It was a year that most people were happy to put in the rearview mirror, as 2020 was one piece of bad news after another. It was time to gladly turn the page when “Auld Lang Syne” was played. It was a year to forget.
That said, there were a lot of moments that will be remembered for years to come. Some of them were even positive ones.
On the Colorado sports scene, it was another crazy year. Here’s a look back on the 20 biggest stories from the craziest year in recent history:
5. Broncos have to play a game without a QB
When it comes to bizarre, the Broncos game against the Saints ranks among the weirdest clashes in NFL history. On Nov. 29, Denver tried to take on New Orleans without a quarterback. Due to COVID-19, they didn’t have a single signal caller suited up that Sunday.
Backup quarterback Jeff Driskel tested positive for the coronavirus earlier in the week. Then, the NFL determined the day before the game that the entire QB room – Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles – were close contacts, making them unable to play against the Saints.
The Broncos didn’t plan ahead, so they didn’t have an emergency quarterback who hadn’t been in the facility. Thus, they were left with Kendall Hinton, a wide receiver on the practice squad who played QB at Wake Forest. It didn’t go well. Hinton completed just one pass and the Broncos lost 31-3.
4. Nuggets overcome 3-1 deficit to the Clippers
It looked like the Nuggets season would end in disappointing fashion. For the second straight season, Denver appeared poised to fall in the conference semifinals. This time, it was to the heavily favored Clippers, a team many thought could win the NBA title.
Denver trailed in the series 3-1, and they found themselves down 80-67 with just over a minute to play in the third quarter. It looked hopeless. But then, an amazing thing happened. The Nuggets stars, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, took over, while the Clippers big names, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, disappeared.
Denver would rally to win Game 5. They’d beat Los Angeles by 13 points in Game 6. And they’d blow out the Clippers in the decisive Game 7. In the process, Michael Malone’s team became the first in NBA history to overcome two 3-1 deficits in the same postseason.
3. Local athletes, coaches and front office personnel get COVID
The COVID-19 pandemic hit everywhere. There wasn’t a corner of the world, a portion of the population or a group of people able to hide from the coronavirus. And the sports world was certainly no exception, as was evident in Colorado.
Nikola Jokic was late to the NBA’s bubble because he was recovering in Serbia. Charlie Blackmon came down with the virus. Jeff Driskel’s positive test forced the Broncos into a tough situation. John Elway and Joe Ellis both missed time while they recuperated. Von Miller was an early positive. The list went on and on.
Fortunately, none of the local sports figures who contracted COVID-19 suffered the fate that so many others have endured. They’ve all fully recovered, thankfully. But for many months, it’s been a scary situation, even in the insulated sports world.
2. Nuggets lose to the Lakers in Western Conference Finals
It had been 11 years since the Nuggets reached the Western Conference Finals. That time around, they faced the Lakers, just as they had in their only other appearance, back in 1985. So it was no surprise that Denver once again drew Los Angeles during the NBA’s version of the final four.
As in the previous trips, things didn’t go well for the Nuggets. They lost Game 1, but bounced back in Game 2 with a strong performance. Leading 103-102 with 2.0 seconds to play, it appeared as though they were going to tie the series at 1-1. But then Anthony Davis hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to break Denver’s heart.
The Nuggets wouldn’t recover. They played hard, winning Game 3 to make things interesting. But ultimately, they couldn’t overcome LeBron James and all of the Lakers firepower, losing in five games.
1. COVID-19 shuts down sports
It was just another Wednesday night. The date was March 11, the Nuggets were in Dallas to take on the Mavericks and the sports world seemed as normal as ever. Yes, there was growing concern in the country about the coronavirus, but nothing appeared to amiss.
Then, Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive. This news started a domino effect that occurred in the blink of an eye. Before the final buzzer how sounded in the Nuggets-Mavericks tilt, the NBA had announced it was suspending its season. Then NHL soon followed, as well as MLB, NASCAR, the PGA Tour and every other major sports league.
The Olympics were postponed, so was the Kentucky Derby and The Masters. Signature events were cancelled for the first time in their history. It was a sports year unlike any other, with unprecedented challenges and changes, the result of a worldwide pandemic unlike anything seen in more than 100 years.
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