Rick Reilly, 50, has been voted National Sportswriter of the Year 11 times. He is the new back-page columnist for ESPN The Magazine, and a featured columnist for ESPN.com, as well an essayist for ESPN SportsCenter and ABC Sports.
He was recently named the winner of the Damon Runyon Award for Outstanding Contributions to Journalism, an honor previously won by Jimmy Breslin, Tim Russert, Bob Costas, Mike Royko, George Will, Ted Turner and Tom Brokaw, among others.
For nearly 23 years—from 1985 until 2007—his unique, breezy, hilarious style graced the pages of Sports Illustrated. For the last 10 there, he wrote the popular "Life of Reilly" column, which ran on the last page. It was the first signed weekly opinion column in the magazine’s long history. He is "the Tiger Woods of sports columnists," says Bloomberg News.
Reilly is also the founder of the anti-malaria effort Nothing But Nets, which has raised millions of dollars to hang mosquito nets over kids in Africa, where 3,000 children die every day of the disease. A partnership with the United Nations Foundation, every dollar goes to buying the nets. At last count, it’s raised nearly $18 million. Wrote the Denver Post, "Nothing but Nets is one charity that scores big."
Reilly is co-author of the movie "Leatherheads," the comic romance centered on the 1924 Duluth Eskimos of the fledgling NFL, starring George Clooney, Renee Zellweger and John Krasinski. It opened on April 4, 2008. MTV called it "a small, unassuming jewel." And USA Today wrote: "Leatherheads is a real winner."
As for his sports writing, the New York Daily News called him "one of the funniest humans on the planet." Publishers Weekly called him, “an indescribable amalgam of Dave Barry, Jim Murray, and Lewis Grizzard, with the timing of Jay Leno and the wit of Johnny Carson.”
His latest book is a collection of 100 of his best SI columns—Hate Mail from Cheerleaders. The forward is by Lance Armstrong. It became a New York Times bestseller in its first week.
His current novel Shanks for Nothing (Doubleday) is a madcap golf novel that cracked the New York Times bestseller list. It’s the sequel to Reilly’s cult classic Missing Links (Doubleday), which was made into a sitcom on ABC-TV. Both books revolve around regulars at the worst public course in America—Ponkaquogue Municipal Golf Links and Deli—and the insane bets, pranks and camaraderie that goes on there. The New York Times hailed “Missing Links” as “three laughs per page.”
In Reilly’s previous book—Who’s Your Caddy? (Doubleday)—he caddies for everyone from Jack Nicklaus to Donald Trump to a $50,000-a-hole gambler. It rose to No. 3 on the New York Times best-seller list.
His first collection of columns—"The Life of Reilly: The Best of Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly"—also was a New York Times bestseller.
He also wrote, Slo-Mo: My Untrue Story, (Doubleday) a farce on the NBA, which the Denver Post called, "a romp that could have been written only by someone who has seen the game form the inside.”
He has written about everything from ice skater Katarina Witt behind the Iron Curtain to actor Jack Nicholson in the front row, from wrestling priests in Mexico City to mushers at the Iditarod, from playing golf with President Clinton to playing golf with O.J. Simpson and back again. He has five times had the disagreeable task of accompanying the models on the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. He was once featured in a Miller Lite ad with swimsuit cover girl Rebecca Romijn.
Probably too curious for his own good, Reilly has flown upside down at 600 miles per hour in an F-14, faced fastballs from Nolan Ryan, jumped from 14,000 feet with the U.S. Army Parachute Team, driven a stock car 142 miles per hour, piloted the Goodbyear blimp, competed against 107 women for a spot in the WNBA, worked three innings of play-by-play for the Colorado Rockies, bicycled with Lance Armstrong, anchored a half hour of ESPN NEWS, driven a monster truck over six parked cars, worked as a rodeo bullfighter, competed in the World Sauna Championships, tried his hand at women’s pro football and played 108 holes of golf in one day.
Reilly has won numerous awards in his 30-year writing career, including the prestigious New York Newspaper Guild's Page One Award for Best Magazine Story. He is the co-author of "The Boz," the best-selling autobiography of bad-boy Oklahoma linebacker Brian Bosworth; "Gretzky," with hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky of the Los Angeles Kings; "I'd Love to but I Have a Game" with NBC announcer Marv Albert, and the "The Wit and Wisdom of Charles Barkley."
Reilly began his career in 1979 taking phoned-in high school volleyball scores for his hometown Boulder (Colo.) Daily Camera while a sophomore at the University of Colorado, from which he was graduated in 1981. He wrote for two years at the Camera, two more at the Denver Post and two more at the Los Angeles Times, before moving to Sports Illustrated in 1985.
Reilly dabbles in magic, piano, mountain biking, SCUBA, back-alley basketball, skiing and snowboarding. He lives in Denver and in Hermosa Beach, CA, with his wife, Cynthia, and a putter he’s not currently speaking to.