The Sports Illustrated cover jinx is alive and well, at least in these parts.
Exhibit A: January 3, 2017. Giannis Antetokounmpo graces the SI cover, hailed as “Greek Peak”, the exclamation point of a national coming of age for the Milwaukee Bucks in general the #34 in particular. They were hovering around .500 at the time, in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff pack. The surge would continue with Giannis' game winning last second shot in New York, a victory that garnered him and his mates even more NBA notice a few weeks later.
What happened since? As of this writing, Milwaukee is 3-11 having lost three straight and 9 of the last 10. Playoffs? At 21-27 the Bucks are a game behind Charlotte for the final conference playoff spot, also known as “the right to get swept by Cleveland in the opening round of the postseason–AND get a crappy draft pick to boot..”
“How The Packers Keep Running The Table” SI crowed a few weeks later, hailing Green Bay's playoff win over Dallas in general and Aaron Rodgers' hot streak in particular.
Then came Atlanta. Only Scarlett O'Hara fared worse than the Packers did in Georgia's biggest town, getting tattooed by the Falcons in the NFC Conference Championship game.
Do I have to say it? The cover curse is back. Not that it ever left, as this New York Post article details.
Sure, it's irrational. Many a star and lots of teams have gone on to great heights after gracing the S-I cover–heck, the first guy to do so was Milwaukee Brave Eddie Matthews, volume one/issue one. Matthews went on to become a National League star, leaving the Braves to a pair of pennants and the 1957 World Series crown.
Michael Jordan made the cut 50 times, and has six championships to show for it. Muhammad Ali, LeBron James and Michael Phelps all did quite nicely for themselves amid multiple appearances. So why the reach?
It certainly couldn't be that, after a fairly decent start, other NBA teams figured out that the Bucks are a very young unit, one that's still trying to work out its rotations much less learn how to play consistently night to night, to compete with the energy they bring against contenders on those evenings when they're facing the Brooklyn Nets. The fact that the Bucks are a squad that still can't defend against the three, much less hit consistently from behind the arc? Naw. It's the jinx.
And the Packers were going to be the NFL's Comeback Kids: a preseason Super Bowl contender left for dead at 4-6, only to prattle off six straight regular season wins and a pair of playoff victories. Then they ran face-first into the buzz saw that proved to be the Falcons. Suddenly, all that was wrong was left exposed on the floor of the soon to be torn down Georgia Dome, from the lack of a running game to a depleted secondary.
It was great seeing the Bucks get national love–at the time, they certainly deserved it and the story about Giannis within was PR gold for a team struggling to earn props at the corner tap on game night, much less on the global stage where the NBA plays. And the Pack? Sure, it was a fun run, that table thing, but in the end all of the magic Rodgers could muster couldn't make up for the fact that, like everyone else on the Green Bay roster, he couldn't have covered Julio Jones or any of the other Falcons wide receivers, either.
The Packers are retooling, while the Bucks look like a young team that just needs a nap–which is what the All-Star break is for. A few days to recoup and recover and–who knows? There's a lot of basketball still to be played and Milwaukee finds itself in a mediocre conference where a strong run at the right time could propel the Bucks into better-than-decent playoff position. Plus, Kris Middleton could be coming back after his hamstring injury.
Let's just leave him off any magazine covers for now. And, moving forward.