There’s something special about sports articles. To be a good one, the reporter has to be involved in the lives of the athletes. These authors in the following magazine articles went above and beyond that expectation and wrote some of the best articles of all time.
1. Crime and Punishment by Gary Smith
By far my favorite piece of sports writing of all time. Richie Parker was a high school basketball player who found his dreams of being a college basketball player shattered when one moment beneath the school stairwells changed everything. The interesting thing about this story is how everything affects everything. It didn’t just change Richie’s life, it changed the lives of journalists, principals, coaches, and other authority figures. It’s written in such a flawless way and you get wrapped up in the lives of every character.
2. Life goes on for Lance Armstrong by Rick Reilly
This story is heartbreaking and personal. Reilly went above and beyond the call of duty by following Lance Armstrong around and also defending him against steroid allegations for years. The story uncovers a lot of information and you can’t help but sympathize with Rick Reilly.
3. The Final Walk-Off by J.R. Moehringer
Derek Jeter is one of the best baseball players my generation has seen. I love how in-depth and thoughtful this story really is. It’s a terribly long article but it’s worth the read. I’ve never been a big fan of Jeter as a person but this story was able to shed a light on how awesome the baseball player actually is.
4. In The Nick of Time by Rick Bragg
Despite the totally awful pun, the title and the article gives us serious insight on how much the state of Alabama needed Nick Saban. It’s crazy to me how obsessed these fans are. But football is really the big thing that gets people together in the state. Saban was able to satisfy the people of Alabama by his arrival. It’s a fascinating story filled with many quotations and personal stories.
5. The Left Arm of God by Tom Verducci
I love the story of the legendary pitcher Sandy Koufax. So naturally, this story really appealed to me. In my humble opinion, the introduction to this story is by far one of the best I’ve ever read. It paints such a vivid picture for you of a man who’s no longer a star, he’s just like an ordinary guy who doesn’t get much attention.
6. Heroes For Sale by Brin-Jonathan Butler
This is a lovely profile of a former Cuban boxer who proved that money isn’t the most important thing in life. This Cuban boxer, Teófilo Stevenson, once said, “What is a million dollars compared to the love of eight million people?” Stevenson was one of the few boxers who was able to stand a chance against Ali. The profile does a great job at connecting the boxer with the number one most famous Cuban athlete Yasiel Puig and both of them with Cuba in general.
7. Federer As Religious Experience by David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace is one of the best authors I’ve ever read. He doesn’t just scratch the surface of what he writes about, he digs in as deep as he can possibly get. He’s known more for his essay on lobster and his classically long book, “Infinite Jest.” Beyond that, he was also an amazing sportswriter. More specifically, he was a beautiful writer about tennis. He was a serious tennis player growing up and it’s clear he knows a lot about this sport that he loves. This essay provides us with a perspective about Federer that we’ve never looked at before.
8. Higher Education by Gary Smith
Gary Smith tells the story of a black basketball coach teaching in Ohio’s Amish country. This story goes beyond basketball and creates empathy within the readers. It also is the rare type of story that causes us to actually put ourselves in the characters shoes. Just read how perfect this sentence right here is, “They knew in their bones how small his wrath was, held up against his love.” It’s simple yet beautiful and compelling.
9. Special Team by Rick Reilly
No story could be more heartwarming as this one. Rick Reilly tells a story about Chy Johnson, a girl from the small town of Queen Creek Arizona who was being bullied at school. This quote explains it all, “Chy’s brain works at only a third-grade level because of a genetic birth defect, but she knew enough to feel hate.” Her mom noticed how sad her daughter seemed to be so she contacted the starting quarterback on the school’s football team, he and the other football players began a beautiful friendship that is extremely touching.
10. Mutant by Luke Dittrich
Usain Bolt is the fastest man on the planet. This profile of him is the best I’ve read. It goes deeper into what motivates this athlete and it gets personal – maybe too personal but it’s still insanely detailed. This is a must read for all of you that have heard his name but don’t know his story.