Sports Illustrated cover jinx
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The Sports Illustrated cover jinx is an urban legend that states that individuals or teams who appear on the cover of the Sports Illustrated magazine will subsequently be jinxed (experience bad luck).
While the list of "examples" of the jinx may be extensive, an individual record of 50 cover appearances by Michael Jordan did not hinder his success. Similarly, Vince Young also overcame the Sports Illustrated jinx by appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated twice during Texas' National Championship season;
Emmitt Smith appeared on the cover the same week the Dallas Cowboys won Super Bowl XXVIII. In the America's Game documentary, Smith recalled that he adamantly wanted off the cover for fear of the jinx. Regardless, the Cowboys went on to win their second consecutive title of the 1990s, and fourth in team history. Tony Dorsett appeared on the cover under the title of "Heading for the Heisman" in 1976 and indeed won the Heisman Trophy that year. Andrew McCutchen was featured on a September 2013 cover, during a season in which he later won the National League MVP Award and led the Pittsburgh Pirates to their first playoff berth in twenty years. The 2013 Seattle Seahawks appeared on a September 2013 cover in which the magazine predicted a Super Bowl XLVIII win for the team; indeed, the Seahawks won the Super Bowl the following February. The cover of the June 30, 2014 issue predicted that the Houston Astros would win the 2017 World Series; not only did the Astros win the World Series in 2017, but the MVP of that series was George Springer, who was featured on said cover. Stephen Curry was featured on two consecutive May 2015 covers and led the Golden State Warriors to their first NBA title in forty years. Kyrie Irving was featured on the June 6, 2016 cover and led the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first NBA title in franchise history. Usain Bolt was featured on the July 18, 2016 cover promoting his quest as the fastest human ever and won gold in the 100, 200, and 4x100 meter relay at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The Chicago Cubs appeared on the October 10, 2016 cover in which the magazine predicted a 2016 World Series win for the team; indeed, the Cubs won the World Series. Lamar Jackson appeared on the September 26, 2016 issue and later won the Heisman Trophy that year.
A common explanation for the perceived effect is that athletes are generally featured on the cover after an exceptionally good performance, which might be an outlier compared to their usual level of performance. Therefore, their future performance is likely to display regression toward the mean and be less impressive by comparison. This decline in performance would then be misperceived as being related to, or even possibly caused by, the appearance on the magazine cover.
Most athletes that suffered the jinx most likely suffered because of an injury to their body, or some other bad luck following their appearance. One prime candidate for this explanation is Eddie Mathews who suffered a broken hand while the team's nine game winning streak came to a close following the cover. In this case, the odds are that a player will suffer an injury while playing any given sport with injuries a given in a physical contact sport such American football or baseball which is what Mathews played. Even injuries in individual sports such as skiing can fall under this explanation as it is common to make a bad move in this sport and get caught up in a massive mistake of the athlete's own doing which results in injury. Finally, winning and losing streaks come to a close in all sports and this includes Milwaukee's 9 game winning streak in 1954. This makes the 1972 Miami Dolphins perfect season, 2007 New England Patriots perfect regular season, and the 2008 Detroit Lions winless season all the more remarkable.
- August 16, 1954: Milwaukee Braves third baseman Eddie Mathews became the first person to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The Braves would have a nine-game winning streak snapped, and a broken hand later caused Mathews to miss seven games.
- January 31, 1955: Skier Jill Kinmont suffered a near-fatal crash at Alta, Utah the same week that she appeared on the cover, and was left paralyzed from the chest down.
- March 14, 1955: University of Colorado skier Wallace "Buddy" Werner finished eleventh in the men's downhill at the 1956 Winter Olympics. In December 1959, just two months before the 1960 Winter Olympics, Werner sustained a broken leg. (see January 28, 1964).
- May 28, 1956: Indy 500 winner Bob Sweikert was featured on the cover. Less than three weeks later he died in a sprint car crash.
- February 18, 1957: Basketball player Jim Krebs was killed by a falling tree during a storm in 1965 at age 29.
- May 27, 1957: Race driver Jimmy Bryan, who would win the Indianapolis 500 in 1958, was killed in a race crash in Langhorne Speedway in 1960 at age 34.
- November 18, 1957: Oklahoma Sooner Clendon Thomas appeared on the cover, along with others on the Sooner sideline, with the headline "Why Oklahoma is Unbeatable." The next game of that season Oklahoma lost to Notre Dame, ending their NCAA Division I record 47-game winning streak.
- May 26, 1958: Race car driver Pat O'Connor appeared on the cover. He died four days later on the first lap of the Indianapolis 500.
- March 23, 1959: Prince Aly Khan, featured in a cover story on his race horses, died just over a year later of injuries sustained in a car crash at age 48.
- February 15, 1960: After gracing the cover of the Winter Olympics preview issue, Soviet speed skater Gennady Voronin was hampered by injury and finished out of the medals at Squaw Valley. Troubles mounted after he also missed the 1964 games due to injury, as Voronin began to abuse alcohol. Unable to deal with the success of his wife, fellow speed skater and four-time world champion Inga Artamonova, Voronin was convicted of stabbing her to death in 1966 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
- March 28, 1960: For a story on wet fly fishing, the cover featured an array of ten images They included a photo of the fly-tying pioneer James E. Leisenring (1878–1951) and sketches by artist Anthony Ravielli depicting world flycasting champion Johnny Dieckman (at upper right on the cover) and Vernon S. "Pete" Hidy (on the bottom row of the cover) Less than two years later, the 35-year-old Dieckman was one of 87 passengers who perished in the crash of American Airlines Flight 1.
- October 31, 1960: Formula One world champion Jack Brabham appears on the cover. For the following season, Brabham found himself outclassed by a newer generation of cars, as well retiring from a number of races.
- December 26, 1960: President-elect John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy are shown sailing off Cape Cod. The president would be assassinated less than three years later.
- February 13, 1961: 16-year-old Laurence Owen, the 1961 U.S. National and North American Figure Skating Champion appeared on the cover as "America's Most Exciting Girl Skater". On February 15, she and the rest of the U.S. figure skating team were killed in a plane crash near Brussels, Belgium while en route to the World Figure Skating Championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia.
- May 29, 1961: Johnny Boyd appears uncredited driving in preparation for the Indianapolis 500, he retired during the race with clutch problems.
- March 26, 1962: Less than 8 months after appearing on the cover, Mexican race driver Ricardo Rodriguez was killed at age 20 in a crash during the first day of practice for the 1962 Mexican Grand Prix.
- March 18, 1963: On the Final Four preview cover, Cincinnati Bearcats guard Larry Shingleton was shown cutting down the nets following his team's second straight NCAA championship in 1962. In the 1963 championship game on March 23, Shingleton missed a free throw with 12 seconds left that would have given Cincinnati a three-point lead and all but clinched another title. Instead, Loyola (Chicago) tied the game in regulation and won it in overtime.
- June 17, 1963: This U.S. Open preview issue featured defending champion Jack Nicklaus on the cover. He would shoot rounds of 76 and 77, missing the cut by a stroke.
- July 8, 1963: World champion fisherman Jon Tarantino, featured in a cover story on fly casting, was shot to death 10 years later, on 11 June 1973, in a robbery at his family's San Francisco fish and poultry market.
- November 25, 1963: Chicago Bears running back Willie Galimore was killed in a car crash at age 29 along with 28-year-old teammate Bo Farrington on July 27, 1964.
- January 28, 1964: The Winter Olympics preview issue marked the second cover appearance for skier Wallace "Buddy" Werner (see March 14, 1955). He finished out of the medals at the 1964 games, and a far worse fate befell him two months later when he was killed in an avalanche near St. Moritz in the Swiss Alps at age 28.
- November 23, 1964: A year to the day after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the cover featured a rendering of his personal ski instructor, Helmut Falch of Austria. An accident would later leave Falch paralyzed, though he went on to win four Paralympic gold medals in alpine skiing.
- March 15, 1965: Golfer Tony Lema, previously featured on the 23 March 1964 cover, appeared this week in an artist's rendition. In July 1966, the 32-year-old Lema and his wife Betty, 30, were killed along with the two co-pilots when the private plane they chartered to travel between tournaments crashed in Lansing, Illinois.
- March 22, 1965: Boxer Willie Pastrano, the world light heavyweight champion at age 29, appears with the caption, "Ready to defend his title." On March 30, he lost the WBA and WBC crowns to José Torres on a 9th-round technical knock-out. It would be the final bout of Pastrano's career.
- March 29, 1965: UCLA's Gail Goodrich was shown shooting against Michigan center Bill Buntin during the Bruins' NCAA basketball championship win. Buntin died suddenly three years later of a heart attack while playing a pick-up basketball game at age 26.
- May 30, 1966: For the Indianapolis 500 preview issue, race driver Johnny Boyd made his second appearance on the cover (see 29 May 1961). Boyd managed to avoid a 14-car wreck on the first lap of the 1966 race but, shortly after the green flag restart, he crashed on turn 1 having completed just five laps in what would be his final Indy 500.
- May 1, 1967: Chaparral's Jim Hall, who appeared along with his Chaparral 2F on the cover, would go on to suffer from a number of mishaps for the rest of the decade. At the end of the season, that car found itself ineligible for competition through controversial rule changes. For the following year, Hall collided with another car at the Stardust Grand Prix, ending his racing career effectively. In 1969, his Chaparral 2H suffered from a poor season and in 1970, the innovative 2J fan-car, despite its performance, proved to be unreliable and following protests from competitors, was banned from competition at the end of the season. Hall and his team had to wait until the end of the decade for any success.
- June 19, 1967: The boxing success of welterweight "Gypsy" Joe Harris, who lost sight in his right eye at age 11, earned him cover recognition despite the handicap which, at the time, had not yet been publicized nor discovered by boxing regulators. However, on 11 October 1968 (about two months after his first career loss in 25 career bouts) a routine doctor's examination of inflammation in the eye revealed his visual impairment. Stripped of his boxing license and unable to hold gainful employment thereafter, Harris fell into a life of drug and alcohol abuse before dying in 1990 at age 44.
- July 31, 1967: An unnamed left-handed pitcher (or model) dons the cover for a story on the then-prevalent use of the illegal spitball pitch. The article prominently mentions Jack Hamilton of the California Angels, with Washington Senators manager Gil Hodges opining that Hamilton throws "the most flagrant spitter I ever saw ... It was the worst exhibition I've seen in baseball ... He made a farce of the game. Everyone knows that 90% of the pitchers in our league have thrown a spitter at one time or another, but none continues to break the rule like Hamilton." On 18 August 1967, an errant Hamilton pitch shattered the face and left eye socket of Boston Red Sox outfielder Tony Conigliaro, who was in the midst of a stellar season. Conigliaro (who would appear with his grotesquely blackened eye on the 22 June 1970 cover), was knocked out of action for the 1967 World Series, missed all of 1968, and continued to struggle with vision problems before retiring at age 30. The incident also scarred Hamilton, who would never again pitch inside so aggressively against hitters and lost effectiveness before leaving the sport less than two years later. Hamilton has steadfastly denied that the pitch to Conigliaro was a spitball despite contradictory statements from his own teammates.
- May 13, 1968: Graham Hill appeared driving the turbine powered and four-wheel drive Lotus 56 in preparation for the Indianapolis 500. He crashed out during the race, his teammates retired the race with fuel shaft failure. Turbine power and four-wheel drive was banned at the end of the season.
- June 9, 1969: Lee Trevino appeared on the cover as part of a preview to the U.S. Open. The defending champion failed to make the cut.
- August 31, 1970: Dallas Cowboy Les Shy appeared on the cover... 14 days later he was waived by the Cowboys but was picked up by the New York Giants.
- June 7, 1971: Al Unser and Peter Revson appeared on the cover celebrating their 1st and 2nd finish in the 1971 Indianapolis 500. Shortly after this publication, Unser began his string of retirements for the rest of that season.
- September 11, 1972: Two-time defending national champion Nebraska was featured on the cover of the college football preview edition with the headline "Nebraska Goes For Three Straight". The Huskers were upset in the very first game of the 1972 season by UCLA, and finish 9–2–1. Similar occurrences took place in 1978, 1984, and 1996.
- June 27, 1976: Ken Norton appeared on the cover just prior to his third fight with Muhammad Ali, and lost a highly disputed decision.
- December 5, 1977: Earl Campbell and the 11–0 Texas Longhorns appeared on the cover. They lost their next game, the Cotton Bowl, to Notre Dame.
- March 20, 1978: Kansas City Royals shortstop Clint Hurdle appeared on the cover with the words "This Year's Phenom." Hurdle would go on to hit just .264 with seven home runs and 56 runs batted in while appearing in 133 games in 1978. Hurdle would not appear in a single MLB All-Star Game in his ten years as a player in Major League Baseball and compiled a lifetime batting average of just .259 with 32 home runs in 193 runs batted in for the Royals, Cincinnati Reds, New York Mets, and St. Louis Cardinals (he did, however, make an appearance in the World Series in 1980 with the Royals).
- June 5, 1978: Al Unser appeared on the cover celebrating his third win; in his next two races, he crashed out and ran out of fuel. However this jinx was short lived as he scored a win for the next round.
- June 6, 1978: Ken Norton again appeared on the cover, this time before his first title defense against Larry Holmes, who beat him in a split decision by one single point.
- June 26, 1978: Andy North appears on the cover after winning the 1978 U.S. Open. He would not win another PGA Tour event for seven years, which was the 1985 U.S. Open. In a "repeat" of the "curse", after his appearance on the June 24, 1985 cover (for winning the 1985 U.S. Open), North would never win another PGA Tour event.
- August 7, 1978: Pete Rose appeared on the cover the same week that his 44-game hitting streak ended.
- November 20, 1978: Nebraska running back Rick Berns was featured after the Cornhuskers defeated #1 ranked Oklahoma and appeared to be headed towards a showdown with Penn State for the national championship. But they lost at home to unranked Missouri the very next week, and were knocked out of the title picture. They were then forced to play a controversial rematch with Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, which the revenge-minded Sooners won 31–24.
- May 25, 1981: A. J. Foyt appeared on the cover with the headline "Foyt Goes for a Fifth 500". Despite starting third, he ended up finishing 13th.
- September 14, 1981: Thomas Hearns was featured on the cover the week before his fight with Sugar Ray Leonard, who knocks him out in the 14th round.
- June 7, 1982: Boxer Gerry Cooney appeared on the cover before his fight with Larry Holmes, who dispatched him in 13 rounds four days later.
- July 30, 1984: Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Jack Lambert appeared on the cover with an interview with the headline "The Man of Steel." Lambert would miss most of the 1984 season with a turf toe injury and subsequently retired.
- October 1, 1984: Nebraska running back Jeff Smith appeared on the cover with the headline "The Big Red Machine" after the #1 ranked Huskers routed 8th-ranked UCLA 42–3 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. They lost the following week to an unranked Syracuse squad that finished the season 6–5. Smith's senior season was eventually slowed by a re-injured ankle.
- June 3, 1985: Danny Sullivan earned his cover appearance following his remarkable "Spin and Win" victory at the Indy 500. A day prior to this appearance, he had already begun a string of retirements for another two months.
- July 21, 1986: Jim Kelly was shown in a New Jersey Generals uniform in a preview of the 1986 United States Football League season. The USFL lost its pivotal antitrust lawsuit eight days later, and Kelly would never play for the Generals, joining the NFL's Buffalo Bills in time for the 1986 preseason.
- April 6, 1987: The Cleveland Indians, with Joe Carter and Cory Snyder, were featured in the cover with the headline "INDIAN UPRISING", and being predicted as the best team in the American League. While both men would have a good season, the Indians would lose 101 games, the most of any team that season.
- October 5, 1987: Lloyd Moseby appeared on the cover with the caption "Here Comes Toronto". The Blue Jays would lose their last seven games of the season, blowing a 3.5 game lead in the American League East. Ironically, they were eliminated in the final game of the season October 4, one day before the cover date. This is also a proof of the disadvantage of print media which has a fixed deadline though the shipment date is sometimes in advance of the cover date.
- June 20, 1988: Michael Spinks appeared on the cover before his fight with Mike Tyson with the quote, "Don't count me out". Tyson promptly knocked him out, and into retirement, in just 91 seconds a week later.
- September 26, 1988: Boston Red Sox outfielder Dwight Evans appeared on the cover and went 4-for-30 in a two-week span including the Boston Red Sox being swept out of the ALCS by the Oakland Athletics.
- April 24, 1989: In the preview issue for the 1989 NFL Draft, football player Tony Mandarich was featured on the cover, with the label of "best offensive line prospect ever." Mandarich has been widely regarded as a bust in the NFL. In fact, he would appear on the cover again three years later under the headline "Incredible Bust".
- May 8, 1989: Jon Peters of Brenham High School in Texas set the national high school record for games won by a pitcher, with a 51–0 record. The next game after the cover, he lost for the first (and only) time in his high school career.
- June 5, 1989: After the Los Angeles Lakers swept the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Western Conference Finals to go undefeated to that point in the playoffs, that week's cover featured Lakers forward James Worthy with the word "SWEEP!" in large letters and, in smaller letters, the caption: "James Worthy and the Lakers beat the Suns to go 11–0 in the playoffs." The Lakers would go on to lose in the 1989 NBA Finals, being swept 4–0 by the Detroit Pistons after losing starting guards Magic Johnson and Byron Scott to hamstring injuries.
- October 31, 1988: The cover featured Dodger pitcher Orel Hershiser on the cover just after the Dodgers won the World Series. That season Hershiser led the league in wins (23), innings (267), shutouts (8) and complete games (15). He was third in ERA at 2.26. He finished the season with a record 59 consecutive scoreless innings pitched, breaking the mark of 58 held by former Dodger Don Drysdale. He was selected to his second All-Star game and was a unanimous selection for the National League Cy Young Award. He also won the Gold Glove Award for the best fielding pitcher in the National League. Hershiser was also the only player to receive the Cy Young Award, the Championship Series MVP Award, and the World Series MVP Award in the same season. In 1990, it was discovered that Hershiser had a torn labrum in the shoulder of his pitching arm. Dr. Frank Jobe performed shoulder reconstruction surgery on Hershiser on April 27, 1990, the first time the procedure had been performed on a major league player. The Dodgers did not reach another World Series until 2017
- August 28, 1995: Keyshawn Johnson was featured on the cover, proclaiming why the USC Trojans would go back to no. 1. The Trojans finished with a 9–2–1 record while ending up being ranked no. 12, as they never reached the top three of the polls.
- September 14, 1996: As they had been in 1972, Nebraska was the two-time defending national champion and was heavily favored to win a third. This time, running back Ahman Green was pictured with the headline: "Red Alert: Ahman Green and Nebraska Set Their Sights on a Third Straight National Title." The following week, the Huskers were shut out for the first time since 1973, 19–0 by Arizona State. Despite this early loss, the Huskers were still in position to play for the national title late in the season before suffering a humiliating upset in the inaugural Big XII championship game to the 7–4 Texas Longhorns.
- January 13, 1997: Mark Brunell of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Kerry Collins of the Carolina Panthers appeared on the cover as their respective teams advance to the AFC and NFC Championship Games. Both teams lost.
- March 3, 1997: Sugar Ray Leonard appeared on the cover days before his comeback fight against Héctor Camacho. Leonard would lose by TKO in the 5th round, ending his career.
- February 2, 1998: Michelle Kwan appeared on the cover with the headline "The Gold Standard" shortly after winning the 1998 U.S. Figure Skating Championships over rival Tara Lipinski. Weeks later she would lose the gold medal to Lipinski at the 1998 Winter Olympics in one of the closest decisions in the history of women's Olympic figure skating. Later in 2002 she would finish with a bronze medal while fellow American Sarah Hughes wins Gold. Finally injuries forced Michelle to retire prior to competing in the 2006 Winter Olympics.
- September 4, 2000: Ryan Leaf appeared on the cover with the headline "Back from the Brink" after a 24–20 win by his San Diego Chargers over the Arizona Cardinals characterizing his comeback as "an ascent from pariah to possible standout pro passer". This did not improve his team's performance during the season through Leaf's injuries and poor attitude, leading to his release, and ultimately, his career never recovered.
- September 11, 2000: Painted in gold, gymnast Ivan Ivankov was on the cover of the Olympic preview issue with the caption, "The World's Best Gymnast." He won no medals in Sydney, finishing an unlucky fourth in the all-around contest.
- October 2, 2000: Athlete Marion Jones appeared on the cover following her Olympic successes. She later became implicated in the BALCO Scandal and was subsequently stripped of her medals, and her achievements prior to that cover year were annulled.
- December 6, 2000: Race car driver Dale Earnhardt appeared on the cover with his son Dale Jr.. He died two months later on the final lap of the Daytona 500.
- January 17, 2001: The New York Giants are featured on the cover following their 41–0 blowout victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game. They go on to get blown out themselves in Super Bowl XXXV by the Baltimore Ravens 34–7.
- February 12, 2001: The XFL was featured on the cover, with the headline "Cheap Thrills: Will sleazy gimmicks and low-rent football work for the XFL?" The league's popularity dramatically declined after that point, and the XFL folded after its first and only season.
- March 5, 2001: Nomar Garciaparra appeared on the cover and his off-season conditioning was detailed in the issue. The week after the issue hit newsstands, he would break his wrist, ruining his season and changing the trajectory of his career.
- August 13, 2001: In the 2001 college football preseason issue, the Oregon State Beavers, coming off an 11–1 season that ended in a thrashing of Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, were listed as the #1 team in the nation, with star running back Ken Simonton on the cover. The Beavers went on to have a 5–6 record with a less than stellar performance from one-time Heisman candidate Simonton.
- November 18, 2002: Highly touted high school football quarterback Brian Brohm appeared on the cover as part of a four-part series on the sport. Brohm had a decent college career but was injured toward the end of his time in college and was a complete bust in the NFL. Brohm has spent his professional football career in second-tier leagues.
- September 15, 2003: Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Sam Adams was pictured running back a fumble for a touchdown against the New England Patriots. The Bills did not beat the Patriots again until 2011.
- September 2003: The Oregon Ducks were placed on the cover after starting 4–0 and upsetting Michigan. They lost their next three games. They did not recover from the losing streak, as they finished 8-5 and lost to Minnesota in the Sun Bowl 31-30, with Minnesota kicking a game winning field goal with 23 seconds left.
- October 11, 2003: In the midst of each league's respective League Championship Series, both the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox were featured on dual covers to that week's issue. Both teams would go on to suffer great collapses, as the Florida Marlins defeated the Cubs (partially thanks to Cubs fan Steve Bartman's interference with a fly ball in the eighth inning of Game 6) and the New York Yankees beat the Red Sox; allowing both teams to advance to the World Series. This could also be seen as a continuation of the Cubs' "Curse of the Billy Goat" and the Red Sox' "Curse of the Bambino" (however, the Red Sox would break their curse the following season by winning their first World Series title since 1918, and it would be another 13 years before the Cubs broke theirs).
- November 17, 2003: The Kansas City Chiefs appeared on the cover after starting the season 9–0, but would lose the following game in Cincinnati to the Bengals. Kansas City finished the regular season 4–3, losing home field advantage to the New England Patriots, followed by losing the divisional playoff against Indianapolis.
- January 26, 2004: Carolina Panthers wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad appeared on the cover after the Panthers beat the Eagles 14–3 to lead them to the Super Bowl. The next game after appearing on the cover they lost to the New England Patriots 32–29 in Super Bowl XXXVIII.
- January 17, 2005: Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison appeared on the cover after a win versus the Denver Broncos. The next weekend they faced the New England Patriots and lost in the divisional playoff round.
- In November 2007, Kansas Jayhawks wide receiver Kerry Meier appeared on the cover, which stated "Dream Season (So Far)" after the Jayhawks were 11–0. In their next game they lost to their archrivals, the Missouri Tigers, 36–28, ending their perfect season.
- In December 2007, Missouri Tigers quarterback Chase Daniel appeared on the cover, which stated "Mizzou, That's Who" after the Tigers defeated the 11–0 Kansas Jayhawks and took over the #1 ranking in the polls for the first time since 1960. In the Big 12 Championship game played the following week, they lost to the Oklahoma Sooners, 38–17, knocking them out of a chance to play for the BCS National Championship.
- August 25, 2008: Michael Phelps appeared on the cover following his Olympic triumphs and reappeared in December 8 issue as Sportsman of the Year. In February 2009, publication of a photograph of Phelps using a water pipe, a device used for smoking tobacco or marijuana, surfaced on a British newspaper resulting in the loss of Kellogg as a sponsor, as well as a three-month suspension imposed by USA Swimming.
- In September 2008, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady appeared on the cover of the NFL season preview issue. Brady tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee minutes into the season opening game to the Kansas City Chiefs.
- March 2, 2009: golfer Tiger Woods appeared on the cover, by November that year, details of his infidelity surfaced, tarnishing his family image and resulting in the loss of several lucrative endorsement deals.
- In September 2009, Pre-season Top 10 teams Oklahoma State and Ole Miss both lost after being featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
- November 9, 2009: Iowa's Derrell Johnson-Koulianos appeared on the front cover with the words "Still Perfect." The Hawkeyes lost to Northwestern two days before the issue date, ending the longest winning streak in school history.
- November 16, 2009: The Indianapolis Colts' Peyton Manning appeared on the cover "Inside the Helmet of the League's Most Cerebral Quarterback" – the Colts ultimately lost to the New Orleans Saints 31–17 in Super Bowl XLIV.
- January 11, 2010: Miles Austin of the Dallas Cowboys was on the cover; Dallas lost the Divisional Playoff Game to the Minnesota Vikings.
- In January 2010, Vikings quarterback Brett Favre was on the cover with the headline "Favre on Fire" before the NFC Championship Game and lost. New York Jets QB Mark Sanchez was on the cover in the Northeast and lost the AFC Championship Game.
- In January 2010, Kentucky point guard John Wall appeared on the cover under the headline "The Great Wall." The next week undefeated Kentucky was upset on the road by 11th-ranked South Carolina in a game where Wall was outplayed by Gamecocks point guard Devan Downey.
- In February 2010, American alpine skier and Olympic gold medal hopeful Lindsey Vonn injured her leg the same week as she appeared on the cover. Vonn suffered a severe bruise on her right shin following a crash during training February 2. She caught a break when poor weather caused the alpine events at the Olympics to be delayed, enabling her to recover enough to win gold in her first event, the downhill. However, the "jinx" would apparently catch up with her in her other four events. First, she crashed out in the slalom portion of the super-combined after finishing first in the downhill portion. In the super-G, she admittedly skied the last part of the course too conservatively, ending up with a bronze medal. Vonn then crashed out of the giant slalom, and was disqualified for straddling a gate in the slalom.
- Also in February 2010, Serbian tennis player Ana Ivanovic posed for the magazine, in the middle of a period in which she won just twelve professional matches between January and July 2010. Shortly after her appearance in the magazine, the Serb dropped out of the WTA's Top 50 as her on-court form and confidence got worse. However, she has since climbed back into the World's Top 20 and regained her old form.
- In March 2010, Gonzaga Bulldogs star Matt Bouldin, who appeared on the cover of the SI issue on March Madness that month, suffered a poor performance in a heavy loss to the Syracuse Orange in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The next week, Ali Farokhmanesh, whose three-pointer in the last minute clinched Northern Iowa's epic upset of #1 Kansas and placed him on the cover, had a poor performance of his own after being featured. He went 2–9 and missed 3 free throws as the Panthers fell 59–52 to Michigan State.
- In April 2010, the "Core Four" of the New York Yankees (Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada) appeared on the cover, and within one week, all but Jeter suffered injuries. However, Jeter went on to have the worst offensive season of his career.
- In June 2010, Stephen Strasburg was featured and later that week earned his first MLB loss, and then was injured and was put on the disabled list. On August 28, 2010 it was confirmed that Strasburg would need Tommy John surgery.
- On July 19, 2010, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh all appeared on the cover introduced as the Miami Heat's Big Three. At the time Bosh and James signed with the Heat during free agency, and the team was heavily favored as a championship contender. The Heat would represent the Eastern Conference in the 2011 NBA Finals, but ultimately lost to the Dallas Mavericks. James also saw a significant drop in stats during the six games in the Finals, and was heavily criticized and questioned for his performance in late-season and clutch situations.
- In August 2010, three University of Texas football players were featured on a regional cover of SI noting a defense worthy of "winning it all." Starting the season ranked fifth, the Longhorns would finish the season 5–7, making them ineligible for the college football postseason. Five of those losses came at Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium, their home field.
- October 11, 2010: David Price was shown blowing a bubble on the cover of the magazine's Major League Baseball playoff issue, the Tampa Bay Rays pitcher had a poor outing in the first game of the 2010 American League Division Series, allowing 4 earned runs on nine hits, including two home runs, in a 5–1 loss to the Texas Rangers. Price would go on to pitch in Game 5 of the series and lose by the same score of 5–1 to end the Rays' playoff run and season.
- November 29, 2010: Michael Vick appeared on the cover after a comeback win over the New York Giants. The next week against Chicago, he threw an interception and the Eagles go on to lose to the Bears.
- January 10, 2011: Vince Wilfork appeared on the cover after the win versus Miami in Week 17. In his next game, his team (Patriots) lost to the Jets in the divisional playoff game.
- January 19, 2011: Bears QB Jay Cutler and Jets Linebacker Calvin Pace appeared on the cover following their respective teams wins in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Both lost their respective championship games with Pace and his team losing to Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship Game. Meanwhile, Cutler injured his knee as the Bears went on to lose to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game.
- March 24, 2011: BYU Cougars star guard Jimmer Fredette appeared on the cover after the Cougars beat Gonzaga to take them to their first NCAA tournament Sweet 16 since 1981. In the next game, Jimmer only hit 11 of 29 shots in a loss to the Florida Gators.
- On April 19, 2011, Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls appears on the cover prior to the NBA Playoffs. The Bulls had a good stretch in the postseason, but eventually lost in the Conference Finals to the Miami Heat. The Heat would go on to the Finals but then lose to the Mavericks.
- August 21, 2011 – Nebraska defensive lineman Jared Crick was featured front and center on the college preview cover. He did not finish his senior year because of a torn pectoral muscle.
- September 29, 2011: The Buffalo Bills (specifically, cornerback Drayton Florence returning an interception for a touchdown) were featured on a regional cover after breaking their 15-game losing streak to the New England Patriots, their first appearance on an SI cover since the last time they defeated New England (see above). They went on to lose the next week to the Cincinnati Bengals, breaking a winning streak the Bills had against the Bengals that dated to the 1980s. Florence, in turn, would be cut from the roster during the offseason.
- October 15, 2011 – Jimmie Johnson had an accident at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the Bank of America 500, jeopardizing his chance of a sixth consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. Johnson would finish 6th in the points, his worst finish at the time since joining the Sprint Cup series full-time.
- October 24, 2011 – Outfielder Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated as the 2011 World Series began. The Rangers would go on to lose the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in 7 games despite being one strike away from winning the Series twice during Game 6. During Game 6, Cruz had the opportunity to catch a David Freese fly ball that would have won the Rangers the championship, but missed it, allowing the Cardinals to stay in the game.
- December 14, 2011: The Denver Broncos (specifically Tim Tebow) appeared on the cover after a six-game win streak. They would go on to lose the next three games of the regular season, one of those games being against a team (the Buffalo Bills) that was in the midst of a 1–8 stretch; however, the Broncos had still accrued enough wins to make the playoffs and won its wild card game in the 3:16 Game.
- January 8, 2012: Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers appeared on the Sports Illustrated cover as the 2011–2012 NFL playoffs began. The Packers lost at home to the New York Giants 37–20 and became the first NFL team with a 15–1 regular season record to lose their opening playoff game.
- January 22, 2012 – The San Francisco 49ers were featured on the January 23, 2012 Sports Illustrated cover just prior to the NFC Championship Game. The 49ers subsequently lost the game in overtime to the New York Giants 20–17.
- February 5, 2012: Following the AFC and NFC Championship Games on January 22, 2012, won by the New England Patriots and the New York Giants, the Patriots appeared on both Sports Illustrated covers leading up to Super Bowl XLVI. The January 30 cover featured quarterback Tom Brady and the February 6 cover featured team owner Robert Kraft. The Patriots went on to lose the Super Bowl to the Giants 21–17. The Giants became the first team with a 9–7 regular season record to win the Super Bowl. The Patriots, who had an AFC-best 13–3 regular season record, had already lost to the Giants in week 9 of the regular season and in week 4 of the preseason. The Patriots had also lost to the Giants in their one previous Super Bowl match-up in Super Bowl XLII.
- On February 17, 2012, with point guard Jeremy Lin featured on the Sports Illustrated cover, the New York Knicks snapped a seven-game winning streak by losing at home 89–85 to the New Orleans Hornets, the team with the second-worst record in the NBA.
- On February 23, 2012, when featured on a second consecutive Sports Illustrated cover, Lin went 1 for 11 as the Knicks lost to the Miami Heat 102–88. In March, Lin tore a meniscus in his left knee and subsequently underwent season-ending knee surgery.
- March 26, 2012: Albert Pujols was featured on the Sports Illustrated baseball preview cover. Next to the cover photo was the caption, "The game's greatest slugger starts over with the Angels". Pujols did not hit a home run with the Angels until May 6, 2012, in his 28th game and 111th at-bat of the season. Dating back to 2011, his regular season homerless streak lasted 33 games and 139 at-bats. Prior to 2012, Pujols had hit 445 career home runs, 32+ home runs in each of his 11 MLB seasons (including 37 in 2011), and 3 home runs off 3 different Texas Rangers pitchers in Game 3 of the 2011 World Series, tying Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson for the most home runs in a World Series game.
- April 16, 2012: New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was pictured on the Sports Illustrated NHL playoff preview cover. The top-seeded Rangers lost to the sixth-seeded New Jersey Devils in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Devils ended up losing to the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Finals.
- May 23, 2012: The Los Angeles Dodgers (specifically Matt Kemp and Magic Johnson) appeared on the cover. They held the best record in baseball (30–13) at the time and looked poised to sweep the 19–25 Arizona Diamondbacks who had been struck by injuries. They went on to lose to the Diamondbacks the same night in an 11–4 blowout. Ted Lilly received his first loss of the season. Clayton Kershaw lost to the Astros the following night. The Dodgers were then swept by the Milwaukee Brewers and then lost a series with the Rockies. They lost 8 of the next 11 games. Matt Kemp's seemingly minor injury became much more serious hamstring injury and the team was without his services for over two months. Furthermore, this was a start of an injury plagued portion of Kemp's career as he finished 2012 by playing through a shoulder injury. In 2013, Kemp got his 1,000th hit, but he also appeared in only 73 games as he battled ankle and hamstring injuries. Finally, Kemp struggled through the 2014 season to the point that he got switched to left field and was traded to San Diego in the offseason.
- June 11, 2012: Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton was featured on the Sports Illustrated cover. On June 15, Hamilton was hospitalized because of an intestinal virus.
- August 20, 2012: Michigan Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson was featured on the cover. The Wolverines lost their first game of the 2012 season, 41-14, to the #1 ranked and eventual national champion Alabama Crimson Tide.
- September 24, 2012: Oregon Ducks running back De'Anthony Thomas was featured on the cover. The top-ranked Ducks went on to lose their first game of the season to Pac-12 rival Stanford 17–14 in overtime on November 17, 2012.
- October 29, 2012: Detroit Tigers hitter Miguel Cabrera was featured on the cover. The Tigers were subsequently swept in the World Series by the San Francisco Giants. During the series, Cabrera went 3 for 13, including making the final out of the Series.
- November 13, 2012: Kansas State Wildcats quarterback Collin Klein was featured on the cover, the week after Kansas State reached #1 in the BCS standings for the first time in school history. At the time, the team was a serious contender to play in the national title game, and Klein himself was a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy. The following Saturday, Kansas State put up its worst game of the year, getting blown out at Baylor 52–24.
- December 2012: Deron Williams of the Brooklyn Nets struggles and gets injured soon after being on the cover of Sports Illustrated in the off season. This was one of the worst streaks of his NBA career.
- March 25, 2013: Indiana Hoosiers forward Victor Oladipo was featured on the cover. In their next game, Indiana fell to 4th-seeded Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen.
- April 29, 2013: Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant was featured on the cover. In their next game, Durant's star teammate Russell Westbrook tore his lateral meniscus against the Rockets, and the Thunder went on to lose their series with Memphis.
- May 15, 2013: Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley, Jr. was featured on the cover. After winning their first two playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the conference semifinals, the Grizzlies lost to the San Antonio Spurs in a 4–0 sweep of the Western Conference Finals.
- May 20, 2013: St. Louis Cardinals starting pitchers Jaime García and Jake Westbrook are featured along with their fellow starters. Later that week, Garcia was scheduled to have season-ending shoulder surgery, and Westbrook had to cut short a throwing session due to lingering elbow discomfort that same week.
- July 22, 2013: Pittsburgh Pirates closer Jason Grilli (with an NL leading 30 saves) was the first Pirate featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated since 1992, the last time the Pirates went to the postseason. In a game that same evening, he strained his right forearm and was placed on the disabled list.
- November 4, 2013: Oregon Ducks QB Marcus Mariota was featured on the cover for his undefeated run with the Ducks. Three days later, Oregon lost to Stanford in a gut-wrenching loss to stop their undefeated record.
- November 20, 2013: Alabama QB AJ McCarron was featured on the cover for his pursuit of quarterbacking a third straight national championship team. Ten days later, Alabama lost to Auburn at the end of regulation to stop their undefeated record and any chance of a national title.
- December 2, 2013: Cowboys Quarterback Tony Romo was on the cover the week after he beat the Raiders on Thanksgiving, and were 7–5 leading the NFC East. The story was about how America shouldn't blame him for all of the Cowboys recent collapses. The next week, the Cowboys were destroyed by the Chicago Bears 45–28, although most of the blame for the loss went to the defense. However, the week after was a matchup with the Green Bay Packers, who had to use backup quarterback Matt Flynn with the usual starter Aaron Rodgers out with a broken collarbone. Dallas went up 26–3, and ultimately ended up losing 37–36, with much of the blame going to Romo for his two late interceptions, one of which resulted in the winning score and the other being the game-sealer. After a win in Washington the next week, Romo was ruled out for the final game after a back injury, required surgery. This game against the Philadelphia Eagles would ultimately decide the NFC East. Kyle Orton started, but the Cowboys lost a close one 24–22, ending their season at 8–8 for the 3rd straight year. The saga doesn't end there as Tony Romo would go winless in his next two Thanksgiving games while injuries would hamper the rest of his career. This includes a loss to Philadelphia in the 2014 Thanksgiving game. Then in 2015 Romo gets his collarbone injured twice and both times in the third quarter. First it was a sack by Jordan Hicks of the Eagles in a Week 2 win while the second came during a Thanksgiving loss to the Carolina Panthers, which would ultimately finish the regular season 15-1. In the 2016 preseason, Romo injured his back on the third play of the contest at Seattle and watched as Rookie Dak Prescott led the Cowboys to a 13-3 season which included a Thanksgiving win over Washington.
- December 9, 2013: Ohio State QB, Braxton Miller was featured on the cover after the Buckeyes win their 24th straight game. A week later Ohio State lost the Big Ten championship game to Michigan State, 34–24.
- December 15, 2013: The Philadelphia Eagles' 5-game winning streak ends in a 48–30 loss to the Minnesota Vikings after quarterback Nick Foles was featured on the cover.
- December 30, 2013: The players who had scored game-winning touchdowns in Auburn's last two regular-season games—Ricardo Louis against Georgia and Chris Davis against Alabama—were featured on the cover. Two weeks later, they lost to Florida State in the BCS National Championship Game. The Tide would go on to lose 45-31 to the Oklahoma Sooners in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
- January 19, 2014: New England's LeGarrette Blount, who scored four touchdowns the previous week in the AFC Divisional Round Playoffs against the Indianapolis Colts, had five carries for only six yards the following week against the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game.
- February 2, 2014: The Denver Broncos, who set a record for the most touchdowns and points in NFL history in the regular season, and Peyton Manning, who also set individual records for passing yards and touchdowns in the 2013 seasons, lost to the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII 43–8, one of the most lopsided Super Bowl losses in NFL history.
- June 2, 2014: The New York Rangers had gone up 3 games to 1 against the Montreal Canadiens in the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals. Ryan McDonagh was featured on the cover celebrating Game 4's overtime goal scored by Martin St. Louis. After they went on to win the series 4 games to 2, they faced the Los Angeles Kings in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final only to lose 4 games to 1, with many of the losses being heart-breaking and controversial.
- June 24, 2014: Luis Suárez (who has had previous behavioral problems on the pitch) had just finished a successful season with Liverpool F.C., having won the PFA Player of the Year Award and avoided any controversial incidents. Suarez' reputation was improving and many supporters saw this as the start of a new chapter for him. However, less than a month after being featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, he bit Giorgio Chiellini on the shoulder during Uruguay's 1–0 win over Italy in the 2014 FIFA World Cup and received a four-month ban from football, one of the longest in the history of the sport.
- June 30, 2014: George Springer appeared solo on the national cover predicting the Astros "2017 World Series Champs". Springer was hurt the subsequent week and missed the final 2 1/2 months of the season. However, the Astros would then go on to win the 2017 World Series in 7 games against the Los Angeles Dodgers while Springer was awarded the World Series MVP.
- August 14, 2014: Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller was featured on one of the five regional college football preview covers. Days later, he re-injured his surgically repaired right shoulder, resulting in him missing Ohio State's entire 2014 season.
- August 21, 2014: Mo'ne Davis was on the cover for her dominating pitching performances for Pennsylvania in the 2014 Little League World Series. She was the first Little League player to be on the cover of SI. Her first game afterwards, she pitched 2.1 innings and gave up 3 runs on 6 hits, taking an 8–1 loss to Nevada. Pennsylvania would be eliminated in their next game by Illinois.
- September 22, 2014: QB Marcus Mariota of the Oregon Ducks was featured on the cover. Five days later, the Washington State Cougars nearly upset the Ducks, and managed to sack Mariota a record seven times, reportedly causing him a minor, but undisclosed, injury. The very next game for the Ducks came on October 2, 2014 when their 2014 unbeaten streak came to an end in a stunning upset loss to the Arizona Wildcats 31–24.
- October 27, 2014: Kansas City Royals closer Greg Holland appeared on the cover to commemorate the Royals' return to the World Series after a 29-year absence. However, the Royals would lose the series to the San Francisco Giants in seven games thanks in large part to Madison Bumgarner's outstanding pitching.
- November 10, 2014: Kentucky forward Alex Poythress was one of 5 different players to have been given a cover shot for a college basketball season preview. On December 11, 2014, Poythress suffered a torn ACL during a team practice while on an uncontested breakaway layup, ending his season after 10 games.
- November 24, 2014: After a 201-yard, 4-touchdown performance, New England Patriots running back Jonas Gray appeared on the cover. The Friday after, Gray is late for practice, sent home, and is told he will not start. The next game, he did not have a single carry, with head coach Bill Belichick focusing on newly-signed LeGarrette Blount.
- October 2014 – January 2015: Ole Miss and Mississippi State shared the cover of Sports Illustrated on October 13, 2014. Ole Miss started 7–0, but fell to 9–4, capped off by a 42–3 defeat to TCU in the Peach Bowl. Meanwhile, after starting off 9–0 and being the #1 team for five weeks, Mississippi State dropped to 10–3 losing 3 of their last 4, including 2 straight losses to Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl 49–34 and a loss to arch-rival Ole Miss 31–17 in that seasons Egg Bowl
- January 12, 2015: Oregon Ducks wide receiver Byron Marshall was featured on the cover of the issue with the cover date of January 12, 2015, which was the day of the 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship. Additionally, Andy Staples' prediction of an Oregon victory by the score of 45–41 was also featured on the cover. The Oregon Ducks, led by Heisman trophy winner Marcus Mariota, were defeated 42–20 in the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship game by the fourth seed Ohio State Buckeyes.
- January 26, 2015: The Seattle Seahawks' secondary, the Legion of Boom, was featured on the cover heading into Super Bowl XLIX. However, injuries plagued members of the secondary resulted in the Seahawks losing to the New England Patriots 28–24, thanks to an interception from Malcolm Butler, an undrafted reserve cornerback out of Division II West Alabama (the play of the jinx in this case is disputed, as a poor Seahawks offensive play call that set up that interception was more widely credited with causing the Seahawks' loss).
- March 2015: The Cleveland Indians, just like in 1987, were pegged to win the World Series. The Indians missed the playoffs, along with the other AL teams predicted to make the cut.
- April 6, 2015: The 2014–15 Kentucky Wildcats men's basketball team was featured on the cover, declaring the team to be on the brink of a 40–0 perfect season. The Wildcats lost in the Final Four to Wisconsin 71–64 on April 4.
- May 25, 2015: In an unusual twist on the curse, John Forbes Nash, Jr., subject of a biography and a film titled A Beautiful Mind, died in a car crash the week a headline titled "Chip Kelly's Beautiful Mind" appeared on the cover. The reason was for a series of questionable moves made by Kelly in the offseason. The Eagles later fired Kelly on December 29, as the team was 6–9 and was well out of the playoff race.
- August 24, 2015: St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Jason Heyward appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated amid his team's dominating regular season that ended with a 100-62 record. The cover read, "Why St. Louis is an unkillable, unstoppable force." The Cardinals' season ended in painful fashion, losing to their division rival Chicago Cubs in the NLDS.
- August 31, 2015: Serena Williams appeared on the cover promoting her possible Grand Slam victory. However, she lost to unranked Italian Roberta Vinci 2–6, 6–4, 6–4 in the semi-finals.
- October 12, 2015: The Toronto Blue Jays appear on the cover for the first time since 2005 and are nicknamed "The New Jacks". The Blue Jays later go on to lose in six at the 2015 ALCS to the Kansas City Royals, being outscored 38–26.
- October 19, 2015: Leonard Fournette appears on the cover with the tagline: "Thank you for the comparinsons, but 5–0 LSU Tiger will do just fine."  The Tigers lose three straight games from November 7–21, knocking themselves out of CFP contention.
- November 2, 2015: Daniel Murphy appeared on the cover for his outstanding October appearance for the New York Mets in the 2015 MLB playoffs leading them to the World Series. He later went on a slump in the World Series against the Kansas City Royals. In Game 4, he made 2 costly errors that made the Mets lose Game 4, 5–3. The Mets would eventually lose to the Royals in five games. Murphy left the Mets and signed with their division rivals the Washington Nationals in the offseason.
- November 17, 2015: Retiring race car driver Jeff Gordon appeared on the front cover five days before his final race. Jeff was also one of the final four drivers that had a chance to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title. After starting fifth, he led two laps but he quickly fell to fifteenth and after a long battle he finished sixth in his final race. Kyle Busch ended up winning his first title.
- 2015 NFL season: Sports Illustrated featured the Baltimore Ravens on the cover to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl 50 but their season is in jitters midway through the season with injuries to many key players, including quarterback Joe Flacco. They would end the season with a 5-11 record.
- November 24, 2015: The 12–0 Iowa Hawkeyes appeared on the cover but lost to the 11–1 Michigan State Spartans in the 2015 Big Ten Football Championship Game 16–13. Michigan State ended up in the College Football Playoff. The Hawkeyes were later forced to go to the Rose Bowl, where they lost to Stanford, 45–16.
- January 5, 2016: Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson appeared on the cover promoting the Vikings' NFC North title. However, the Vikings lost to the Seattle Seahawks 10–9 thanks to kicker Blair Walsh's missed chip shot field goal.
- January 19, 2016: Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald appeared on a regional cover promoting the Cardinals' appearance in the 2016 NFC Championship Game. However, the Cardinals were outlasted by the Carolina Panthers 49–15 thanks in large part to the team tying a playoff worst seven turnovers (four interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown by Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly and three fumbles).
- February 2, 2016: Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton appeared on the cover promoting their appearance in Super Bowl 50. However, the 17–1 Panthers were upset by the Denver Broncos 24–10 thanks in large part to the Broncos' top-ranked defense holding the Panthers to their lowest point total for the 2015 season.
- March 5, 2016: Conor McGregor appeared on the Feb. 29, 2016, issue of Sports Illustrated. He was initially scheduled to fight Rafael dos Anjos, but it was cancelled due to Anjos' broken foot. The fight was rescheduled to be against Nate Diaz on March 5. McGregor lost in a second round submission.
- Michigan State men's basketball players Denzel Valentine and Bryn Forbes along with mascot Sparty appeared on the cover of the March 2016 cover of Sports Illustrated for Kids. However, the 2-seeded Spartans were upset by 15-seeded Middle Tennessee State 90–81 in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament.
- March 14, 2016: North Carolina Tar Heels forward Brice Johnson appears on a regional cover promoting "March Madness." However, the Tar Heels lost to the Villanova Wildcats, 77–74 behind Kris Jenkins' 3-pointer at the end of the game.
- March 28, 2016: Oklahoma Sooners guard Buddy Hield appeared on the cover hyping Oklahoma's appearance in the 2016 Men's Final Four. However, the Sooners were blown out by the Villanova Wildcats 95–51 as Hield was held to just nine points.
- May 30, 2016: Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant appeared on the cover promoting the Thunder's possible upset over the defending NBA Champions the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 Western Conference Finals. But the Thunder blew a 3–1 lead to the Warriors as the Warriors won the series 4–3 and then in the offseason Durant would leave the Thunder to join the Warriors.
- April 2016: New York Mets pitchers Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Jeurys Familia appeared on the cover. Matt Harvey would have the worst year of his career and undergo season ending surgery, Jacob deGrom had a mediocre season not pitching his best and also went season ending surgery while Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz were later injured and out for the season. Jeurys Familas' save record was broken after 54 consecutive saves, and he was arrested for domestic violence.
- August-September 2017: The Los Angeles Dodgers were featured on the 8/22 cover with the caption of "Best. Team. Ever?" After compiling one of the best seasons to date in baseball history, the team proceeded to lose 17 out of the next 22 games. The team would recover later that season, advancing to the 2017 World Series against the Houston Astros, a team the same magazine had predicted would win the 2017 World Series on a 2014 cover. Eventually, the Dodgers would lose to the Astros in Game 7 of the 2017 World Series.
- September 4, 2017: Tom Brady was featured on the cover promoting the 2017 NFL season only to lose to the Chiefs 42-27 in Week 1.
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