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ESPN The Magazine brings back its annual NEXT issue, highlighting the latest crop of athletes who will be the face of sports in the near future. ESPN senior writer Kevin Van Valkenburg’s cover story on the NFL draft’s most disruptive force of nature, Nick Bosa, reveals how painful it was for him to sit out last year at Ohio State—and how hungry he is to start sacking again. Bosa graces the cover of the issue, which is on newsstands Friday.
In “Beyond Measure,” senior writer Tim Keown looks at Kyler Murray’s sizable expectations, including: going No.1 in the draft, becoming a franchise player, and completely blowing up decades of doctrine about short quarterbacks. Also featured in NEXT: Zion Williamson’s dunks inspire awe and his all-around game will make him millions. But to understand his legend, senior writer Mina Kimes goes back to the place where it all started.
“A Higher Calling,” by espnW’s Katie Barnes, looks at Fran Belibi, who has captured the imagination of basketball fans with her astounding dunks. But the Stanford-bound star dreams of a different destiny. Plus: inside Your Call Football, a league where football fans download an app, choose one of three coach-selected plays, and then real live players in Florida enact the plays voted most popular by fans. What can it tell us about the future of football?
Also in this issue:
Dear Future Me
Top up-and-coming athletes – like Morgan Hurd, the best American gymnast not named Simone Biles, and Jack Hughes, the presumptive No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL draft – write letters to their future retired selves pondering their soon-to-be legendary careers. As told to Hallie Grossman, Chris Peters and Alyssa Roenigk
In today’s analytics-driven game, who needs a skipper anyway? A team that wants to get the most out of its players, that’s who. By Peter Keating
The Steelers’ Dividing Line
The departures of Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown this offseason expose a conflict in Pittsburgh that runs much deeper than money. By Howard Bryant
Scouttake: Protect That Zero
In his past three fights, undefeated WBO welterweight champ Terence Crawford has mowed through three unbeaten colleagues. Next up: He hopes to hand former WBA champ Amir Khan his fifth loss (33–4, 20 KOs). A veteran trainer assesses Crawford’s skill set, then Crawford does some assessing of his own. By Steve Kim and Anthony Olivieri
The Walk-In: Myles Turner
Center Myles Turner doesn’t just pace Indiana’s playoff hopes. We look into how the Pacers big man sets their fashion pace too. By Stacey Pressman
How the West Will Be Lost
Fans of the Eastern Conference, take heart! We reveal the fatal flaw for each Western Conference playoff team. You’re welcome, Giannis. By Kirk Goldsberry
Tiny Oral History: Bryce Saver
It was a looong wait for 8-year-old Phillies fan Tyler Barnett (and the rest of us, too). And when Bryce Harper’s massive free agent deal finally was inked, Barnett’s disbelieving but jubilant reaction as he hopped off his New Jersey school bus commandeered all of our devices—including Bryce Harper’s. By Anna Katherine Clemmons
The early favorite to win the Kentucky Derby is a Santa Anita-based 3-year-old named Game Winner. The colt has won three Grade 1 races and is trained by Bob Baffert, who previously trained 2015 and 2018 Triple Crown winners American Pharoah and Justify. The Mag goes inside the barn—amid a tragic spate of horse deaths at the track—to find out what life is like for a stoic contender with a lot of buzz around him heading into the Derby. By Anna Peele
A Mat of Their Own
Girls high school wrestling is on the rise. In a photo essay, The Mag captured the scene in North Carolina to pin down the reasons. By Rachel Jessen