ESPN Finally Embraces Pics of Athletes "All Nude"

Idea is drawing comparisons to Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Issue

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    NEWSLETTERS

    ESPN The Magazine
    Readers of ESPN The Magazine got some "Body Pages" in 2004 when Canada's Aleisha Cline skied in the buff.

    Come October 19th, ESPN the Magazine will be showing you a lot more of your favorite athletes. That's not some PR come on for a renewed focus on in-depth reporting, it's a fact. That's when the magazine is going to unveil its "Body Issue," which will feature athletes posing in the buff.

    This isn't a particularly new idea. Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury were proposing this idea more than 10 years ago.

    As the duo suggested, the issue will be tastefully done. The magazine is asking pro, amateur and Olympic athletes to pose, but any of naughty bits will be covered with arms, legs or sporting equipment.

    "Disney would have a problem if I turned it into a 1970s porn magazine for that issue," editor-in-chief Gary Belsky told USA Today. "But we're not doing that at all. This is going to be about sports. And sports is about bodies."

    Sports is about a wide range of bodies, but it's a pretty safe guess that it's more likely we'll be seeing Natalie Gulbis and not John Daly spread across two pages holding nothing but their putter. And thank heavens for that! The athletes chosen for the issue are going to be ones that people want to see posing nude, as that creates the circulation growth that the magazine can use to sell more ads and make more money.

    There's nothing wrong with that, as ESPN the Magazine's competitors at Sports Illustrated would be quick to tell you. Their swimsuit issue is an annual event that generates 8-9% of their revenue, according to an SI spokesman, while reaching 66 million adults. ESPN is quick to deny any comparison, stressing that their issue is about sports while SI is relevant to body-painting fans.

    To prove that point, they're planning on following an athlete into the operating room for surgery to stress what happens to the body as part of sports. Nothing like a step-by-step guide to the removal of a tendon to cleanse the palate after a few pages of artful nudity.

    The whole "we're all about the sports" pose would be easier to believe if they hadn't recently had an article about WNBA star Candace Parker that went out of its way to discuss her cup size. The issue is what it is, and there's no reason to come up with high-minded ways of saying that it isn't.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.