Cartilage degenerative diseases affect millions of people. Our understanding of these diseases and our ability to establish efficacious treatment strategies have been confounded by the difficulty of nondestructively evaluating the state of cartilage. Imaging strategies that allow visualization of cartilage integrity would revolutionize the field by allowing us to visualize early stages of degeneration and thus to evaluate predisposing factors for cartilage disease and changes resulting from interventions (eg, therapies) in culture studies, tissue-engineered systems, animal models, and in vivo in humans. Here we briefly review current state-of-the-art MRI strategies relevant to understanding and following treatment in early cartilage degeneration. We review MRI as applied to the assessment of the whole joint, of cartilage as a whole (as an organ), of cartilage tissue, and of cartilage molecular composition and structure. Each of these levels is amenable to assessment by MRI and offers different information that, in the long run, will serve as an important element of cartilage imaging.