While many of you associate the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue with models like Irina Shayk and Kate Upton, the magazine dates back all the way to 1964 and is responsible for making the bikini a legitimate piece of clothing. Tomorrow (Tuesday, February 14th) marks the release of the 48th edition of the iconic issue so we’ve decided to take a look back at the 20 Sexiest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Models of All-Time. Not only have we pulled the hottest of the hot, but we’ve ranked ‘em for you to fight and bicker over. In addition, don’t forget to check out our upcoming coverage of the Letterman Show, where they’ll reveal the 2012 cover. For now, enjoy the galleries – and the sure-to-be hotly contested ensuing debate.
20. Carol Alt: The Queens born stunner appeared in four consecutive issues from ’81-’84 (gracing the cover in ’82) then came back for the ’87 and ’89 editions.
19. Laetitia Casta: The 33 year old French fox is best known for being the GUESS? Girl in ’93 and for her work with Victoria’s Secret from ’98-’00, but she also appeared in three consecutive SI issues.
18. Izabel Goulart: The 27 year old Brazilian beauty is best known as one of the Victoria’s Secret Angels from 2005 to 2008, but also made a spalsh with her appearance in last year’s issue. That same year, she also made FHM magazine’s list of the 100 Sexiest Women In The World.
17. Daniela Pestova: Yet another Czech model bringing the European fire, Daniela has been in four issues of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, earning the rights to be on the cover of the 2000 issue.
16. Irina Shayk: This Russian smokeshow is best known for her SI Swimsuit Issue appearances from 2007 to 2011. As of now she’s only got one cover appearance but considering that it was just last year, she makes a strong favorite for this year’s cover.
15. Ana Beatriz Barros: Featured in seven issues (2002-2008), this Brazilian beauty has yet to make it onto the cover. That’s the level of talent that this magazine brings to the table year after year.
14. Rachel Hunter: Born in New Zealand, Rachel is best known for her appearances in the Swimsuit Issue. She first rose to global prominence when she was featured as the Swimsuit Issue’s cover model in 1989 and has been in a total of five issues.
13. Rebecca Romijn: The American model and actress may now be known best for her role as Mystique in X-Men, but at one time this chick was one of the hottest Swimsuit Issue cover models. Rebecca’s been in five issues of SI, including a 1999 cover appearance.
12. Paulina Porizkova: This Czech-American model was the first woman from Central Europe to grace the cover of the SI: Swimsuit Issue issue in 1984. Following up her strong performance with a consecutive cover appearance in 1985, Paulina was in a total of four issues (1983-1985).
11. Elle Macpherson: An Australian model known by the nickname “The Body,” Elle is perhaps best known for her record five cover appearances on the SI: Swimsuit Issue. Not including her covers, Elle has been featured in an additional four issues.
10. Heidi Klum: If you now associate Hedi with her recent divorce from Seal or her work on Project Runway, you’re an idiot. This supermodel has been in eight issues since 1998 and graced the cover of the 1998 issue.
9. Kate Upton: The newest member to our 20 Sexiest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Models of all time, Kate has already left a very lasting impression. In only her first year, Kate was featured as an inset on the 2011 cover. We expect big things (and possibly another appearance this year).
8. Christie Brinkley: Making a total of six Swimsuit Issue appearances, Christie first made her first cover in 1979. She made the next two consecutive covers in 1980-81. Fun fact: she’s the third richest model according to the Daily Mail.
7. Kathy Ireland: Having first posed for the Swimsuit Issue in 1984, she was featured on the pages for 13 consecutive years. While this alone would make her a first-ballot Hall of Famer, Kathy is only surpassed by cover appearances (3) by Elle Macpherson.
6. Bar Refaeli: After taking a one-year hiatus from the Swimsuit Issue, Bar is back and hotter than ever. This Israeli hottie graced the cover once in 2009, posing for the issue three years before that. Why she chose to return to the iconic magazine, no one knows. It should be noted that no one cares about the reason.
5. Cindy Crawford: Among the most popular supermodels of all time, Cindy graced the cover of the only SI: Swimsuit Issue she was ever in. If that’s not star power, I don’t know what is.
4. Marisa Miller: Marisa was featured in every issue of the SI: Swimsuit Issue from 2002 to 2008. While she ended her run on a high by being the cover model, her most famous photo is probably found in the 2007 issue – she’s wearing only an iPod.
3. Tyra Banks: Tyra got her start in the SI: Swimsuit Issue in 1996 as the cover model with Valeria Mazza. She made the cover a year later without anyone, making her the first African American woman to grace not only SI: Swimsuit but also GQ. 1997 was huge for her because she also won VH1’s Supermodel of the Year.
2. Brooklyn Decker: The reason why every guy wants to be Andy Roddick and the only excuse to see Just Go With It, Brooklyn was featured as the cover model for 2010. It remains to be seen if this All-American can also save the movie Battleship from sinking.
1. Cheryl Tiegs: While the Minnesota-born Cheryl Tigs was featured on the cover of the SI Swimsuit Issue in 1970, 1975, and 1983, she is perhaps best known for the poster of her posing in a pink bikini – an iconic 70s pop culture image.