SPORTS ILLUSTRATED publishes no more important story than the announcement of the Sportsman of the Year. Although in itself not a news story, it does, I think it's fair to say, make news. In the broadest sense, focusing upon the performance and bearing of an individual, it is example and endorsement of the highest standards which sport both demands and creates.
This is an article from the Jan. 5, 1959 issue
It becomes a judgment by SPORTS ILLUSTRATED of these standards and so a standard by which to judge SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. For here we are evaluating quality of effort and manner of striving. In doing that, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED must most plainly reflect its own philosophy.
This philosophy firmly holds that sport brings out the best in people, in both quality and manner. While this is true of many human endeavors, from business to war, few endeavors can claim to produce a higher proportion of good guys to bad guys or simply of good to bad; and "sportsmanlike" surely stands for an ideal quite different from "businesslike" or "warlike."
In any year a choice of the Sportsman is difficult. In fact, it's almost impossible. Take, for example, those named in this issue as contenders. Or the many others readers have previously nominated.
Any year SPORTS ILLUSTRATED might well have had a different Sportsman. But this year it could not have had a better. For he represents an attitude toward life and self that reaches far beyond the playing field into American character.
It is an attitude which SPORTS ILLUSTRATED respects in Rafer Johnson, in sport and in America.