wounds. Sosa, though, has been mostly absent from the public eye and is persona non grata at Wrigley Field. Where have you gone, Slammin' Sammy? Let's start in Dubai... By Jason Buckland and Ben Reiter

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Fists of Fury

Fifty years after their protest in Mexico City, John Carlos and Tommie Smith have endured as symbols of dissent, even as their paths diverged.By Tim Layden

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The Dynasty That Never Was: Inside the Unraveling of the Seattle Seahawks

As they grew into Super Bowl contenders, the Seahawks—especially the Legion of Boom defense—prided themselves on a ruthless internal competitiveness that lifted everyone and was the foundation of an NFL championship. But some former and current Seattle players say a growing rift developed, based largely on the special treatment some felt was afforded quarterback Russell Wilson. Now the team they believed was set up for a long run of success has been torn up and rebuilt around Wilson. Did it have to go down like this? By Greg Bishop and Robert Klemko

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Out as Coach at Indiana, Tom Crean Embarked on the Ultimate Gap Year

What does a veteran coach do when he loses a job? If you’re the endlessly curious Tom Crean, you set out on a year-long journey to learn from the best minds in sports. By Jon Wertheim

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A College QB's Suicide. A Family's Search for Answers.

In the five months since Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski’s suicide, his family has tried to untangle the reasons he shot himself. During that harrowing journey they've honored their son and brother through a foundation, work in medicine, and by continuing to play his high-stakes position—while wrestling with frightening questions about mental health and the game they love. By Greg Bishop

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Ray Lewis, and the Bubble That Has Sheltered Him

As the longtime Ravens linebacker—inarguably one of the best football players in history—is inducted into the Hall of Fame, let’s take a moment to reflect on the media environment that the league and its teams have created to protect players from the uncomfortable questions it’s our job to ask. By Robert Klemko

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Immovables Feast: Wisconsin's Outstanding O-Line Is Built by Red Robin

The key to the Badgers' season isn't their third-year QB or their Heisman hopeful tailback. It's the earth-shattering offensive line, the five most talented (and best-fed) protectors in college football. By Andy Staples

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Inside Decision 3.0: LeBron James Follows in the Footsteps of Legends

Facing his third free-agency decision, LeBron James traveled on a new path and picked the Lakers. The Crossover takes you inside the process that led James to join an iconic franchise and follow in the footsteps of legends. By Lee Jenkins

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How Did We Let James Hardy Slip Through the Cracks?

When the holder of every Indiana receiving record—the 41st pick in the 2008 NFL draft—turned up dead in a Fort Wayne river, friends and family faced some tough questions. By Brian Burnsed

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The Reynas’ Story of Loss and Legacy

Claudio and Danielle Reyna experienced tragedy upon the death of their son, Jack, but his memory and legacy endure and are carried on in part by another son and U.S. youth national team standout, Giovanni. By Grant Wahl

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Prospect and Pariah

He's one of the best college pitchers, a first-round draft talent—and an admitted juvenile sex offender whose crime, if not for a legal glitch, may have stayed secret forever. Watching Luke Heimlich pitch stirs wonder and outrage—and questions about guilt, forgiveness and second chances. By S.L. Price

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How One Freak Injury Changed ESPN Anchor Rece Davis' View on College Sports

After his son suffered a near fatal injury during a baseball game, ESPN College GameDay host Rece Davis has a new perspective on the safety of college sports. By Jacob Feldman

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Exclusive: The Evidence That Persuaded U.S. Department of Justice to Investigate MLB Recruitment of Foreign Players

From dossiers detailing agent criminality to emails documenting shady dealings, the U.S. Department of Justice is deep into investigating MLB's foreign recruitment.By Jon Wertheim

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My Truth In Letters

A victim of Jerry Richardson’s workplace misconduct addresses those she holds responsible.

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Anatomy of a Blunder: Inside J.R. Smith's Devastating Game 1 Mistake

An elementary mistake on the grandest playground cost the Cavaliers Game 1 of the NBA Finals—and maybe more. J.R. Smith’s stunning blunder will live in postseason infamy, no matter how he explains it. By Ben Golliver

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Johnny Bench Is Already a Hall-of-Famer, But He's Looking For a New Distinction

Famed for his precocious achievements behind the plate five decades ago, the 70-year-old former leader of the Big Red Machine is now devoting himself to molding children—his own. By Jon Wertheim

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What Happened to the Houston Astros' Hacker?

SI Exclusive: As a rising Cardinals analyst, Chris Correa didn’t believe he was committing a crime when he hacked into the Astros’ internal database. Then he went to prison, where he changed his views on his actions and the criminal justice system. By Ben Reiter

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The Valley of Darkness

An unthinkable tragedy struck Humboldt when a bus crash killed 16 members of the Broncos junior hockey team. As the small city recovers, it doesn’t want to be defined by the crash; it wants to be defined by how its heartbroken community responds. By Greg Bishop

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The Great Wait Is Finally Over: After 13 Seasons, Alex Ovechkin Is a Stanley Cup Champion

Alex Ovechkin is finally more than the Great 8. Watch out, Washington (you too, Moscow): the party is just beginning. By Alex Prewitt

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The Untold Story of the Yankees' Stunning Rally in '78

The story you know: 40 years ago, the Yankees rallied from 14 games back to overtake the Red Sox. The one you don't: key to their revival was a New York newspaper strike that calmed the Bronx Zoo, brought the team's focus back to baseball—and heralded a change in American life. By Tom Verducci

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Why Nick Saban Turned to Tua Tagovailoa to Write a New Alabama Legend

To beat Georgia and tie Bear Bryant with his sixth national title, Nick Saban needed his best coaching job yet—and a true freshman QB savior. That's what made this 26–23 overtime win in Atlanta the sweetest championship yet for the architect of Alabama's dynasty. By Andy Staples