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ESPN Body Issue: Zlatan Ibrahimović, Megan Rapinoe, Crystal Dunn featured on covers

Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird are photographed by photographer Radka Leitmeritz in Seattle for ESPN the Magazine's 2018 Body Issue. Courtesy of ESPN The Magazine/Photo by Eric Lutzens.

Soccer stars Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Megan Rapinoe and Crystal Dunn are among 10 athletes featured on covers for ESPN The Magazine’s 10th edition of its celebrated BODY Issue

They join Saquon Barkley, Sue Bird, Lauren Chamberlain, Yasiel Puig, Adam Rippon, Jerry Rice, Breanna Stewart and Karl-Anthony Towns. 

Rapinoe — United States women’s national team stalwart, National Women’s Soccer League forward for the Seattle Reign and outspoken activist — posed with her girlfriend, WNBA point guard Sue Bird, for their cover. They are the first openly gay couple on the cover of the body issue. 

“I feel like [there are] a lot of negative ideas that hopefully I can break down just by being myself,” Rapinoe told ESPN. “I think it’s important to do these things first. It’s important for people to come out. Visibility is important.

“It’s pretty amazing to think about [being on the cover of the Body Issue], especially in the times we’re in. Just think of how far we’ve come, but also the current climate. Not only are we female athletes, but we’re dating as well. It’s kind of bad-ass.”

To that, Bird responded, “Yeah, I think it’ll probably be even more bad-ass later. A year, five years, 10 years, 20 years, to look back and be like, Oh, they were the first openly gay couple to be on the cover, to be in the issue.”  

(Courtesy ESPN The Magazine/Photo by Peter Hapak)

Since leaving Manchester United in March to join the LA Galaxy in Major League Soccer, Ibrahimovic has toured the country making various media appearances, including Jimmy Kimmel.

For the body issue, the larger-than-life Swedish superstar covered in tattoos talked about haters, injuries and how at 36 years old he’s “like the wine: the older, the better.”

“To be creative, I need to be angry. I need to be very angry,” Ibrahimovic said. “I find the haters and make that give me energy.

“I decide when I stop football. I decide how I will finish this story. I will not end this story by injury. When I walk out, I will feel just like when I began to play, powerful and feeling just good, perfect.”

And Crystal Dunn, 25, also a U.S. women’s national team and NWSL standout, shared her perspective on accomplishing so much in her sport despite standing just 5 feet, 2 inches tall.

(Courtesy ESPN The Magazine/Photo by Marcus Smith)

“I accept who I am,” Bird said in her interview for the magazine. “I am not the biggest, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be the quickest or the smartest and find other ways of being successful.

“I had doubts about my height and size on the pitch. But I grew –- I mean, I matured  … I learned to take advantage of my body. Lucky for me, the ball is only in the air a handful of times a game.”

Here is a full list of the 16 athletes from various sports to grace the pages of the “BODY10” issue in print and online:

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