Monday, April 13, 2015

Sports Life: Confessions of an Autograph Hunter

For the past 33 years, Scott Smith has fanatically hunted the signatures of anyone who has been featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
The 50-year-old retired investment banker owns the world’s largest collection of signed SI covers — approximately 94 percent of the magazines issued weekly since 1954 — which he values at around $2 million.
According to a feature on, Smith has obtained 99 percent of these in person.
These are his experiences with the biggest names in sports.Michael Jordan has been featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated 51 times — more than any other athlete.
Smith first started getting Jordan to sign covers back in 1982 when it was relatively easy to get access to the NBA legend.
“Then he became the Michael Jordan we all know: a real big-shot, bigger than (the president) or Pope,” Smith tells “He’s almost untouchable (now); he’s very, very stingy with signing autographs.”
It’s left Smith still chasing MJ’s autograph for 16 covers to complete his set.
“I even offered him $10,000 in cash on a golf course in the Bahamas … and he said, ‘No thank you. You’ve got enough,’” Smith says.

Wayne Gretzky

Smith got his first SI subscription in ’73 and got started on the collection nine years later, but actually not with that ’82 Air Jordan cover. A lifelong hockey fan, Smith found out where the away-team Edmonton Oilers were staying when they rolled into Jersey to play the Devils and had his mom drop him off in the hotel lobby. His mission: getting star center Wayne Gretzky’s autograph. After following some of Gretzky’s teammates into the hotel bar and playing Ms. Pac-Man, the Great One finally emerged.

“I pulled out a couple of Sports Illustrateds, and he gladly signed them,” Smith says.Smith says. “He’s always been one of the classiest superstars ever. Back then, it was no big deal to him.”

The swimsuit models

Each year Sports Illustrated has a swimsuit issue and it’s the models who adorn these covers Smith has found the easiest to hunt down.
“Most of the girls have apartments in New York City, they all go to Fashion Week, they all go to Knicks and Rangers games, they all go to some type of charity event throughout the year, so you just need to keep an eye on their Twitter accounts and find out where they’re going to be,” he says.

Kate Upton

Modal TriggerBut there’s one glamour girl Smith had a bad experience with — Kate Upton.
“She’s an absolute nightmare; just an ugly human being,” he says. “I saw her alone, and she said, ‘F*** me,’ as if it was the worst thing in the world to be asked for her autograph. Those were the words she used, as if I was stabbing her in the heart.”

Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson

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Muhammad AliPhoto: Getty Images
When Smith tracked down Mike Tyson, he was amazed when the bad boy boxer invited him back to his hotel room for a cigar and signed 50 items.
Despite that generosity, there’s one other boxer who tops Smith’s list.
“Muhammad Ali is probably the greatest person I’ve had the chance of meeting,” says Smith, who’s met the legendary boxer 30 times. “He told me it made him happy and one step closer to God every day he signed for people and watched them smile. He’s just a man who just gets it.”

- from the New York Post

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