It would be an understatement to say that 2020 has been a weird year. This has been doubly true for sports. People who turn to sports for entertainment, or work, have been met with cancellations, fan-free games and all sorts of messy stuff. In fact, it can be hard to remember that some sports events have actually happened. So consider this a reminder of some of the biggest sports moments of 2020 thus far. We’re working to keep it positive here, so stuff like March Madness being canceled isn’t included. Also, while it isn’t related to the pandemic, we didn’t want to include other grim stories such as the helicopter crash involving Kobe Bryant.
Joe Brady will forever be a legend down in Baton Rouge. Ed Orgeron brought him on to modernize the LSU offens, and the end result was a record-setting offense and a college football title. The Tigers didn’t merely win it all, though. LSU crushed Oklahoma 63-28 in the semifinals and then followed that up by beating Clemson, 42-25, for the trophy.
Outside of the playoff games, the Rose Bowl was the biggest college football game of 2020 and not just in terms of ratings. It was the highest-rated non-playoff game, but the quality was strong as well. While the offenses weren’t great, the sixth-ranked Oregon Ducks beat the eighth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers by a score of 28-27 thanks to a fourth-quarter touchdown.
We mentioned LSU earlier, and the man running that championship-winning offense was Burrow. Once an afterthought for the Ohio State Buckeyes, Burrow did some truly incredible things for the Tigers. He won the Heisman running away, after throwing for 60 — yes 60 —touchdowns. Naturally, Burrow was the first-overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Speaking of which...
Due to the pandemic, the NFL Draft had to change things around. Front offices were doing their work remotely. We got to see what the houses of coaches and GMs looked like. (We all got jealous of Kliff Kingsbury’s house.) Burrow went first overall to the Cincinnati Bengals, but he was only one of many interesting picks. Personally, when we think of the 2020 NFL Draft, we think of the Packers taking quarterback Jordan Love in the first round.
Sure, Jackson did his damage during 2019, but he was actually handed the MVP Trophy in 2020. That was to the surprise of nobody, of course. Jackson didn’t just throw for 36 touchdowns against six interceptions. He also rushed for 1,206 yards, a new record for a quarterback.
The Patriots were red-hot early in the 2019 season, but they cooled off down the stretch and ended up as the three seed. Still, surely Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and crew would beat the sixth-seeded Titans. Nope. Tennessee pulled off the upset, and then actually followed that win by upsetting the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens, led by Lamar Jackson, as well.
When you’re down 24-0 in the second quarter of an NFL game, it’s hard to come back and win. The Chiefs didn’t just do that, though. They alsocompletely took over the game. When all was said and done between Kansas City and Houston, the Chiefs walked away with a 51-31 victory.
That comeback against the Texans was one step en route to the Chiefs taking on the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl. Patrick Mahomes took home the MVP after a 31-20 win. It was Kansas City’s first champsionship since Super Bowl IV 50 years earlier.
Since we’re talking titles after long waits, let’s quickly skip over to soccer. Liverpool won titles left and right back in the day, but they headed into this season with a 30-year drought. They actually had never won a title since the establishment of the Premier League. Jurgen Klopp’s crew started the year off red hot, with the only thing getting in their way being the pandemic hiatus. After beating Crystal Palace 4-0 and seeing Manchester City lose to Chelsea, Liverpool clinched the title. They are the earliest-clinching team in Premier League history.
Brady and the Patriots have been synonymous. He’s the most iconic player in franchise history. Heck, he may be more tied to a single franchise than any other NFL player. As such, it was truly surprising to see Brady decide to leave the only NFL team he’s ever known to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. What will Bill Belichick do now? The Patriots recent signing of Cam Newton is a start.
Gronk, an all-time great tight end, retired prior to the 2019 season. Brady certainly missed him in New England. What did Gronkowski do to fill his time? Well he did sign a deal with the WWE. There, he hosted Wrestlemania and won the 24/7 Championship in the process. Brady was able to lure Gronk back to football, though, getting him to sign with the Buccaneers. Gronk dropped the belt, and his pro wrestling career ended as quickly as it began.
The NBA All-Star Game has been fun in recent years, but defense has basically been forgotten and games were starting to get out of hand. As such, the NBA decided to change the rules for the 2020 All-Star Game and use the Elam Ending. That meant an untimed fourth quarter playing to a specific score, in this case 24 points more than the higher-scoring team’s point total. Team Giannis was up 133-124 after three, which meant the teams were playing to 157 points. The fourth quarter was by far the most intense action we’ve seen in an All-Star Game in a while. Team LeBron, led by MVP Kawhi Leonard, came back to win the game, 157-155. We will probably see this format again.
Atkinson is a really good NBA coach. He took over the Brooklyn Nets at their nadir and helped turn them into a playoff team — the kind of team that could get both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to sign aboard. While KD didn’t play this year, Kyrie did, and he’s not always the easiest guy to deal with. While the Nets are heading to the playoffs again, Atkinson won’t be there. He resigned as part of a “mutual agreement” in March.
Zion Williamson is the most exciting prospect to come out of college since…Anthony Davis? LeBron James? Unfortunately, the Duke star got hurt in preseason, and some worried that we wouldn’t see Zion play this year. Fortunately, Williamson took the court for the Pelicans in January, and he’s been so good in his limited action some are even considering him for Rookie of the Year. The hype is real.
The Houston Rockets have never been afraid to think outside the box under Daryl Morey and Mike D'Antoni. These days, the offense is based around the singular skills of James Harden, now paired with Russell Westbrook. Looking for an edge, the Rockets decided to get small in 2020. Like, really small. In a January win over the Dallas Mavericks, the Rockets became the first team since 1963 to play a full game without using a single player taller than 6-foot-6. They have since traded away Clint Capela and kept the ultimate small ball dream alive.
Wiggins and Russell are two high draft picks who are still trying to find their footing in the NBA, though Russell has had more success than Wiggins, who was a first-overall pick. Russell joined the Warriors this offseason, but the Dubs had a disastrous year due to injury. Both Golden State and the Minnesota Timberwolves felt the need to switch things up, and so Wiggins and Russell got swapped in the biggest deal of the NBA trade deadline.
Ovechkin is the greatest goal scorer of his generation, and even in a shortened season he nearly added 50 more to his total. In February, the Russian sniper scored his 700th goal, making him the eighth player to ever reach that mark in the NHL. If all goes well, by the end of next season Ovi should be up to fourth overall, with an outside shot of catching Wayne Gretzky.
OK, so the Winter Classic has lost some of the panache that greeted it when the idea of an outdoor game in a massive stadium was first introduced. Still, this was a cool change of pace for the New Year’s Day tradition. This time, the Winter Classic was happening down in Dallas, specifically at the Cotton Bowl. Over 85,000 people watched the Stars beat the Nashville Predators, 4-2, thanks to three third-period goals.
We first found out about the Houston Astros players banging on a trash can to steal signs late in 2019. However, the punishments were dropped in 2020. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, Astros manager A.J. Hinch, and Red Sox manager Alex Cora were all suspended for the season and then soon thereafter were all fired. Carlos Beltran, who was a player for the Astros team in question, was also fired as manager of the New York Mets.
Derek Jeter is a little more polarizing than you would expect for a legitimately all-time great player. The problem is that, to many Yankees fans, he’s not merely a great player but also the best shortstop to ever live — even though his defense was always a bit overrated. Still, he is a deserving Hall of Fame inductee, having been voted in with 99.7 percent of the votes in his first year of eligibility. Joining him is Larry Walker, a deserving candidate who was in his final year of eligibility.
Mookie Betts is a great player. He won an MVP over Mike Trout for the Red Sox. In fact, you could make the case that Betts is the second-best player in the majors behind Trout. Now he is no longer with Boston. Owing in part to a desire to save money apparently, the Red Sox traded Betts, and David Price, to the Los Angeles Dodgers. That would be a Dodgers team that was already considered arguably the best in the National League. The rich get richer.
Racing season in the United States effectively begins with the Daytona 500 every February. The NASCAR season was put on hiatus not long after this, of course, but at least the biggest race on the circuit every year was able to happen. Denny Hamlin won, just edging out Ryan Blaney. It was Hamlin’s third Daytona 500 win.
The Australian Open is something of an afterthought among Grand Slam tournaments, but it’s still one of the big four, and you can’t win a career Grand Slam without it. Plus, it can be held during January because it’s summer in Australia that time of the year. Novak Djokovic repeated as champ by beating Dominic Thiem in the men’s finals. Kenin, meanwhile, took home her first Grand Slam title at the age of 21.
Suddenly, a lot of people found themselves as new Bundesliga fans this year. That’s because it was the first major soccer league to return to action. If there was any worry about rust, Bayern Munich was not susceptible to it. Since the return, Bayern has won all nine games they played and ended up cruising to the Bundesliga title.
With all due respect to the other folks inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame recently, Iginla and Hossa are the two big names. It also feels like a particularly fitting time for a player like Iginla to be honored. In addition to being an all-time great with 625 career goals to his name, Iginla will become only the second Black player elected into the Hall on the strength of their careers.