2020 was a very hard year for everyone, and the sports world was no exception, as the year would cause a pause for all sports around the world. Even now, either limited or no attendance is allowed in stadiums during games due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With everything that has gone on in the world, sports were still able to continue and provide an escape for many people at home as they watched on screens from phones to plasmas. This article will detail the most important events in sports that occurred during each month of last year.
2020 really started off as a tragic year for sports fans around the world as, on Sunday, Jan. 26, we lost one of the most well-known athletes of the 21st century: Kobe Bryant. A fatal helicopter accident would claim his life as well as those of eight other individuals, including one of his own daughters, 13-year-old Gianna Bryant. One of the victims of the accident was a Whittier College alumna, Sarah Chester, who was also with her daughter in the helicopter. The whole world would mourn the loss of the Laker legend who not only inspired future stars of today but everyday people from around the world.
February hosted what was probably the biggest sporting event in the U.S.: the Super Bowl. In the 54th edition of this event, we saw the San Francisco 49ers play against the Kansas City Chiefs. Both teams had a 15 – 4 record (including playoffs) entering the game, and both seemed as evenly matched. During the game, they remained neck-in-neck, as both teams would keep a low scoring first half and were tied at 10 at halftime. The second half was a different story, as the Chiefs would take a 10-point deficit in the third quarter but would then turn it around in the fourth quarter and score an impressive 21 points to win the game 31 – 20, and consequently win their first Super Bowl in 50 years.
March is the month that paused mostly every sports league throughout the world, as COVID-19 had started to spread at a rapid pace through the world. This halted life as we knew it, and forced us to stay indoors — athletes included. The first of these leagues to pause play was the NBA on March 11, with the news of Utah Jazz Center Rudy Gobert becoming the first player to test positive for COVID-19. This would cause many other teams the Jazz played again to have to self-isolate for 14 days as a precaution, including the Jazz organization itself.
April was the hardest for sports fans, as no leagues had games available to play — no NBA playoffs, no NCAA Final Four, and no MLB opening month. However, ESPN was there to help sports fans, as they released their highly-anticipated documentary on NBA Legend Micheal Jordan. This documentary, called The Last Dance, took us behind the scenes of the ‘90s Chicago Bulls teams, who won six NBA titles throughout the decade, with an emphasis on the 1998 team and the final season in which Micheal Jordan would play for the Bulls. This documentary is something I highly recommend watching if you have not already, as it shows that the Bulls’ organization was not as perfect as it seemed.
May was the month where the fight for social justice started making its way into the world of sports. The unfortunate murder of George Floyd started a large roar of protests from those demanding social equality. This included the actions of many NBA stars, as they, too, joined in on marches and advocated for change using their massive platforms, whether that be through social media or news outlets. Some of these stars included Boston Celtics players Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, New Orleans Pelicans starter JJ Redick, and Lakers Star LeBron James, who took a more behind-the-scenes approach through his ‘more than a vote’ movement.
June was probably the best month for Liverpool fans, as Liverpool Football Club — one of the biggest clubs from the U.K. — would finally win their first Premier League title in the club’s history. This came after years of not being able to close the deal on a title win, as well as Steven Gerrard’s famous slip against Chelsea in 2014, which meant eventually losing the league that year. This year was different, though, as Liverpool had won the league after being 23 points ahead of second-place Manchester City with only three games left in the season. Liverpool could finally say they were champions of England — something that Liverpool fans will never forget or stop talking about for years to come.
July was the official restart of the NBA, as they have moved to a remote location in Disney World in Orlando, Fla. in a “bubble” style format, meaning no one got in and no one was allowed out, allowing the season to finish and to start the Playoffs. The League would also bring in the introduction of social justice slogans on players’ jerseys, allowing players to display the messages they felt were important for the public to see. This seemed to have a positive impact, and athletes enjoyed having their social justice jerseys, but, after the “Bubble season” in Orlando, it was not done again.
Champions League, from the round of 16 and on, had never been played in August, but, as was the case with many competitions, COVID-19 forced the Champions League to pause, reschedule, and move to a bubble in Portugal in order to see out the competition. What every football fan looks forward to every year finally came in August: the Champions League Final, which pitted Football Club Bayern Munich against Paris Saint-Germain Football Club. Both teams had their stars ready to go as PSG’s star duo Forwards Neymar and Kylian Mbappé were ready to face Bayern Munich’s German Keeper Manuel Neuer and Polish Striker Robert Lewandowski.
The match started off slow for both teams, as neither were able to find the back of the net in the first half, but, at the start of the second half, Bayern came out strong; their attacking force was able to score the only goal of the game as French Winger and PSG Academy Graduate Kingsley Coman would header it in. Bayern would win five trophies in 2020 and could win a sixth in the upcoming FIFA Club World Cup.
September was not one of the biggest months for sports but, for the first time ever, the beginning of the NBA playoffs and MLB Playoffs had taken place that month.
October was probably the best month for sports fans in L.A., as both the L.A. Lakers and L.A. Dodgers won their League Championships in that month. First was the Lakers, who beat Miami Heat 4 – 2 and had dedicated their playoff run to the late Bryant. After missing the playoffs for the past six years, the Lakers finally broke that streak and won the title in the same year.
They won their 17th title, tying bitter rival Boston Celtics for the most in the history of the league. L.A. fans wouldn’t have to wait to celebrate another title, as the L.A. Dodgers would win the MLB World Series that same month, beating the Tampa Bay Rays 4 – 2. The Dodgers would win the first championship in over 32 years since their last World Series win in 1988. Both teams would help make L.A. a city of champions once again.
November was a slow month for sports, as the MLB and NBA had just finished, and the NFL was just in the middle of the season, but, despite that, a historic day happened that month in baseball. The Miami Marlins had just hired a new General Manager, which may not normally be historic news, except the Marlins had just hired Kim Ng. She became the first female GM in sports history in any Northern American sports league. You can read more about this historic move by the Marlins here.
November also saw the Vanderbilt Football team bring in senior goalkeeper from the women’s soccer team, Sarah Fuller, to play for the team. This made her the first woman to play for a Power 5 conference Football team when she did the kickoff for Vanderbilt. In the next month, she would score her first points, ultimately making her the first woman to score in any Power 5 Conference.
December was also a slow month for sports, as many leagues were either in the middle of their season or just restarting, but, while I may be cheating for this last one, since it was not intentional, and it was on the final two days of the year — Becky Hammon made history. She became the first woman to act as head coach of an NBA team in a regular-season game. The San Antonio Spurs Assistant Coach filled in the Head Coach role when Head Coach Greg Popovich lost his cool during the game and was ejected during the first half, making Hammon Head Coach.
In a year where many have lost too much, and not much joy has been seen, the sports world has been there to help us get through it. Whether it be through entertainment or giving society an example to follow, athletes are the heroes that we can look up to.
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