Dec 24, 2020 - Sports

Special report: The year in sports

Empty Milwaukee Bucks arena

The Milwaukee Bucks boycott their NBA playoff game to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Aug. 26. Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It's been a year for sports unlike any other, and unlike we'll (hopefully) ever see again.

The big picture: While the outlook for sports during a pandemic looked grim at the outset, leagues got creative and found solutions. Fans adapted. Bubbles formed. Empty stadiums were filled with posterboards, stuffed animals and cardboard cutouts. Players adapted to a new world of isolation and cheerless games.

Photo: Alika Jenner/Getty Images
Photo: Alika Jenner/Getty Images

JAN. 13 — Geaux Tigers: Joe Burrow and LSU capped off a magical season with a 42-25 win over Clemson in the CFP National Championship.

empty seats with one person
Photo: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

JAN. 26 — The crash: Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and six other passengers died in a helicopter crash on their way to a youth girls basketball game. Seems like a lifetime ago. Still can't comprehend it.

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chiefs winning
Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

FEB. 2 — Chiefs win Super Bowl: Kansas City won its first championship in 50 years behind the arm of 24-year-old Patrick Mahomes, the youngest QB to own an NFL MVP trophy and a Super Bowl ring.

Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

FEB. 22 — Fists of Fury: The highly anticipated second fight between undefeated heavyweights Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder ended with Wilder's corner throwing in the towel.

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My favorite story: The death of the post-up

Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

MARCH 6 — A sign of things to come: In the first U.S. sports event held without fans due to the coronavirus, Yeshiva beat Worcester Polytechnic Institute in a D-III men's basketball tournament game at Johns Hopkins University.

empty hockey ring
Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

MARCH 12 — March Sadness: A day that will live in infamy. The NHL and MLS followed the NBA's lead and suspended play, while MLB canceled spring training and postponed Opening Day. Then, the final blow: No March Madness.

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a swimmer
Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

APRIL 15 — Working (out) from home: With gyms and training centers shut down, athletes found ways to train while quarantined at home.

nfl draft host
Photo: NFL via Getty Images

APRIL 23 — Virtual draft: The 2020 NFL draft was scheduled for Las Vegas and poised to be the biggest spectacle yet. Instead, it was held virtually, with commissioner Roger Goodell announcing picks from his basement.

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players lined up
Photo: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

MAY 5 — Baseball returns: After months of replays and virtual events, the Korea Baseball Organization arrived to save the day — blessing those willing to wake up in the wee hours of the morning with live action.

jordan memorabilia
Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images

MAY 17 — "The Last Dance" finale: The 10-part series about Michael Jordan and the Bulls arrived at the perfect time, filling the void of the "No Sports Era" and shattering documentary viewership records.

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Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

JUNE 22 — Standing with Bubba: NASCAR drivers stood in solidarity with Bubba Wallace after a noose was found in his garage stall a week after the organization banned the Confederate flag at its facilities.

players kneeling
Photo: Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

JUNE 27 — Team sports return: The NWSL's Challenge Cup marked the return of professional team sports in the U.S. and helped pave the way for other bubble tournaments, while also producing one of the year's most memorable photos.

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Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images

JULY 23 — Opening Day: NIAID director Anthony Fauci threw out the ceremonial first pitch to open the baseball season. It was not a strike.

a ball catch
Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

JULY 25 — Empty ballparks: No fans were taken out to the ballgame this summer, but stuffed animals and cardboard cutouts were permitted.

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Photo: Quinn Harris/Getty Images

AUG. 21 — Parents protest: Football parents gathered outside the Big Ten's headquarters to protest the postponement of fall sports. Four weeks later, the conference reversed its decision.

players kneeling
Photo: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

AUG. 26 — The day sports stopped: The Bucks boycotted their playoff game in protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, and the rest of the NBA — plus the WNBA, MLB and MLS — joined in solidarity. A monumental day in sports history.

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My favorite story: Scott Van Pelt comes home

wildfire haze
Photo: Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

SEPT. 9 — Eerie baseball: As dozens of wildfires raged in California, an orange glow blanketed San Francisco during an early evening Giants game.

lightning win
Photo: Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

SEPT. 28 — Lightning win the Cup: Tampa Bay had a helluva sports year, highlighted by the Lightning winning the Stanley Cup in the Edmonton bubble.

players hugging
Photo: Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

OCT. 11 — Kings of the bubble: LeBron James led the Lakers to their first championship since 2010, dispatching his former team, the Heat, and becoming just the fourth player to win a title with three different NBA franchises.

dodgers run
Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

OCT. 27 — L.A.'s October sweep: The Dodgers beat the Rays to win their seventh World Series and ensure that October 2020 forever belongs to the City of Angels.

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empty stadium
Photo: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

NOV. 3 — Stadium voting: Over 40 sports venues across 20 states functioned as polling centers leading up to the election, and 33 were open on Election Day.

Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

NOV. 15 — DJ dominates Augusta: After a seven-month delay, Dustin Johnson won the Masters, setting a tournament record by finishing at 20-under 268.

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fans cheering
Photo: Joe Sargent/Getty Images

DEC. 2 — Hump day football: Following a COVID-19 outbreak, the Ravens' Thanksgiving game against the Steelers was moved to the following Wednesday, meaning the 2020 NFL season featured games on all seven days of the week.

a dunk
Photo: Sarah Stier/Getty Images

DEC. 22 — The NBA returns: 72 days after being crowned champions, the Lakers began the 2020-21 season with a loss to the Clippers. And 561 days after his last NBA game, Kevin Durant made his triumphant return.

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