It's the most wonderful time of the year. No, not Christmas, though it sure feels like it. It's that time again when we start to get teasers about which athletes plan to bare it all in ESPN Magazine's annual Body Issue.
Over the years we've seen baseball player Prince Fielder, tennis phenoms Venus and Serena Williams, gymnast Alicia Quinn (formerly Sacramone), and UFC fighter Ronda Rousey. This year's lineup is chock full of amazing humans with bodies that do amazing things, as usual.
One of 2017's cover stars is Chicago Cubs second baseman Javier Baez who is showing off the tattoo on his shoulder that commemorates his World Series victory with the Cubs last year — the first time the team had won in 108 years.
Another is Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Oh, and NBA All-Star and Boston Celtics player Isaiah Thomas.
Other athletes to make an appearance include Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz and his wife, Julie Ertz, of the U.S. women's soccer team, tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, and 2016 WNBA MVP and Los Angeles Sparks player Nneka Ogwumike. We'll also see U.S. women's hockey teammates Brianna Decker, Kacey Bellamy, Meghan Duggan, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, Monique Lamoureux-Morando and Alex Rigsby of the U.S. women's hockey team (you can read the full lineup at ESPN).
One preview photo that's making waves shows NHL players and San Jose Sharks teammates Brent Burns and Joe Thornton in a naked face-off.
Also pretty great is this behind-the-scenes preview video featuring New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (and you can finally peep some of the women athletes' photo shoots!).
The thing about the Body Issue that sets it apart from typical "hot people naked" fare (looking at you, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition) is that it's not objectifying in the way so much media is. Sure, the photos are pretty to look at, but they're so much more than that. They're a celebration of what these bodies can do, and they highlight a diverse array of images that showcase what it means to be an athlete.
I'll never forget the photos of Prince Fielder from 2014's cover, which had a major league baseball player showing strength and power, but who didn't look like a chiseled Greek statue. They're still some of our favorite images.
Michelle Carter, Olympic shot put thrower, also looked amazing in her photos a few years ago. The issue has shown athletes who are short, tall, thick, and thin. They've showcased Paralympic athletes, too. At its core, the Body Issue is more body positive than many other images of objectified bodies that we're inundated with on a regular basis (which isn't to say it's perfect, of course). Not only that, the cover stars open up in intimate and revealing interviews. ESPN Magazine’s 2017 Body Issue hits newsstands on July 7.
Though let's be real: the most amazing naked athlete photo we're likely to see ever ever ever is Serena Williams' pregnant Vanity Fair cover. All hail the queen.
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