ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue Bares All

Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi poses for one of the covers of ESPN The Magazine's second annual Body Issue. Sheryl Neilds

NEW YORK (CBS) Sports stars are baring all on the covers of ESPN The Magazine's second annual Body Issue.

The issue features a number of notable athletes stripped down to their purest form. The six covers feature New York Knicks star Amar'e Stoudemire, PGA golf pro Camilo Villegas, Everton Football Club goalkeeper Tim Howard, Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi, the USA women's water polo team and wheelchair tennis star Esther Vergeer.

Pictures: ESPN's Body Issue

ESPN The Magazine's editor-in-chief, Gary Belsky, says that the issue is meant to be a study and celebration of athletes' bodies - not simply an excuse to see them naked.

"It's not about swimsuits and hot models. It's about bodies and athletes," he said.

He added: "We go to great pains that this is not the nude issue or the naked issue - it just happens the best way to show the body is nude...Michelangelo didn't put David in a toga."

The issue's pages are filled with other athletes in their purest form. They come from different sports, but also different ages, genders, shapes and sizes.

"We have a 73-year-old man whose body I would kill to have, also the youngest, most fittest athletes in the world," Belsky said.

He also noted that the magazine has featured physically challenged athletes in the issue. Last year, amputee triathlete Sarah Reinertsen was featured on one of the six covers, and this year Vergeer is a cover model.

Belsky said that many of the athletes on the covers and inside the issue were apprehensive about stripping down, nothing that when sports stars are usually photographed, they're often very clothed - if not covered with extra armor, as football players are.

"It's a whole other ball game to get down to what God gave you," he said. "When you're in that position, it's scary."

But nerves or not, others are already being lined up for next year's issue. Track star Usain Bolt will likely be on one of the 2011 Body Issue covers, he revealed, and speedskater Apolo Ono is another possibility.

Articles inside the magazine focus on different aspects of the body and the athlete, from a piece on world free diving champion Herbert Nitsch to a scan of players from each of Penn State's 29 varsity sports. Another is a study of seven athletes and their relationships with the equipment they use to play their respective games.

ESPN The Magazine's second annual Body Issue hits newsstands Friday.