Though history undoubtedly documented the ill effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, memorable sports moments provided a glimmer of hope for what’s around the corner and showcased the way teams found ways to move forward.
One instance of that was the NBA implementing a “bubble” concept in which all the players who decided to opt into a virus-free environment away from family and friends had an opportunity to play for an NBA championship when most sports seasons remained at a standstill.
While there were no positive cases in the NBA, LeBron James made a case for being mentioned as one of the greatest players of all time.
James made history yet again, earning Finals MVP honors for the third franchise in his career (one of four players in league history) after dominating the Miami Heat in Game 6, 106-93, in the NBA Finals on Oct. 11. He finished with a triple-double performance with 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists.
“I think personally thinking I have something to prove fuels me and it fueled me this last year and a half,” said James with a cigar in his hand after a momentous win.
MLB Rights a Century-Old Wrong
It took 100 years but Major League Baseball (MLB) announced on Dec. 16 that the Negro Leagues will finally be included in the organization’s history rather than being treated separately after reclassifying former players as major leaguers.
“It is MLB’s view that the Committee’s 1969 omission of the Negro Leagues from consideration was clearly an error that demands today’s designation,” MLB said in a statement.
With MLB’s decision to elevate the Negro League status to Major League, all previous statistics and records will be integrated into the history books. Players such as Satchel Paige, Buck Leonard and Josh Gibson changed baseball forever; now they will be immortalized in American history as true major league legends.
“The perceived deficiencies of the Negro Leagues’ structure and scheduling were born of MLB’s exclusionary practices and denying them Major League status has been a double penalty, much like exacted of Hall of Fame candidates prior to Satchel Paige’s induction in 1971,” said official MLB historian, John Thorn. “Granting MLB status to Negro Leagues a century after their founding is profoundly gratifying.”
Wall Departs from D.C. After Nearly a Decade
The Washington Wizards traded point guard John Wall and gave up a first-round draft pick to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Russell Westbrook on Dec. 2.
Wall served as a cornerstone for a franchise that desperately needed star power leading up to the 2010 NBA Draft. Washington turned the keys over to the speedy point guard out of the University of Kentucky with their No. 1 overall pick of the 2010 NBA Draft.
The 30-year-old averaged 19 PPG, 9.2 assists, 1.7 steals and more than 4 rebounds a game in Washington during his tenure. Westbrook, an 11-year veteran, will try to make it work with Wall’s departure. Westbrook averaged 27.2 PPG, 7 assists and 7.9 rebounds in his first and only season in Houston.
“Having the opportunity to acquire a player of Russell’s caliber and character was something that we could not pass up when looking at both the immediate and long-term future of our team,” Sheppard said. “With that said, the decision to part ways with John, one of the greatest players in franchise history, was extremely difficult. What he has meant to our organization and our community is immeasurable and will not be forgotten.”
Ron Rivera Takes the Helm for Washington
Before the start of the 2020 NFL regular season, Washington was without a name and first-year head coach Ron Rivera had the task of revitalizing a franchise that only won 17 games in the last three years (2017-2019).
Rivera was diagnosed with cancer during training camp but finished his treatments earlier this year while still leading the Burgundy and Gold on the sidelines. His name is being mentioned as an NFL Coach of the Year candidate leading the cellar-dweller Washington Football Team to first place in the NFC East Division.
Rivera has already won the prestigious award twice in his career, showcasing his ability to turn teams around as he did for the Carolina Panthers earlier in his career.
“It’s crazy how the season started; I mean, we were on an uphill start. We are trusting each other every week and I feel like everyone can see that. We just keep rolling and who knows how far we can go,” said Washington Football Team safety Kamren Curl.
In late-breaking news, Rivera released quarterback Dwayne Haskins on Dec. 28, allowing the team and the player to “go our separate ways.”
Howard Signs Basketball Superstar Makur Maker
Howard University’s Makur Maker sparked a movement for top talent in the nation to transfer from power conference schools and attend historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). He became the first five-star recruit to play for the Bison in school history.
The 22-year-old was one of the most highly-touted basketball recruits in the nation, drawing strong interest from Power Five conferences. Schools interested in him included: Kansas, Kentucky, Auburn, Oregon, UCLA, USC, Memphis and Washington. However, Maker decided that Howard was the best fit.
“I was the first to announce my visit to Howard and others started to dream ‘what if.’ I needed to make the HBCU movement real so that others will follow. I hope I inspire guys like Mikey Williams to join me on this journey. I am committing to Howard University and coach Kenny Blakeney #MakerMob,” Maker tweeted after he made his decision to play for the Bison.
NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders announced on Dec. 7 that he will be coaching at Jackson State University. With that news, he also announced the signing of four-star recruit and son, Shedeur Sanders, who chose to commit to Jackson State.
“I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to help level the playing field and pursue equality for HBCU’s! Dad I got your back,” the younger Sanders posted on his Twitter account.
Shedeur, a Texas native, completed nearly 74 percent of his passes for 3,459-yards and accounted for 47 touchdowns against four interceptions last season at Trinity Christian School.
It was a tumultuous year with lingering uncertainty in the realm of sports but an eventful one that found a way to continue during an unprecedented pandemic.