In Sports Illustrated’s July issue, Rohan Nadkarni details how FaZe Clan, the gaming, streaming, merchandising, content-creating monster, grew a following and brand reach well beyond the world of esports. The issue, available online and on newsstands June 17, also includes Alex Prewitt on the most expensive baseball card ever sold, Tom Verducci on the mental and emotional toll of baseball’s gig economy, Grant Wahl on the collision of soccer, sports media and authoritarian politics in Azerbaijan, and Mark Bechtel on the 100th anniversary of the Jack Dempsey-Georges Carpentier fight – the first live radio broadcast of a sporting event.
On the Cover
A decade ago, FaZe Clan had humble beginnings as an informal collective of gamers trading Call of Duty highlight clips on YouTube. Today FaZe members have rock star followings, and athletes have noticed: some of the biggest names in analog sports have joined forces with the esports conglomerate. Sports Illustrated’s first esports-themed cover features Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler “FaZe K1” Murray, teenaged basketball star LeBron “FaZe Bronny” James Jr., FaZe Temperrr, FaZe Swagg and FaZe Rug. In celebration of Sports Illustrated converging with gaming culture for this iconic cover story, fans can purchase a special limited-edition version of the magazine (some of which are autographed by FaZe talent) only on the NTWRK app on June 12 at 11:00 am PT.
July Issue Features
- Life After Death: Pablo Cruz is a legendary figure in baseball’s player development subculture, a scout who has funneled dozens of players from obscurity in Latin America to stardom in the major leagues for over four decades. He has devoted his life to the game even while haunted by a freak tragedy 41 years ago with the death of Alfredo Edmead, the youngest professional player to die on a baseball field. Tom Verducci’s feature is a story of how grief not only wounds the soul but also can reveal it.
- Ignition Switch: Senior Writer Chris Mannix covers the NBA’s experimental G League Ignite, a new team that gives prospects who skip college a place to develop without going overseas. One season into the experiment, the team has produced two likely top five picks in this summer’s draft, Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga. Is that enough to keep the venture alive?
- Chairman of The Cardboard: Long before NFTs, the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card – the holy grail of baseball memorabilia-became the most expensive card in collecting history. Alex Prewitt reveals how a wallet-sized cardboard rectangle has stayed relevant for generations, shaping the collecting industry and helping grow the game of baseball along the way.
- Rasim v. The Regime: It happens almost every day: an athlete acts, a journalist criticizes, social media sniping ensues… and usually that is that. But in 2015, after a soccer match in Azerbaijan, this familiar routine took a deadly turn: a journalist was fatally beaten after a sharp Facebook post about a star player’s postgame celebration. Grant Wahl examines if the incident was sparked by what the journalist wrote or what he represented in a country gripped by an authoritarian regime.
Also in this issue:
- Leading Off: In 2020, they hosted drive-in movies, beer tastings, and vaccination drives – everything, it seemed, but baseball. For the first time in two years, minor league parks are hosting baseball games, and SI photographers take us on a tour of baseball’s reawakened bush leagues.
- Scorecard: Tom Verducci on the mental and emotional toll of baseball’s gig economy and one pitcher’s plea for Major League Baseball to deal with the sport’s crisis.
- Mark Bechtel on the 100th anniversary of the Jack Dempsey-Georges Carpentier fight – the first live radio broadcast of a sporting event.
- Gameplan: Review of an NBA reporter’s memoir of the league’s 2020 bubble from Mark Bechtel.
- SI Full Frame: That time we asked Jason Kidd to go for the gold.
- Faces in the Crowd: Nevin Harrison, the first U.S. qualifier for Tokyo in canoeing.