We think we've prepared you for this. Over the past year, as
part of our examination of sports in the 20th century, SI has
enumerated its favorite dynasties, venues, athletes, photos,
teams and games of the past 100 years. We marveled at Sandy
Koufax for his assassin's arm and gentlemanly grace, reveled in
the frat-house antics of the 1974 Oakland A's and relived that
steamy night in South Florida in '82 when the collective agony
of the San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins brought us to
football ecstasy. Our end-of-the-year issue will offer a final
favorite: SI's Frank Deford will expound on a pair of men famous
for their feats of feet.
Still, we wanted to do more. In addition to listing our
preferences, we wanted to create an evening in which the
Greatest and the Great One could mingle with Tiger and Yogi. So
how are we capping the greatest sports century? By throwing the
sports party of the millennium.
On Dec. 2 Sports Illustrated will be host to the most august
collection of athletes ever assembled under one roof. We've
billed it the Sports Illustrated 20th Century Sports Awards, but
it will really be a night for the ages. There will be Magic
(Johnson) and Kings (Billie Jean and Richard Petty) and a
certain Air apparent who has graced our cover more often than
anyone else. Some 100 of the best sports performers of the
century will join us at a Madison Square Garden party. The
once-in-a-century event will be broadcast live on CBS at 9 p.m.
EST, with behind-the-scenes coverage starting at 6 p.m. on
During the evening we'll reveal our choices for the Ten Greatest
Sports Moments of the Century, present a silver wreath, sculpted
by David McCornack, to our Athlete of the Century in each of
seven categories--baseball, basketball, football, hockey,
individual sports (men), individual sports (women) and U.S.
Olympians--and crown SI's Sportsman or Sportswoman of the
Century. Seven Athletes Who Changed the Game will also be
honored: King, Petty, Peggy Fleming, Arnold Palmer, Pele, Jackie
Robinson and Bill Russell. You can review the credentials of the
nominees starting on page 58 and then survey the century as SI
writers eloquently evoke events they missed but wish they'd seen.
How did we approach the Ruthian task of selecting the best of
the century? Editorial teams were formed for each of the
categories under the judicious eye of executive editor David
Bauer. Debate was as spirited as Ali-Frazier, as exhausting as
Colts-Giants. "Comparing athletes of different eras and
generations is a virtually impossible task," says Bauer. "No
matter where you land, somebody will argue with you. But that's
part of the fun of it, and we feel good about where we landed."
We're confident we've made the right choices, but for once the
old Academy Awards mantra rings true: Everyone nominated is a
winner. Or in Russell's case, an 11-time winner.
Speaking of Oscars, the Big O will be in the house, along with a
cast of presenters with Academy Award credentials: Al Pacino,
Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, to name a few. We've even
enlisted Oscar's sometime host, Billy Crystal, to give us a
hand. Every party needs music, so we've turned our lonely eyes
to Paul Simon as well as Whitney Houston and part-time San Diego
Padres outfielder Garth Brooks. The Early Show's Bryant Gumbel
is staying up late to host the festivities.
Sports in the 20th century has been on our minds and in our
pages since Aug. 16, 1954, when power-hitting Eddie Mathews
welcomed readers to America's newest sports weekly. On Dec. 2
those pages will come to life for one very special night. Please
BILL COLSON, Managing Editor
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO Host Gumbel and the winner's wreath.