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ESPN The Magazine February 2019

ESPN The Magazine is for the NEXT generation of sports fans who want to stay on top of the athletes, teams, topics and upcoming events in their own sports world. The Magazine celebrates not only sports, but the cultures and lifestyles that are an integral part of them - all with ESPN's unique personality and authority.

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pick ’n’ play

AFC CUTTING ROOM FLOOR TEXANS BY MINA KIMES WR DeAndre Hopkins changed QBs 20 times during his first six seasons in the league. Life is different with Deshaun Watson … and that’s a good thing. CHARGERS BY ALDEN GONZALEZ Almost every other quarterback in his draft class has a title. But holding the Lombardi trophy doesn’t define NFL success for Chargers QB Philip Rivers. CHIEFS BY ELIZABETH MERRILL After a 2014 Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis and 2017 ruptured Achilles tendon, Chiefs safety Eric Berry is an inspiration to all, on and off the field. NFC CUTTING ROOM FLOOR BEARS BY TIM KEOWN QB Mitchell Trubisky never saw himself as a naturalborn leader. So to take control of his team, he had to learn to take control of his mindset. EAGLES BY HALLIE GROSSMAN Becoming a playoff hero in Philly doesn’t happen overnight.…

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rolling the dice

Cover artist Pablo Delcan talks to ESPN The Magazine about how the “Place Your Bets” cover came to life and why he goes all-in on the creative process no matter the constraints … or, dare we say, betting odds. What were your first steps in creating this cover? Initially, I worked on the different ways of using ticker tape LED signage to talk about betting. There were many variations of the cover, starting with some options that played with the idea of creating a football made out of typography or the silhouette of a player, then working toward a more straightforward approach, to treat this as a large typographic betting board. How difficult is it to create a cover without any photos or visuals, just typography? Having no constraints can sometimes become paralyzing. This…

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the numbers

Buffalo has been the biggest surprise of this college basketball season. The Bulls amassed a 12–1 record in nonconference play, including wins at Syracuse and West Virginia. They have cracked the AP Top 25 for the first time in school history (16th in the Jan. 14 poll). And they’ve given us reason to see pace of play in a whole new way—a way that indicates Buffalo can keep stampeding through March. At first analytical glance, Buffalo appears to have maintained a consistent profile from its first NCAA tournament appearance in 2015 under Bobby Hurley through the past four seasons under Nate Oats. It’s rooted in hustle, hustle, hustle—as reflected in the Bulls’ superior offensive rebounding and perimeter defense—and above all, racking up possessions per game. The year Hurley arrived, Buffalo jumped…

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1. year of the reaper

“I love his style: He says, ‘I’m going to knock you out.’” DANA WHITE ON ROBERT WHITTAKER Lesnar! Khabib! Conor! It’s gonna be a wild year for the UFC, starting with a stacked middleweight card at UFC 234, where champ Robert “The Reaper” Whittaker defends his belt. Can he do it? Yes … and here’s how we see the rest of the 185-pound year playing out. UFC 234: Kelvin Gastelum makes it fun, but ultimately this fight turns into Whittaker’s coming-out party as the champ wins by TKO. And on the same night, undefeated Israel Adesanya, the UFC’s hottest rising contender, KOs legend Anderson Silva. Afterward, Adesanya demands his shot at the champ—and he gets it four months later. UFC 238, JUNE 8: It’s a great matchup of Whittaker, the old-soul throwback, against…

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2. games of the weak

Not everything is the Super Bowl, ya know? So with Valentine’s Day coming up, show some love for these adorably bad four teams. EPL Cardiff at Southampton (Feb. 9, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) Most of the EPL’s elite rank high in backward passes. These two teams are at the bottom—of the league and the standings and that stat. So … the only way forward is to go backward more?! NBA Knicks at Cavaliers (Feb. 11, 7 p.m. ET, MSGN) Zoinks, this laugher may be the worst NBA game imaginable. But you can spell “Zion Williamson” using letters from that last sentence. Neato! All Big Ticket stats through Jan. 14.…

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4. let’s get psyched

Welcome back. Deep breath. And again. Let’s pick up where we left off last time. You were saying you feel like the year always ends in disappointment and dejection for you. So take a look at this picture and tell me what stands out. WHAT A RAPTORS FAN SEES Stay out of my dreams! Every time I fall asleep, I flash back to my old childhood room, but it’s 2019 and I am 8, somehow. Then a comet blasts north across the U.S. into Canada, and it crashes into my room and just sits there. I tell it that it can never, ever leave for a different house. Then my dad comes in and yells, “Robby, clean up the mess from that damn shooting star!” WHAT EVERYBODY ELSE SEES Hmm, is that Billy Blunk?…