Arash Markazi, 25, realized in high school that "at 5-foot-6 or -7, my dream of playing basketball in the NBA was probably not going to happen." Instead, he joined the school newspaper to cover the sports beat and hasn't stopped writing since. In college at USC he won nearly every student journalism award imaginable and since graduation has worn dual hats at Sports Illustrated, reporting for the magazine and penning a weekly column titled "The Hot Read" for SI.com.
Markazi has published intimate and quirky portraits of Wayne Gretzky and Brazilian soccer star Ronaldo, and frequently jets around the country covering the full gambit of college sports (in a particularly entertaining column, Markazi joins USC football greats Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush in a Manhattan nightclub after the presentation of the Heisman Trophy). What you won't know from reading his stories is that Markazi has battled cancer twice, in college and then earlier this year, and that he continued to write columns from his Los Angeles hospital bed while sports games blared from a nearby television set. "It was just like a big relief to know that I could continue to write, to cover sports," he says.