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On Newsstands Friday: ESPN The Magazine’s Anything’s Possible Issue

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Say what you will about 2016, but it kept us on our toes. It was the year that proved just about anything can happen if given the chance. It was the year we learned that baseball fans who had suffered for 108 years could win. That an NBA team could fire its coach midseason and still become champ. That an NFL team could dominate after replacing a Pro Bowl quarterback with a rookie. That the winningest team in NBA history could add the game’s top free agent, just because. It was the year college football’s top programs could thrive on inexperience, and an unbeatable fighter could recover from defeat—by disappearing. Who’d have thought all of that could happen in one year?

ON THE COVER: Three standout athletes of 2016: Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, recently retired Cubs catcher David Ross and Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith.

To download cover: http://bit.ly/2h3zfMs

INTERVIEW WITH COVER ATHLETES: http://es.pn/2hbNnzu

DON’T MISS: Tyronn Lue and the Art of Igniting LeBron: Tyronn Lue faced a huge challenge when he took over as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers midseason: persuading headstrong superstar LeBron James to buy into his way of running things. How did he do it? By tapping into the life lessons he learned growing up in Missouri. By Kurt Streeter

Issue highlights and features:

Cubs Win! Cubs Win! Oh, No: Now What?
The curse is over, but how will Cubs fans stay happy now that they are no longer “lovable losers”? In an enlightening essay, The Mag explores what is at the heart of lasting happiness. Accompanying the piece are vignettes about the historic World Series win from the perspectives of fans, a player and a general manager. By Sam Miller

How the Warriors Won by Losing
The behind-the-scenes story of how superstar Kevin Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Golden State Warriors. By the TrueHoop team

The Floor Is Hers
An essay on Rio Games champion Simone Biles, espnW’s IMPACT25 Woman of the Year. By Allison Glock, in collaboration with espnW  (http://es.pn/2hpIExl)

What Were the Chances!?
In an engaging timeline, The Mag spotlights 50 of the year’s most unlikely, unexpected and oddest events in sports.

The 1,586-Pound MVP
Step aside, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. The real MVP of the Dallas Cowboys this season is the dominant offensive line. This piece highlights the skill of that line by breaking down a critical fourth-quarter play in a Dec. 1 game at Minnesota. By David Fleming

No Experience Required
Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State started the season as the least experienced teams in their conferences, yet they are the top three seeds in the College Football Playoff. We preview the big games by asking, how did that happen? By Ryan McGee

Alabama Shakes
SportsCenter’s Matt Barrie and Danny Kanell discuss who could knock off undefeated Alabama in the College Football Playoff. By Ben Arledge

Additional issue highlights and features:
In a special feature, Serena Williams and Common sit down to discuss Williams’ career, her identity as a black woman and the challenges the tennis legend has faced. In collaboration with The Undefeated (http://bit.ly/2gTte02)

MMA: For nearly a year, after her first UFC loss, Ronda Rousey went almost completely off the grid. But now, as she prepares to return to the Octagon, The Mag looks at where the fighter is physically—and more important, mentally. By Ramona Shelburne  (http://es.pn/2gEPQkG)

NBA: In the latest installment of the Hang Time series, Sam Alipour and Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis check out … Disneyland. Why? The 7-foot-3 Latvian has been seeking out quintessential American experiences since joining the NBA last season—and he loves rides!  

X Games: Motocross star Robbie Maddison leaves the dirt in the dust in his return to the X Games. He will help debut a new event: Snow BikeCross. By Alyssa Roenigk

What Athletes Eat: In this recurring feature, The Mag reveals a culinary favorite of an athlete. This time, it’s the secret spaghetti sauce from the mother of the Charlotte Hornets’ Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Recipe included. By Tom Haberstroh

The Columns

The Numbers: Peter Keating explores the mediocrity of this season’s NFL: Lots of teams are clustered in the middle, and even the best teams, like the Raiders and Cowboys, don’t rise much above the middling ones. He considers whether mediocrity will be the new normal.

The Truth: Howard Bryant reflects on how 2016’s athlete activism will be viewed, against the backdrop of Colin Kaepernick’s national-anthem protest—and the reactions to it—and the legacy of Muhammad Ali.

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