ESPN The Magazine Music Issue: Uncommon Connections

Katy Perry and J.J. Watt have muscled their way to the top of their games. Joe Pugliese

Katy Perry and Texans defensive end J.J. Watt share the cover of ESPN The Magazine's annual Music Issue, in which the pop music performer and pro football's top defensive performer tell Chris Connelly about their respective rises to the top.

This exchange between the singer, who's performing at halftime of this year's Super Bowl, and the defensive end, whose goal is to play in one, sums it up nicely:

"A lot of people would agree that it's easy to get to the top, but it's about staying there, following it up," Perry says, turning to Watt, "with great plays every time."

"Yeah, great songs," he says. "Everybody's trying to bring you down. So what are you gonna do to stay there? How are you gonna work that much harder?"

The Music Issue also features a profile of one of music and sports' highest-profile power couples, singer Iggy Azelea and "Swaggy P" himself, Lakers small forward Nick Young. Amanda Hess writes how the unlikely pair -- he's from inner-city Los Angeles, she's from rural Australia, he first spotted her on Twitter -- both have gained power (and infamy) from their use of social media, as well as how rap music and NBA celebrity culture have gone mainstream on a global scale.

Another seemingly unlikely pair profiled in the Music Issue is the friendship of rap star J. Cole and NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. In an interview with Marty Smith, Cole and Earnhardt explain how they formed a friendship over the music and their shared North Carolina roots:

"Our worlds have a lot more in common than people want to think," Cole says. "Stereotypes prevent the worlds from colliding and connecting more. The powers that be like it like that. They like it that the cultures don't mix, because if they ever were to mix, they would realize they're in the same boat and have a lot more in common than they have differences."