2020 in sports: Despite coronavirus pandemic, social unrest and more, the games went on – The Washington Post

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Sports in 2020 featured triumphs and tragedies, scandals and historic firsts, all amid a global pandemic that made it fair to question if the games that produced many of those moments should have been played at all.

In January, the world lost Kobe Bryant. Soccer legend Diego Maradona died in late November. In between, sports ground to a halt because of the coronavirus, only to resume with new protocols and modifications. Sports were more than a diversion in 2020. They reflected the social and racial unrest that swept the world, with athletes at the forefront of the fight for justice and equality through all of the year’s ups and downs.

Astros’ cheating scandal rocks baseball On Jan. 13, a Major League Baseball investigation confirmed that the Houston Astros used cameras as part of an illegal sign-stealing operation during the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Astros Manager A.J. Hinch, Red Sox Manager Alex Cora and New York Mets Manager Carlos Beltran, who were all in uniform for Houston in 2017, and Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow were subsequently fired. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

LSU wins national title Quarterback Joe Burrow capped off his Heisman Trophy-winning season by throwing for five touchdowns and running for a sixth score in LSU’s 42-25 victory over Clemson in the national title game on Jan. 13. Photo by Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Kobe Bryant killed in helicopter crash On Jan. 26, hours after LeBron James passed Bryant for third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, the five-time NBA champion and Los Angeles Lakers legend died at age 41 in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif. Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and six other people aboard were also killed. Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

Chiefs win Super Bowl On Feb. 2, the Kansas City Chiefs overcame a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to defeat the San Francisco 49ers, 31-20, for their first Super Bowl title in 50 years. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes was named the game’s MVP after throwing for 286 yards and accounting for three touchdowns. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Ryan Newman survives Daytona 500 crash In a scene that evoked memories of Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s fatal crash at the same track 19 years earlier, Newman was hospitalized after his car went airborne and was struck by another car before bursting into flames on the final lap of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17. Newman walked out of the hospital flanked by his two young daughters less than 48 hours later. Photo by Chris O’Meara/Associated Press

Sports shut down On March 11, one day after the Ivy League became the first NCAA conference to cancel its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, an NBA game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz was postponed minutes before tip-off. Utah’s Rudy Gobert, who had joked about the novel coronavirus with reporters two days earlier, had tested positive for the disease. Photo by Kyle Phillips/Associated Press

The NBA announced that night that it was suspending its season. Over the next 24 hours, the NHL, MLB, Major League Soccer, the ATP Tour, the WTA, the NCAA and the PGA Tour suspended, delayed or canceled the remainder of their seasons. The next day, the Masters and Boston Marathon were postponed as well. Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics eventually followed suit. Photo by Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

Going virtual With live sports on hold, NBA, NHL and MLB players went head-to-head in made-for-TV video game tournaments. “The Last Dance,” a 10-part series about Michael Jordan’s career, became ESPN’s most-watched documentary ever. In April, the WNBA conducted a virtual draft, with Oregon star Sabrina Ionescu going No. 1 overall to the New York Liberty. A week later, Burrow was the top pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL’s virtual draft, which was originally scheduled to be held in Las Vegas. Photo by NFL/Getty Images

Athlete activism In the wake of George Floyd’s death while in police custody in Minneapolis, current and former professional athletes, including Stephen Jackson, LeBron James, Colin Kaepernick and Natasha Cloud, spoke out and participated in nationwide protests condemning police brutality and calling for change. Cloud and Renee Montgomery were among the WNBA players who announced they would sit out the 2020 season to focus on social justice reform. Photo by Kerem Yucel/AFP/Getty Images

NASCAR bans Confederate flags, drivers rally behind Bubba Wallace On June 8, Bubba Wallace, the only Black driver in NASCAR’s elite Cup Series, called for the sport to ban displays of the Confederate flag during an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon. Two days later, NASCAR complied with Wallace’s request, leading to protests from some fans. Later that month, after a noose was found at Alabama’s Talladega Superspeedway in what was initially believed to be a targeted attack, Wallace received an outpouring of support from his fellow drivers during prerace ceremonies. Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Washington drops ‘Redskins’ name On July 13, amid mounting pressure from corporate sponsors and the removal of other logos and symbols, including Confederate statues, throughout the country as part of a wave of civil unrest, the Washington Redskins announced they would retire their 87-year-old team name. Five months later, MLB’s Cleveland Indians announced they would retire their name after 105 years. Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post

NBA, NHL and WNBA seasons restart in bubbles In late June, the National Women’s Soccer League became the first U.S. team sport to return to action during the pandemic. The NWSL’s month-long Challenge Cup without spectators in Utah and Major League Soccer’s MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando provided a blueprint for other leagues to follow. Photo by Ashley Landis/Pool/Getty Images

The NBA and WNBA resumed their seasons in bubble environments in Florida, while the NHL completed its regular season and playoffs north of the border in Toronto and Edmonton. Baseball began its shortened 60-game season with a modified schedule to limit travel. Banned from hosting games in Toronto because of coronavirus-related restrictions, the Blue Jays made their home away from home in Buffalo. Early-season outbreaks among the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals put the season in peril, but the show went on. Photo by Andrew Ringuette/Getty Images

Jacob Blake protests On Aug. 26, the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take the court for a playoff game against the Orlando Magic to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis. The WNBA and MLB also postponed games that night. After a three-day shutdown, NBA players returned to the court after reaching an agreement with league governors on a series of social justice initiatives, including the coordinated use of arenas and practice facilities as polling places. Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images

Naomi Osaka wins U.S. Open The 22-year-old Osaka wore seven different black masks, each bearing the name of a different victim of violence, in her seven wins en route to capturing the U.S. Open title. Photo by Seth Wenig/Associated Press

NFL begins season The NFL canceled its preseason, but the regular season kicked off on schedule on Sept. 10 with coronavirus safety protocols in place. Most teams did not allow fans. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Championships amid a pandemic The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Dallas Stars in late September to win their second Stanley Cup title. Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Over the next month, the Lakers and Seattle Storm claimed championships in Florida. Photo by Douglas P. DeFeliece/Getty Images

The World Series was held in Arlington, Texas, where the Los Angeles Dodgers outlasted the Tampa Bay Rays in six games to win their first championship in 32 years. Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner was removed from the title-clinching game after testing positive for the coronavirus only to return to the field, sans mask, to celebrate and pose for photos with his team. Photo by Eric Gay/Associated Press

A Masters unlike any other Dustin Johnson won the Masters, which was held in the fall for the first time and without spectators, by five strokes, with a tournament record score of 20 under par. Photo by Matt Slocum / Associated Press

Kim Ng and Sarah Fuller make history In November, the Marlins hired Kim Ng to lead their baseball operations department, making the 51-year-old the first female general manager in MLB history. Photo by Joseph Guzy/Miami Marlins via Associated Press

A month later, Vanderbilt’s Sarah Fuller, a standout on the school’s soccer team, became the first woman to score in a Power Five conference football game when she kicked a pair of extra points in a loss to Tennessee. Photo by George Walker IV/The Tennessean/Associated Press

Diego Maradona dies The brilliant Argentine midfielder, who scored 258 career goals and led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title, died at age 60 following a heart attack in his native Buenos Aires. Photo by Fabio Sasso/LaPresse/Associated Press

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