Dwight Howard and Serena Williams Naked From the Waist Down

In a callback to its classic “Totally Nude” ad campaign, ESPN is halfway to uncovering something big.

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Bummer that ESPN the Magazine’s half-dozen November nude “Body Issue” covers don’t focus on the bottom half of the athletes they depict. Of the four that have been released prior to ESPN’s Friday newsstand date, Serena Williams, Dwight Howard and Adrian Peterson are posed in ways that showcase their upper bodies (mixed martial artist Gina Carano sports a kind of red panty). Community obscenity standards aside, this seems like a missed opportunity. Anyone with a small dose of sports knowledge knows that below the waist is where the action lies in our favorite games.

Here, I don’t mean to be literal, although it’s worth noting that in America’s main stick-and-ball sports, glorious form is born of waist-down superiority.  Athletic excellence is rooted in the acreage from what’s done with by Navel Time: Red-hot mixed martial arts is transferring fitness obsession to the calves, thighs and glutes. Adrian Peterson uses his muscular drive to push free safeties backward. An intriguing flaw in Dwight Howard’s body is the lack of rump and whatnot in his 90th-percentile baggy shorts. His Superman muscles don’t keep him from being pushed around in the paint.

To move beyond the literal, get a look at Serena Williams’ big booty. The key to the younger Compton legend’s power game doesn’t dwell in the shoulders that guide her groundstroke. What’s crucial is a magnificently bulbous ass that’s given Serena the core strength to become, potentially, the greatest woman ever to pick up a racquet.

Here’s a butt that breaks down barriers. Crossover cheeks, if you will. Pre-Serena, there was yoga, but there was no yoga butt aka ghetto booty for a set that once craved a Chris Everett body. Women of all ethnicities now strive for a rear end that mimics Serena’s, and they’ll spin, or lift, or Downward-Facing-Dog all damn day to possess it. And these women aren’t re-sculpting themselves because they want to part of a renaissance in tennis. They’re at it because, with a gentle goose from hip-hop, this athlete has helped make rear-ends the new rack. And bigger is better. Serena, by sheer presence,  has sexualized her setting.

Long before she scandalized the sport with ghetto hyperbole at the U.S. Open, while she was still wearing traditional outfits designed for another, her ass shouted issues of class. This summer’s clash was foreshadowed, from behind.

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