Moncrief SI cover turns 40

By: Matt Jones
Published: Tuesday, February 13, 2018
Arkansas' Sidney Moncrief gets ready to welcome one of his teammates during introductions Saturday, Feb. 11, 1978, in Fort Worth, Texas, before the Razorbacks pulled off another victory, beating TCU 77-57. (AP Photo)
Arkansas' Sidney Moncrief gets ready to welcome one of his teammates during introductions Saturday, Feb. 11, 1978, in Fort Worth, Texas, before the Razorbacks pulled off another victory, beating TCU 77-57. (AP Photo)

— Forty years ago today, Sports Illustrated hit the newsstands with one of its most iconic covers.

The image of Arkansas great Sidney Moncrief flying through the air during a game against Texas remains one of the magazine's best remembered. Not only does the picture tell a thousand words, it might resonate for a thousand years.

Manny Millan snapped the photo during No. 2 Arkansas' 75-71 win over No. 12 Texas in Barnhill Arena on Feb. 1, 1978, a payback game for the Razorbacks' only loss during a 25-1 start to the season, which ended with Arkansas playing in the Final Four.

The Razorbacks had played - and won - three more games by the time the magazine printed on Monday, Feb. 13, 1978. That same day Arkansas was ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press Top 25 Poll for the first time, and the Razorbacks beat Baylor 82-56 that night in Barnhill.

What makes the Moncrief cover most unique was that he struggled somewhat in the Texas game. Moncrief averaged 17.8 points per game going into the contest, but was held to only eight against the Longhorns.

Millan's lens caught one of his only field goals that night.

"I was afraid I had shot too early," Millan said in a 1987 Sports Illustrated article.

In a 2010 survey, three Sports Illustrated reporters ranked the Moncrief cover their favorite in the history of the magazine. One was Alexander Wolff, a longtime basketball writer for the publication.

"I've asked Manny Millan over the years how he got the shot, and he's always replied with a delphic shrug—one of those it-was-just-one-of-those-things" looks, Wolff said in 2010. "I love the pre-explosion energy of the pose and the look in Moncrief's eyes."

At the time, Moncrief was the second Arkansas player to make the cover of the magazine. Football player Harry Jones was the first in 1965.

After Moncrief, it was another 16 years before Arkansas basketball was featured on the cover of the magazine again. (The Razorbacks were indirectly featured during a 1979 cover documenting Indiana State's win over Arkansas in the NCAA Tournament).

The Razorbacks were a popular cover during their golden years of 1994-95. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton wore a Razorback basketball windsuit for a March 1994 cover and Corliss Williamson made the cover following Arkansas' win over Duke in the 1994 NCAA Tournament championship game.

Corey Beck made the cover a year later when the Razorbacks made a return trip to the Final Four.

Moncrief made the cover of the magazine one more time while playing for the Milwaukee Bucks, but it is his Arkansas one that people still talk about four decades later. Charles P. Pierce, a Sports Illustrated reporter, referenced the cover last year when making the case for Moncrief to make the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

"(Moncrief) was shown rising from the floor with a look on his face that made you wonder if he were about to dunk a basket or kill a vampire," Pierce wrote.

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