ESPN Magazine’s body issue went online Monday featuring, among others, the finely tuned and entirely naked physiques of two Minnesota star athletes: Olympic gold medalist Jessie Diggins and the Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns.
In their interviews for the magazine, Diggins talked about showcasing her body and appreciating its strength and capabilities. Towns said he thinks he’s got a funny-looking body and noted that his lean abs don’t come naturally.
In her most revealing photos, Diggins is wearing nothing but her Salomon skis and boots, diamond earrings and a smile while holding strategically placed poles. She was a gold medalist in cross-country skiing at the 2018 Winter Olympics in the women’s team sprint — the first gold ever won by the United States in that sport.
Diggins, 26, grew up in Afton and graduated from Stillwater High School. The magazine lists her height at 5 feet 4 and her weight at 127 pounds.
In the accompanying interview, Diggins said it’s important to show that “girls can be strong.”
Cross-country skiing, she said, “takes a lot of power and endurance, and it’s also a graceful sport. And I hope to be able to show those elements in the photos and to inspire younger women to be OK with who they are and what they look like.”
She said that the part of her shoot, which was done in Vermont, that stuck with her was being on a trail among “awesome birch trees.” She said it showed how “anyone can go cross-country skiing on a trail in the woods and just be in awe of how beautiful it is. It’s a silent sport.”
In his most uncovered shots, Towns is holding a basketball hoop ripped from a shattered backboard and wearing nothing but two beaded bracelets on his right wrist. The 22-year-old is listed at 7 feet tall and weighing 220 pounds.
Towns’ photos, shot in Los Angeles against a backdrop of mountains, feature him in various poses — including bouncing on a trampoline and doing the splits in the air — with a well-placed basketball in his hands.
In his interview, Towns said he thinks people will be surprised by how long his legs are compared to his torso, calling himself a “very lanky fellow. I think it looks a little funny.”
He added that people also may be surprised “to see how much work I truly put into my body so that I can do what I do on the court.”
Towns said he loves the grind of the long season and physical work. Improbably, he was told early on that his body would be a liability on the court, he said.
“I was that chubby kid with not the flashiest body, and now I’m able to represent myself and my family and all the journeys and the trials and tribulations that I went through,” he said.
To get his chiseled abs, Towns said he drinks water only, eats vegetables and chicken but no carbs. “Some people eat ice cream, doughnuts and drink soda all day and they have abs. I have to have a whole other spectrum,” he said.