In what will go down as one of the most noteworthy years in recent memory, a whirlwind of events shaped sports in 2020 and moreover the entire fabric of the world. From the dawning of a worldwide health pandemic to the racial atrocities witnessed in the United States — this has been one of most intriguing 365 days society has witnessed since, well … ever. By this writer’s estimation, here are some of the most important stories of 2020.
Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers
Before the coronavirus garnered the world’s attention, NBA basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gigi, met their ultimate fate in a tragic helicopter accident in California. An event that left even this writer in tears as the details of the unbelievable occurrence were released across social media platforms and media hubs alike. His death foreshadowed what would turn out to be a very painful 2020. The untimely passing of first ballot Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant shook the basketball world off of its axis.
Bryant would have been proud of the Los Angeles Lakers this year. Having missed the playoffs in recent years, the Lakers were finally destined to catapult themselves back to dominance with a full, healthy line-up, reminiscent of the days of Showtime with a star-powered roster. Loaded with talent, the likes of which included LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Rajon Rondo, the Lakers secured the team’s 17th NBA World Championship.
Kansas City wins first Super Bowl in 50 years
In only his second year at the helm of Kansas City’s offence, quarterback Patrick Mahomes efficiently guided his Chiefs to an incredible season and an eventual win in the Super Bowl over the San Francisco 49ers becoming only the third Black quarterback in the league’s history to win the Super Bowl.
Fittingly, he accomplished this feat at the beginning of Black History Month and, ironically, the team Mahomes beat was the same one that shunned quarterback Colin Kaepernick after he led a protest against police brutality in 2017 by taking a knee during the U.S. national anthem at the start of NFL games. Mahomes’ victory was a small vindication for the youngest quarterback ever to be named the Super Bowl MVP and perhaps an eerie foreshadowing of things to come in the racially divided USA.
The day the sports world pressed pause
In late August, amid the backdrop of an increasingly tense and volatile climate in the U.S. following the police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and the police shooting of Jacob Blake, major sports leagues in America — the NBA, WNBA, MLB and NHL — paused to lend their support to the protests happening all over the world and primarily on their own soil. The major league protests were sparked by the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, the first team to refuse to participate in a scheduled playoff game. This action ignited a host of other protests throughout the sports world as an increasing number of players in their respective leagues, overwhelmingly upset about the current state of affairs, used their platforms to bring awareness.
Dr. Harry Edwards, the sports sociologist who in 1967 organized the Olympic Project for Human Rights, expressed ever-so poignantly to The Washington Post that this was “not a boycott against basketball any more than Kaepernick was taking a knee against the flag … You’re involved in utilizing and leveraging the spotlight, the platform you have, to make it crystal clear, not just to make a statement of protest but to send a message demanding change concerning these shootings. And what you’re essentially screaming is, ‘Stop killing us.’ ”
Michael Jordan’s last dance
While the world locked down as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Netflix released “The Last Dance,” an eye-opening documentary about Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls and the team’s last run at the NBA title.
As a fledgling New York Knicks fan, I witnessed firsthand the pain the Jordan-era Bulls inflicted on the league, but for those who didn’t bear witness to when the Bulls’ dominance peaked, the documentary offers ultimate insider information into Jordan’s tireless leadership and unrelenting desire to win while dealing with Dennis Rodman and his antics, an underpaid wingman in Scottie Pippen and the “Zen Master” coach, Phil Jackson.
Lewis Hamilton’s impact
While it’s not the biggest North American sports stage, Formula 1 racing car driver Lewis Hamilton surpassed legend Michael Schumacher in one of F1’s big all-time records, making him the most successful racing driver of all time. Hamilton now holds the record for victories at 94.
But the race track wasn’t the only place he turned heads. Hamilton also persuaded his team Mercedes to paint its cars black — breaking the tradition of silver cars it has had since the 1930s. He also started a campaign against racism with F1 that included kneeling like Kaepernick and raising his fist like John Carlos and Tommie Smith did at the 1968 Summer Olympics for Team USA while the American national anthem played.
At almost 35 years of age, Hamilton has become the most decorated driver of all time, regardless of race. It’s an incredible accomplishment for a young Black man, racing in a sport dominated by white men.
A lot went down in sports in 2020. Now it’s time to take a breath and look forward to what’s to come … 2021 is here.
Illustration in column artwork from Pexels.com