Bryce Harper took his clothes off for ESPN Magazine's Body Issue. You probably knew that already, or at least comprehended intellectually that was happening. But were you really prepared for what that would look like?
Harper's Body Issue cover came out today.
— ESPN (@espn) July 2, 2015
Goodness gracious. It's like that? I didn't know it was like that. Did you?
Holding a baseball in front of a red backdrop, the Nationals star is dressed in some dirt and hair gel. Ok, mostly hair gel.
There's something about his expression -- a kind of steely-serious eye contact beneath furrowed brows -- that borders sultry. Even unnerving for those who remember him as a Mormon kid called up to the big leagues at age 19.
In case there was any doubt, a suggestive crop well south of the slugger's hips drives home the point.
Baseball has a new stud.
Bryce's traps would like to alert you that the future is now. Yesterday's potential is today's 1.173 OPS and 5.5 WAR -- both tops in the MLB.
ESPN's photographers deserve credit as some of the best in their business, too (and for watching D'Angelo's "Untitled" video a thousand times, but I digress).
Instead of leaning on baseball uniforms and props (note the ball is practically hidden in Harper's hands), the image leverages lighting, color, pose and "wardrobe" to convey virility. It's a visual metaphor for coming of age that's universal rather than exclusive to the MLB.
The Body Issue brings together elite physiques and photography. Portraits like Harper's are what makes it great.
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