via eBay Gabrielle Reece, Ashley Harkleroad, Amy Acuff

Hugh Hefner, the iconic founder of Playboy who died Wednesday, was a big fan of Illinois football. Hefner was in the Fighting Illini's class of 1949, and he hosted a party for his alma mater's team at the mansion in advance of the 1984 Rose Bowl. (Alas, they got blown out by UCLA.) Season previews for football were a fixture in the magazine, and its preseason All-America team was often cited in media coverage.

But ultimately Playboy made its biggest impact for featuring sexy women in the nude, and this included several athletes such as volleyball star Gabrielle Reece, Olympic skating champion Katarina Watt and record-setting swimmer Amanda Beard. (The magazine also did shoots with many women from pro wrestling -- Torrie Wilson, Sable, Chyna, Maria Kanellis, etc. -- but for the purposes of this list they are not included below.)

Here are seven athletes who graced the cover of Playboy:

Gabrielle Reece

via eBay Gabrielle Reece

January 2001 cover. Reece was an indoor volleyball star at Florida State, then played professionally on the beach circuit while also picking up modeling gigs.

Katarina Witt

via eBay Katarina Witt

December 1998 cover. Representing East Germany, Witt won the Olympic gold medal in figure skating in 1984 and 1988. She is among the athletes who make a cameo appearance in "Jerry Maguire."

Amy Acuff

via eBay Amy Acuff

September 2004 cover. Acuff competed in the long jump for the United States in five Olympics with her best finish being fourth place in 2004.

Amanda Beard

via eBay Amanda Beard

July 2007 cover. Beard swam for the United States at the Olympics in 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008, earning two gold medals, four silver and one bronze. She twice set the world record in 200-meter breaststroke.

Kiana Tom

via eBay Kiana Tom

May 2002 cover. During the 90s, a good portion of ESPN's morning programming was dedicated to exercise shows such as BodyShaping, which featured Tom and other fitness stars. Tom's popularity led to a show of her own, Kiana's Flex Appeal.

Mia St. John

via eBay Mia St. John

November 1999 cover. St. John won multiple titles during her boxing career that began in 1997. Her record was 49-14-2 with 19 KOs.

Ashley Harkleroad

via eBay Ashley Harkleroad

August 2008 issue. Harkleroad was on the pro tennis tour from 2000-2008. After giving birth to her son in 2009, Harkleroad made a brief comeback in 2010. She peaked in the world rankings at No. 39 in 2003.

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