While the list of "examples" of the jinx may be extensive, an individual record of 49 cover appearances by Michael Jordan did not hinder his success. Similarly, Vince Young also overcame the Sports Illustrated jinx by appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated twice during Texas' National Championship season;Emmitt Smith appeared on the cover the same week the Dallas Cowboys won Super Bowl XXVIII. In the America's Game documentary, Smith recalled that he adamantly wanted off the cover for fear of the jinx. Regardless, the Cowboys went on to win their second consecutive title of the 1990s, and fourth in team history. Tony Dorsett appeared on the cover under the title of "Heading for the Heisman" in 1976 and indeed won the Heisman Trophy that year. Andrew McCutchen was featured on a September 2013 cover, during a season in which he later won the National League MVP Award and led the Pittsburgh Pirates to their first playoff birth in twenty years. The 2013 Seattle Seahawks appeared on a September 2013 cover in which the magazine predicted a Super Bowl XLVIII win for the team; indeed, the Seahawks won the Super Bowl that year.
The most common explanation for the perceived effect is that athletes are generally featured on the cover after an outlier performance; their future performance is likely to display regression toward the mean and be less impressive by comparison. This decline in performance would then be misperceived as being related to, or even possibly caused by, the appearance on the magazine cover.
SI addressed their own opinions on the "alleged" cover jinx in a 2002 issue that featured a black cat on the cover.
August 16, 1954: Braves third baseman Eddie Mathews is the first person to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The Braves would have a nine-game winning streak snapped, and a broken hand later caused Mathews to miss seven games.
January 31, 1955: Skier Jill Kinmont suffered a near-fatal crash at Alta, Utah the same week that she appeared on the cover, and was left paralyzed from the chest down.
May 28, 1956 - Indy 500 Winner Bob Sweikert was featured on the cover. Less than three weeks later he died in a sprint car crash.
November 18, 1957: Oklahoma SoonerClendon Thomas appeared on the cover, along with others on the Sooner sideline, with the headline "Why Oklahoma is Unbeatable." The next game of that season Oklahoma lost to Notre Dame, ending their NCAA Division I record 47-game winning streak,.
February 13, 1961: 16-year-old Laurence Owen, the 1961 U.S. National and North American Figure Skating Champion appeared on the cover as "America's Most Exciting Girl Skater". On February 15, she and the rest of the U.S. figure skating team were killed in a plane crash near Brussels, Belgium while en route to the World Figure Skating Championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia.
May 1, 1967: Chaparral's Jim Hall, who appeared along with his Chaparral 2F on the cover, would go on to suffer from a number of mishaps for the rest of the decade. At the end of the season, that car found itself ineligible for competition through controversial rule changes. For the following year, Hall collided with another car at the Stardust Grand Prix, ending his racing career effectively. In 1969, his Chaparral 2H suffered from a poor season and in 1970, the innovative 2J fan-car, despite its performance, proved to be unreliable and following protests from competitors, was banned from competition at the end of the season. Hall and his team had to wait until the end of the decade for any success.
May 13, 1968: Graham Hill appears driving the turbine powered and four-wheel drive Lotus 56 in preparation for the Indianapolis 500. He crashed out during the race, his teammates retired the race with fuel shaft failure. Turbine power and four-wheel drive was banned at the end of the season.
June 9, 1969: Lee Trevino appeared on the cover as part of a preview to the U.S. Open. The defending champion failed to make the cut.
June 7, 1971: Al Unser and Peter Revson appeared on the cover celebrating their 1st and 2nd finish. Shortly after this publication, Unser began his string of retirements for the rest of that season.
September 11, 1972: Two-time defending national champion Nebraska is featured on the cover of the college football preview edition with the headline "Nebraska Goes For Three Straight". The Huskers are upset in the very first game of the 1972 season by UCLA, and finish 9-2-1. A similar occurrence takes place in 1996.
June 27, 1976: Ken Norton appeared on the cover just prior to his third fight with Muhammad Ali, and lost a highly disputed decision.
June 5, 1978: Al Unser appeared on the cover celebrating his third win, for the next two races, he crashed out and ran out of fuel. However this jinx was short lived as he scored a win for the next round.
June 6, 1978: Ken Norton again appeared on the cover, this time before his first title defense against Larry Holmes, who beat him in a split decision by one single point.
June 26, 1978: Andy North appears on the cover after winning the 1978 U.S. Open. He would not win another PGA Tour event for seven years, which was the 1985 U.S. Open (June 24, 1985). The second U.S. Open win would be his last PGA Tour win.
August 7, 1978: Pete Rose appeared on the cover the same week that his 44-game hitting streak ended.
November 20, 1978: Nebraska running back Rick Berns is featured after the Cornhuskers defeat #1 ranked Oklahoma and appear headed towards a showdown with Penn State for the national championship. But they lose at home to unranked Missouri the very next week, and are knocked out of the title picture. They are then forced to play a controversial rematch with Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, which the revenge-minded Sooners win 31-24.
June 7, 1982: Boxer Gerry Cooney appeared on the cover before his fight with Larry Holmes, who dispatched him in 13 rounds four days later.
May 25, 1981: A. J. Foyt appeared on the cover with the headline "Foyt Goes for a Fifth 500". Despite starting third, he ended up finishing 13th.
October 1, 1984: Nebraska running back Jeff Smith appears on the cover with the headline "The Big Red Machine" after the #1 ranked Huskers routed 8th-ranked UCLA 42-3 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. They lose the following week to an unranked Syracuse squad that finishes the season 6-5. Smith's senior season is eventually slowed by a re-injured ankle.
April 6, 1987: The Cleveland Indians, with Joe Carter and Cory Snyder, were featured in the cover with the headline "Indian Uprising", and being predicted as the best team in the American League. While both men would have a good season, the Indians themselves would have a dismal 61–101 season, the worst of any team that season.
June 20, 1988: Michael Spinks appeared on the cover before his fight with Mike Tyson with the quote, "Don't count me out". Tyson promptly knocked him out, and into retirement, in just 91 seconds.
September 26, 1988: Dwight Evans appeared on the cover and went 4-for-30 in a two-week span.
April 24, 1989: In the preview issue for the 1989 NFL Draft, football player Tony Mandarich was featured on the cover, with the label of "best offensive line prospect ever." Mandarich has been widely regarded as a bust in the NFL. In fact, he would appear on the cover again three years later under the headline "Incredible Bust".
May 8, 1989: Jon Peters of Brenham High School in Texas set the national high school record for games won by a pitcher, with a 51–0 record. The next game after the cover, he lost for the first (and only) time in his high school career.
June 5, 1989: After the Los Angeles Lakers swept the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Western Conference Finals to go undefeated to that point in the playoffs, that week's cover featured Lakers forward James Worthy with the word "SWEEP!" in large letters and, in smaller letters, the caption: "James Worthy and the Lakers beat the Suns to go 11-0 in the playoffs." The Lakers would go on to lose in the 1989 NBA Finals, being swept 4−0 by the Detroit Pistons.
September 14, 1996: As they had been in 1972, Nebraska is the two-time defending national champion and is heavily favored to win a third. This time, running back Ahman Green is pictured with the headline: "Red Alert: Ahman Green and Nebraska Set Their Sights on a Third Straight National Title." The following week, the Huskers are shut out for the first time since 1973, 19-0 by Arizona State. Despite this early loss, the Huskers were still in position to play for the national title late in the season before suffering a humiliating upset in the inaugural Big XII championship game to a four-loss Texas team.
September 4, 2000: Ryan Leaf appeared on the cover with the headline "Back from the Brink" after a 24−20 win by his San Diego Chargers over the Arizona Cardinals characterizing his comeback as "an ascent from pariah to possible standout pro passer". This did not improve his team's performance during the season through Leaf's injuries and poor attitude and was released by his team and his career never recovered.
September 11, 2000: Painted in gold, gymnast Ivan Ivankov was on the cover of the Olympic preview issue with the caption, "The World's Best Gymnast." He won no medals in Sydney, finishing an unlucky fourth in the all-around contest.
October 2, 2000: Athlete Marion Jones appeared on the cover following her Olympic successes. She later became implicated in the BALCO Scandal and was subsequently stripped of her medals and her achievements prior to that cover year were annulled.
February 12, 2001: The XFL was featured on the cover, with the headline "Cheap Thrills: Will sleazy gimmicks and low-rent football work for the XFL?" The league's popularity dramatically declined after that point, and the XFL failed after its first season.
March 5, 2001: Nomar Garciaparra appeared on the cover and his off-season conditioning was detailed in the issue. The week after the issue hit newsstands, he would break his wrist, ruining his season and changing the trajectory of his career.
November 18, 2002: Highly touted high school football quarterback Brian Brohm appeared on the cover as part of a four-part series on the sport. Brohm had a decent college career but was injured toward the end of his time in college and was a complete bust in the NFL. Brohm has spent his professional football career in second-tier leagues.
November 17, 2003: The Kansas City Chiefs appeared on the cover after starting the season 9-0, but would lose the following game in Cincinnati to the Bengals. Kansas City finished the regular season 4−3, losing home field advantage to the New England Patriots, followed by losing the divisional playoff against Indianapolis.
In November 2007, Kansas Jayhawks wide receiver Kerry Meier appeared on the cover, which stated "Dream Season (So Far)" after the Jayhawks were 11−0. In their next game they lost to their archrivals, the Missouri Tigers, 36−28, ending their perfect season.
August 25, 2008: Michael Phelps appeared on the cover following his Olympic triumphs and reappeared in December 8 issue as Sportsman of the Year. In February 2009, publication of a photograph of Phelps using a water pipe, a device used for smoking tobacco or marijuana, surfaced on a British newspaper resulting in the loss of Kellogg as a sponsor, as well as a three-month suspension imposed by USA Swimming.
March 2, 2009: golfer Tiger Woods appeared on the cover, by November that year, details of his infidelity surfaced, tarnishing his family image and resulting in the loss of several lucrative endorsement deals.
November 9, 2009: Iowa'sDerrell Johnson-Koulianos appeared on the front cover with the words "Still Perfect." The Hawkeyes lost to Northwestern two days before the issue date, ending the longest winning streak in school history.
In January 2010, Kentucky point guard John Wall appeared on the cover under the headline "The Great Wall." The next week undefeated Kentucky was upset on the road by 11th-ranked South Carolina in a game where Wall was outplayed by Gamecocks point guard Devan Downey.
In February 2010, American alpine skier and Olympic gold medal hopeful Lindsey Vonn injured her leg the same week as she appeared on the cover. Vonn suffered a severe bruise on her right shin following a crash during training February 2. She caught a break when poor weather caused the alpine events at the Olympics to be delayed, enabling her to recover enough to win gold in her first event, the downhill. However, the "jinx" would apparently catch up with her in her other four events. First, she crashed out in the slalom portion of the super-combined after finishing first in the downhill portion. In the super-G, she admittedly skied the last part of the course too conservatively, ending up with a bronze medal. Vonn then crashed out of the giant slalom, and was disqualified for straddling a gate in the slalom.
Also in February 2010, Serbian tennis player Ana Ivanovic posed for the magazine, in the middle of a period in which she won just twelve professional matches between January and July 2010 inclusive. Shortly after her appearance in the magazine, the Serb dropped out of the WTA's Top 50 as her on-court form and confidence got worse. However, she has since climbed back into the World's Top 20 and regained her old form.
In June 2010, Stephen Strasburg was featured and later that week earned his first MLB loss, and then was injured and was put on the disabled list. On August 28, 2010 it was confirmed that Strasburg would need Tommy John surgery.
On July 19, 2010, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh all appeared on the cover introduced as the Miami Heat's Big Three. At the time Bosh and James signed with the Heat during free agency, and the team was heavily favored as a championship contender. The Heat would represent the Eastern Conference in the 2011 NBA Finals, but ultimately lost to the Dallas Mavericks. LeBron also saw a significant drop in stats during the six games in the Finals, and was heavily criticized and questioned for his performance in late-season and clutch situations.
In August 2010, three University of Texas football players were featured on a regional cover of SI noting a defense worthy of "winning it all." Starting the season ranked fifth, the Longhorns would finish the season 5−7, making them ineligible for the college football postseason. Five of those losses came at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, their home field.
October 11, 2010: David Price was shown blowing a bubble on the cover of the magazine's Major League Baseball playoff issue, the Tampa Bay Rays pitcher had a poor outing in the first game of the 2010 American League Division Series, allowing 4 earned runs on nine hits, including two home runs, in a 5−1 loss to the Texas Rangers. Price would go on to pitch in Game 5 of the series and lose by the same score of 5–1 to end the Rays' playoff run and season.
November 29, 2010: Michael Vick appeared on the cover after a comeback win over the New York Giants. The next week against Chicago, he threw an interception and the Eagles go on to lose to the Bears.
January 10, 2011: Vince Wilfork appeared on the cover after the win versus Miami in Week 17. In his next game, his team (Patriots) lost to the Jets in the divisional playoff game.
January 19, 2011: Calvin Pace appeared on the cover after a win vs New England in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. In the next game, the Jets lost to Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship Game.
March 24, 2011: BYU Cougars star guard Jimmer Fredette appeared on the cover after the Cougars beat Gonzaga to take them to their first NCAA tournament Sweet 16 since 1981. In the next game, Jimmer only hit 11 of 29 shots in a loss to the Florida Gators .
On April 19, 2011, Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls appears on the cover prior to the NBA Playoffs. The Bulls had a good stretch in the postseason, but eventually lost in the Conference Finals to the Miami Heat. The Heat would go on to the Finals but then lose to the Mavericks.
September 29, 2011: The Buffalo Bills (specifically, cornerback Drayton Florence returning an interception for a touchdown) were featured on a regional cover after breaking their 15-game losing streak to the New England Patriots, their first appearance on an SI cover since the last time they defeated New England (see above). They went on to lose the next week to the Cincinnati Bengals, breaking a winning streak the Bills had against the Bengals that dated to the 1980s. Florence, in turn, would be cut from the roster during the offseason.
August 21, 2011 - Nebraska defensive lineman Jared Crick was featured front and center on the college preview cover. He did not finish his senior year because of a torn pectoral muscle.
October 24, 2011 - Outfielder Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated as the 2011 World Series began. The Rangers would go on to lose the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in 7 games despite being one strike away from winning the Series twice during Game 6.
December 14, 2011: The Denver Broncos (specifically Tim Tebow) appear on the cover after a six game win streak. They would go on to lose the next three games of the regular season and ultimately the playoffs.
February 5, 2012: Following the AFC and NFC Championship Games on January 22, 2012, won by the New England Patriots and the New York Giants, the Patriots appeared on bothSports Illustrated covers leading up to Super Bowl XLVI. The January 30 cover featured quarterback Tom Brady and the February 6 cover featured team owner Robert Kraft. The Patriots went on to lose the Super Bowl to the Giants 21−17. The Giants became the first team with a 9−7 regular season record to win the Super Bowl. The Patriots, who had an AFC-best 13−3 regular season record, had already lost to the Giants in week 9 of the regular season and in week 4 of the preseason. The Patriots had also lost to the Giants in their one previous Super Bowl match-up in Super Bowl XLII.
On February 17, 2012, with point guard Jeremy Lin featured on the Sports Illustrated cover, the New York Knicks snapped a seven-game winning streak by losing at home 89-85 to the New Orleans Hornets, the team with the second-worst record in the NBA.
On February 23, 2012, when featured on a second consecutive Sports Illustrated cover, Lin went 1 for 11 as the Knicks lost to the Miami Heat 102-88. In March, Lin tore a meniscus in his left knee and subsequently underwent season-ending knee surgery.
March 26, 2012: Albert Pujols was featured on the Sports Illustrated baseball preview cover. Next to the cover photo was the caption, "The game's greatest slugger starts over with the Angels". Pujols did not hit a home run with the Angels until May 6, 2012, in his 28th game and 111th at-bat of the season. Dating back to 2011, his regular season homerless streak lasted 33 games and 139 at-bats. Prior to 2012, Pujols had hit 445 career home runs, 32+ home runs in each of his 11 MLB seasons (including 37 in 2011), and 3 home runs off 3 different Texas Rangers pitchers in Game 3 of the 2011 World Series, tying Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson for the most home runs in a World Series game.
May 23, 2012: The Los Angeles Dodgers (specifically Matt Kemp and Magic Johnson) appear on the cover. They held the best record in baseball (30−13) at the time and looked poised to sweep the 19−25 Arizona Diamondbacks who had been struck by injuries. They went on to lose to the Diamondbacks the same night in an 11−4 blowout. Ted Lilly received his first loss of the season. Clayton Kershaw lost to the Astros the following night. The Dodgers were then swept by the Milwaukee Brewers and then lost a series with the Rockies. They lost 8 of the next 11 games. Matt Kemp's seemingly minor injury became much more serious and the team is expected to be without him for at least four weeks.
June 11, 2012: Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton was featured on the Sports Illustrated cover. On June 15, Hamilton was hospitalized because of an intestinal virus.
August 20, 2012: Michigan Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson is featured on the cover. The Wolverines lose their first game of the 2012 season with a 41−14 loss against Alabama.
September 24, 2012: Oregon Ducks running back De'Anthony Thomas is featured on the cover. The top-ranked Ducks went on to lose their first game of the season to Pac-12 rival Stanford 17−14 in overtime on November 17, 2012.
October 29, 2012: Detroit Tigers hitter Miguel Cabrera was featured on the cover. The Tigers were subsequently swept in the World Series by the San Francisco Giants. During the series, Cabrera went 3 for 13, including making the final out of the Series.
November 13, 2012: Kansas State Wildcats quarterback Collin Klein is featured on the cover, the week after Kansas State reached #1 in the BCS standings for the first time in school history. At the time, the team was a serious contender to play in the national title game, and Klein himself was a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy. The following Saturday, Kansas State put up its worst game of the year, getting blown out at Baylor 52−24.
December 2012: Deron Williams of the Brooklyn Nets struggles and gets injured soon after being on the cover of Sports Illustrated in the off season. This was one of the worst streaks of his NBA career.
April 29, 2013: Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant was featured on the cover. In their next game, Durant's star teammate Russell Westbrook tore his lateral meniscus against the Rockets, and the Thunder went on to lose their series with Memphis.
May 20, 2013: St. Louis Cardinals starting pitchers Jaime Garcia and Jake Westbrook were featured along with their fellow starters. Later that week, Garcia was scheduled to have season-ending shoulder surgery. And Westbrook had to cut short a throwing session due to lingering elbow discomfort that same week.
July 22, 2013: Pittsburgh Pirates closer Jason Grilli (with an NL leading 30 saves) was the first Pirate featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated since 1992, the last time the Pirates went to the postseason. In a game that same evening, he strained his right forearm and was placed on the disabled list.
November 4, 2013: Oregon Ducks QB Marcus Mariota is featured on the cover for his undefeated run with the Ducks. Three days later, Oregon lost to Stanford in a gut-wrenching loss to stop their undefeated record.
November 20, 2013: Alabama QB AJ McCarron is featured on the cover for his pursuit of quarterbacking a third straight national championship team. Ten days later, Alabama lost to Auburnat the end of regulation to stop their undefeated record and any chance of a national title.
December 9, 2013: Ohio State QB, Braxton Miller is featured on the cover after the Buckeyes win their 24th straight game. A week later Ohio State loses the Big Ten championship game to Michigan State, 34-24.
January 19, 2014: New England's LeGarrette Blount, who scored four touchdowns the previous week in the AFC Divisional Round Playoffs against the Indianapolis Colts, had five carries for only six yards the following week against the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game.
February 2, 2014: The Denver Broncos, while scoring more touchdowns and more points in an NFL season in history, and Peyton Manning, who earned the yards passing and touchdowns passing records in the 2013 season, lost to the Seattle Seahawks in Superbowl 48 while only scoring 8 points.