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On Newsstands Friday: ESPN The Magazine’s Tall Ball Issue

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The Mag’s Tall Ball Issue is an exploration of how height has impacted the NBA and college hoops, and how it will continue to impact the game of basketball in the future.

On the cover: “Real Big Deal” is the story of the decades-long evolution of the NBA big man, who is now more important than ever. This evolution is epitomized by Karl-Anthony Towns, the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NBA draft and a rising superstar. Along with skills typical of NBA bigs—defending the post and rebounding—Towns can also shoot from the perimeter, guard multiple positions and handle the ball in transition. The Mag constructs Towns as a window into this evolution, diagramming how the position has changed, how the role has been enhanced and what the future NBA landscape looks like with players like Towns manning more than just the middle. By Kevin Arnovitz, in collaboration with TrueHoop

Don’t Miss: Senior writer Elizabeth Merrill tells the story of young Denver Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian—where he came from, the roots of his easy demeanor and his unusual path to the NFL. The quarterback leading the defending Super Bowl champs nearly went undrafted after an unspectacular career at Northwestern. Two years ago, after tearing his ACL in the second-to-last game of his senior year, Siemian wondered whether he would ever play football again. Lucky for him, Broncos coach Gary Kubiak just happened to see a Northwestern game. Also lucky for him, Siemian landed on a team with possibly the best mentor in the history of quarterback mentors, Peyton Manning. When Brock Osweiler bolted for the Houston Texans, Siemian got his chance.

Tall Ball Issue Features and Highlights

Big Man Confidential

We asked NBA players over 6-foot-8 to give us the inside scoop on life as a big man, from the best and worst things about their height to whether they’re worried about long-term health issues.

Elena Delle Donne and the Audacity of Height

Elena Delle Donne, the famously private 6-foot-5 Chicago Sky star, has always been tall. But her height used to make her self-conscious. Only recently has she embraced it, and as she’s grown in her four years in the league, she’s opened up more off the court. In a Vogue article this year, she talked for the first time about getting engaged to her longtime girlfriend. She’s intensely close with her family, especially her older sister, who has severe physical challenges. Elena herself has Lyme disease and has consistently been one of the best players in the league despite flare-ups. This is the story about how she has embraced her obstacles, her fame and her version of normal. By Taffy Brodesser-Akner

The Progression of Height in Non-Hoops Sports

We all know basketball players are tall and have been getting taller. But what about players in other sports? To find out, we look at the evolution of height in eight non-hoops sports—from football to NASCAR—to track whether athletes have gotten taller or shorter since the beginning of their sport. We also examine the current height range and talk to one of the tallest athletes in each sport to find out how being taller than the average guy either hurts or helps.

How Duke Learned to Love the Big Man

Fifteen years after Steve Wojciechowski first served as the Blue Devils’ big-man coach, Duke has the tallest team in school history. What changed Coach K’s philosophy? And how was the school able to attract all these guys knowing they’d have to compete for playing time? By Jordan Brenner

Alaina Coates and True Centers in Women’s Basketball

South Carolina center Alaina Coates is not just one of the best players in college basketball, she’s also one of the best true centers in a sport that’s missing players like her even at the professional level. This is the story of how she embraced the rare back-to-the-basket role. By Mechelle Voepel

The Tall Ball issue also features the Top 25 Power Rankings for men’s and women’s college hoops.

Additional Highlights:

  • Numbers: Peter Keating explores an underutilized weapon in the NFL: the play-action pass. In his latest column, he demonstrates how it not only works really well, but many teams don’t use it nearly enough.
  • Trends: Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson shares what he wears to the stadium on game day, discussing his personal style with The Mag’s Stacey Pressman and what it means to him.
  • Soccer: The U.S. Men’s National Team’s World Cup qualification schedule, the Hex, is no picnic. It involves 10 games over 12 months, five of them on the road, in breaks between the players’ club schedules. The Mag’s Doug McIntyre asked players for their horror stories of road stadiums, then got the scoop on how U.S. soccer plans for 12 months of travel.
  • CFB: We highlight the on-field college football records that have fallen—or may soon fall—with a look at the numbers, players and teams behind those marks and the biggest obstacles that stand in their way in the season’s final month.
  • Esports: All eyes are on the screen during an esports game, but down below, the athletes are hard at work. We partnered with Sport Science to measure just what it takes physically to be a professional gamer, from finger dexterity to reaction speed to IQ.
  • SportsCenter on the Road: Ahead of the Raiders-Texans Monday Night Football game in Mexico City on Nov. 21, SportsCenter’s Herm Edwards and Bill Polian discuss the viability of the NFL expanding abroad. Edwards and Polian compare and contrast the United Kingdom—where the league has a recurring presence—with Mexico, which has more 23 million people who identify as NFL fans. By Anthony Olivieri
  • The Truth: The newly crowned Cubs had been lovable losers for decades. But with a chance to be a regular World Series host site, Wrigley Field is no longer a place just to go for a cold beer on a nice day. By Howard Bryant

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