The sports year in photos 2020

Dancing Trousers

01.01 Hot start

We should have known it would be a weird year when on the first day of 2020 the Nashville Predators played the Dallas Stars in the NHL Winter Classic outdoors in Texas, the second-most-southern state in the lower 48.

Dave Sandford/NHLI/Getty Images

01.13 Jeaux Burreaux

If you didn’t know the name Joe Burrow before LSU’s 42-25 win over Clemson in the College Football Playoff National Championship, he made sure you couldn’t forget him by accounting for six total touchdowns.


01.13 Houston problems

Former Houston Astros manager AJ Hinch (pictured), former Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora, former New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran and pretty much everyone else on the Astros’ 2017 World Series staff were fired when an MLB report was released, confirming the team cheated.

Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos/Getty Images

01.22 Hello, Zion

New Orleans Pelicans fans didn’t see their No. 1 pick in action until January because of a knee injury, but Zion Williamson’s debut did not disappoint. The 6-foot-6, 285-pound forward scored 22 points in 18 minutes of work.

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

01.25 LeBron passes Kobe

On the road with the Los Angeles Lakers in Philadelphia, the city where Kobe Bryant was born, LeBron James passed Bryant for third on the NBA career scoring list. Bryant died hours later in a helicopter crash.

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and six other passengers, including Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, were on their way to a basketball game at Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy when they crashed in the hills of Calabasas, California. All eight passengers and the pilot were killed.

02.01 Sofia Kenin wins Australian Open

Sofia Kenin, 21, defeated Garbine Muguruza in the Australian Open final to became the youngest American woman to win a Grand Slam title since Serena Williams in 2002.

Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images

02.05 Mahomes gets a ring

The Kansas City Chiefs earned their first Super Bowl victory in 50 years behind the arm of Patrick Mahomes, seen here with his fiancée, Brittany Matthews. At 24, Mahomes became the youngest quarterback to own an NFL MVP trophy and a Super Bowl ring.

Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports

02.11 Best Betts

The Los Angeles Dodgers pulled of a coup when they got David Price and 2018 American League MVP Mookie Betts from the Boston Red Sox in a trade that would prove pivotal to the Dodgers’ 2020 World Series championship.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

02.11 World-Record Wave

The 73.5-foot wave 33-year-old Brazilian professional surfer Maya Gabeira rode on Feb. 11 set a mark recognized by the Guinness World Records for the largest ever by a woman.

AP Photo/Armando Franca

02.16 Top-notch All-Star game

Instead of using this space to explain the wonky format of the 2020 All-Star Game, we’ll just say it was awesome to see a lot of money raised for charity, Kobe Bryant honored and a surprisingly competitive contest.

Lampson Yip/Clicks Images/Getty Images

02.22 Fists of Fury

The highly anticipated second fight between undefeated heavyweights Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder started with flair (Wilder’s 40-pound walk-out outfit), was filled with knockdowns (four from Fury) and ended with Wilder’s corner throwing in the towel.

Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports

“I told all my trainers, no matter how it may look on the outside, no matter how you may love me or have that emotional feeling, don’t make an emotional decision and do not ever throw that towel in because my pride is everything.”

Deontay Wilder

02.22 What if I told you …

… a 42-year-old Zamboni driver named David Ayres was called into game action when both of the Carolina Hurricanes’ goaltenders were lost to injury. And he won! See, 2020 gave us fun unbelievable moments, too.

Mark Blinch/NHLI/Getty Images

02.22 Ovi joins the elite

One of the greatest shooters in the history of the game, Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin scored his 700th NHL goal in his 1,143rd regular-season game. He was the second-fastest player to 700 and eighth overall.

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

03.08 Stadiums repurposed

While not in use for sports, stadiums and arenas around the world, including this one in Wuhan, China, were converted into field hospitals and coronavirus testing sites at the height of the first wave of the pandemic. Some also became homeless shelters and morgues.

STR/AFP via Getty Images

03.12 MLB stalls

MLB shut down spring training March 12 and delayed Opening Day, originally scheduled for March 26, by two weeks, then two months and eventually to late July.

Sam Navarro/USA TODAY Sports

03.12 A new madness

The NCAA canceled the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments a week before they were to begin. All winter and spring sports seasons, including hockey, baseball and lacrosse, were also nixed.

Mike Stobe/Getty Images

03.14 The fight must go on

At the same time seasons were being postponed, the UFC announced it would go ahead with its planned UFC Fight Night in Brazil, headlined by Charles Oliveira’s third-round submission of Kevin Lee. No fans were allowed to attend, but the postfight news conference was full.

Jason da Silva/USA TODAY Sports

03.20 Tompa Bay

Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans got good news when six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady announced he was signing with the team. A month later, Rob Gronkowski came out of retirement to join his old New England Patriots teammate.

Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

“I have always believed that well done is better than well said, so I’m not gonna say much more — I’m just gonna get to work!”

Tom Brady, via Instagram

03.24 No Olympics

Perhaps the biggest blow to the collective sports calendar came when the International Olympic Committee announced that the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo would be rescheduled to 2021.

Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images

04.01 European soccer stops

UEFA and its member associations met in mid-March and decided to go ahead with all matches scheduled through spring, but by April 1 they had changed course, postponing indefinitely Champions League, Europa League and Euro 2020.

David Ramos/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

04.04 Gronk takes the mic

Raise your hand if you had WrestleMania as the first American professional sports event back in action after the shutdown. Keep it up if you had Rob Gronkowski hosting the event in front of zero fans.

WWE, Inc

04.11 Joystick MVPs

Extra time at home this year has had a lot of us playing video games too much. If the skill they showed in the NBA 2K20 tournament is evidence, NBA players are just like us.


04.17 A whole new (virtual) world

The WNBA’s New York Liberty took NCAA all-time leader in triple-doubles Sabrina Ionescu first overall, making her the first athlete virtually drafted into an American professional league in 2020. Maria Taylor told her story for an ESPN Cover Story.

Carlos Serrao for ESPN

05.05 Welcome back, baseball!

After months of replays and virtual events, the Korea Baseball Organization blessed those willing to wake up in the wee hours of the morning with live action.

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

05.09 UFC finds a way

UFC made its return to American soil with three events in Jacksonville, Florida, on May 9, 13 and 16. UFC 249 was postponed or moved five times before VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena agreed to host.

Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

05.24 Tiger vs. Phil, but better

Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning vs. Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady … come on! This exhibition had fairway hole-outs, drivable par-4s, trash talk and — because it’s 2020 — a pair of split trousers.

Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

05.28 Safe at home

Olympic training never stops — even in a pandemic. Fencer Katharine Holmes trained with boyfriend Tyler Christensen at their home amid efforts to follow COVID-19 safety protocols. Holmes plans to compete when the Summer Olympics return next year.

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

05.29 Stephen Jackson speaks out

Days after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody on May 25, NBA veteran Stephen Jackson gave an impassioned speech at a rally in Minneapolis about his friend, Floyd, whom he grew up with in Texas.

Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

“The difference between me and my brother [George] Floyd is that I had opportunity. … And y’all wonder why we’re angry? We’re not just dying; it hasn’t been fair to us.”

Stephen Jackson

05.31 An impressive run

Robert “Raven” Kraft has become known for something unique: He has gone for a run on Miami Beach every day for the past 45 years. Thanks to special permission from city officials, his streak continues.

Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

06.10 Confederate flags disallowed

NASCAR banned Confederate flags from all racetracks at the urging of the series’ only Black full-time driver, Bubba Wallace. Eleven days later, hundreds of flag-clad vehicles paraded by the entrance to Talladega (Ala.) Speedway in protest.

Marvin Gentry/USA TODAY Sports

06.19 Juneteenth march on Washington

Washington Mystics and Wizards players, led by Natasha Cloud and Bradley Beal, marched to protest police brutality and remember the day in 1865 when the last remaining slaves in the U.S. were liberated.

Michael A. McCoy/Getty Images

Bubba Wallace’s June trip to Talladega was certainly tumultuous, but it ended with a show of strength and unity that is worth remembering.

06.23 Djokovic hosts dangerous event

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic and several other players tested positive for COVID-19 after playing in a series of Djokovic-hosted exhibition matches that flouted social-distancing and mask-wearing recommendations. The tour’s purpose was to raise money for people affected by the pandemic.

Andrej Cukic/EPA

06.25 Liverpool finally breaks through

Reds fans could not be deterred from celebrating Liverpool’s first Premiere League title in 30 years. More than 2,000 gathered outside the Liverpool’s stadium, chanting and setting off flares.

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

06.26 Improvised workouts

Mexican swimmer Rubi Cristino should have been preparing for the 2020 Paralympics at this point in the year, but instead she was training for 2021 in her father’s auto shop while facilities were closed.

Hector Vivas/Getty Images

07.01 Jonathan Irons released from prison

Maya Moore sat out the past two WNBA seasons to help overturn the wrongful conviction of Jonathan Irons. After his release, Moore and Irons married. A 30 for 30 detailing their journey is set for 2021.

Diwang Valdez for ESPN

07.08 MLS Protest

The five-week MLS Is Back tournament in Orlando, Florida, brought together live soccer and activism. Philadelphia Union midfielder Warren Creavalle, a member of Black Players for Change, designed T-shirts worn by all teams on the sidelines.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

07.12 The Washington Football Team

Under increasing pressure from corporate sponsors, the football team from Washington, D.C., announced it would retire its nickname. Soon after, the newly minted Washington Football Team revealed a new uniform design for the upcoming season.

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Heading into the NBA bubble period, everyone was curious exactly how all of it would work. Luckily, we got to peek behind the curtain for a glimpse at life on Walt Disney World property.

07.20 Who’s on first

Alyssa Nakken made MLB history as the first female coach in an on-field role when she took the first-base box for the San Francisco Giants in an exhibition game.

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

07.23 Cheers from the cuddle section

MLB finally opened its season, but the only fans allowed were cardboard cutouts and plush toys. A poor bear might have gotten the stuffing knocked out of him if not for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Michael Hermosillo.

John G. Mabanglo/EPA

07.23 It’s been released

The 2021-22 NHL season will feature a 32nd franchise, the Seattle Kraken. The team’s “S” logo is a nod to the first American team to win the Stanley Cup in 1917, the Seattle Metropolitans.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

07.25 A special season

WNBA players dedicated their Bradenton, Florida, bubble season to the memory of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman shot and killed by police in her Louisville, Kentucky, apartment. An upcoming ESPN 30 for 30 documents players’ season-long commitment to Say Her Name.

Abbie Parr/Getty Images

“We are dedicating this season to … fighting for justice for Black women — Black women who are so often forgotten in this fight for justice, who do not have people marching in the streets for them.”

Layshia Clarendon

07.26 Juventus takes Serie A again

Juventus won their 36th overall and ninth consecutive Serie A title on the boot of none other than Cristiano Ronaldo, who in 2018 became the highest-paid player ever transferred to an Italian club.

Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

08.01 A perfect record

Two Canadian cities, Edmonton and Toronto, hosted the 24-team Stanley Cup playoff bubble. Of 33,174 tests administered throughout the postseason, including this one for St. Louis Blues center Robert Thomas, none came back positive for COVID-19

Dave Sandford/NHLI/Getty Images

08.03 The XFL’s whirlwind year

The hype was palpable when WWE president Vince McMahon announced the return of the XFL, but after just five weeks of play, the league folded. Enter Dwayne Johnson, who bought it for $15 million.

Getty Images, The Rock/Instagram

“With pride and gratitude for all that I’ve built with my own two hands, I plan to apply these callouses to the XFL and look forward to creating something special for the players, fans and everyone involved for the love of football.”

Dwayne Johnson

08.09 Young and hungry

The PGA Championship went to 23-year-old Collin Morikawa, who carded a 6-under-par 64 in the final round of only his second major championship. He is the third-youngest winner of the stroke-play event.

Scott Strazzante/The San Francisco Chronicle/ Getty Images

08.14 That’s gotta hurt

For the fourth straight year, Barcelona was ousted early from the Champions League. The 8-2 drubbing they took at the hands of Bayern Munich this time, though, was hard to watch.

Michael Regan/UEFA/Getty Images

08.15 Cormier says goodbye

Former double-titleholder and National Wrestling Hall of Famer Daniel Cormier retired from the UFC after losing a heavyweight title fight to Stipe Miocic. Cormier will go down as one of the best MMA fighters ever.

Brandon Magnus for ESPN

08.23 Popov wins british

Sophia Popov entered the Women’s British Open at Royal Troon ranked 304th with zero wins on the LPGA tour. But a final-round 68 earned her $675,000 — more than six times her career earnings to that point.

Matthew Lewis/R&A/R&A via Getty Images

08.23 Instagram 500

Only in 2020 can the winner of the Indianapolis 500, Takuma Sato, take an artsy photo of his own car with no one else around.

Darron Cummings/AP Photo

08.25 Messi and Barca are off again, on again

After a disastrous 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarterfinal, a fed-up Lionel Messi threatened to leave Barcelona after 16 years. Fans took to Camp Nou in support of their star. A week later, Messi changed course and decided to stick with Barca through 2021.

Robert Bonet/NurPhoto/Getty Images

08.26 Leagues stand together in protest

Sterling Brown, George Hill and the rest of the Milwaukee Bucks boycotted Game 5 of their first-round playoff series in protest of the Kenosha, Wisconsin, police shooting of James Blake, a Black man. Their league brethren and the other professional leagues joined in solidarity.

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images

09.05 Protesters converge on Churchill Downs

Minutes before the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby, a moment of silence to “recognize inequities” was held. Outside, protesters, activists and demonstrators marched, calling for justice in the shooting death of Louisville native Breonna Taylor.

Brandon Bell/Getty Images

09.08 SoFi Stadium shows off

The Chargers opened the NFL season in the first football stadium built within Los Angeles city limits in nearly 100 years. It turns out that 3.1 million square feet looks even bigger with empty stands.

Harry How/Getty Images

09.09 Creepy setting for baseball

An orange glow hung in the air up and down the West Coast as dozens of wildfires raged in California, making an early-evening game in San Francisco an eerie sight.

Tony Avelar/AP Photo

09.12 Power 5 football returns

Clemson and Wake Forest kicked off the first Power 5 football Saturday of the year. The ACC and Big 12 teams had the big games all to themselves, until the SEC joined in in Week 4.

Walt Unks/The Winston-Salem Journal/AP

09.23 Statement win

On her way to her second US Open win and third overall major championship, Naomi Osaka wore seven masks to seven matches with seven names of people killed because of racial injustice or police brutality.

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

“What was the message you got is more the question. I feel like the point is to make people start talking.”

Naomi Osaka, when asked about the message her US Open masks sent

09.16 Sky riders

It looks like cheating (and a bad idea), but these cyclists are performers hanging from the Grenoble Bastille cable cars during the 17th leg of the Tour de France. The actual competitors stayed on the road.

Tony Avelar/AP Photo

09.20 Winged Foot gets muscled open

A bulked-up Bryson DeChambeau blasted bomb drive after bomb drive on his way to his first major. He shot four rounds in the 60s and ended the U.S. Open the only player under par.

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

09.25 Nunes defends her title

Amanda Nunes became the first UFC fighter to defend titles in two weight classes while holding them both. Oh, and she added one more title in 2020: mother. Her fiancée, UFC fighter Nina Ansaroff, gave birth to a daughter, Raegan Ann Nunes.

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

09.30 Tampa celebrates accordingly

What a year for Tampa Bay sports! Tom Brady’s signing was good for the Bucs. The Rays’ American League pennant was awesome. The biggest highlight, though, was the Lightning’s Stanley Cup triumph, fittingly celebrated with a boat parade down the Hillsborough River.

Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

10.03 Italy in autumn

The 21-stage Giro d’Italia was postponed from May because the country was one of the hardest hit early in the pandemic. Watching Italian Elia Viviani ride through the streets in Palermo five months later must have felt like a victory in and of itself.

Tim de Waele/Getty Images

10.06 Everyone else is chasing the Storm

After an Achilles tendon injury kept her out of the lineup all last season, 2018 league MVP Breanna Stewart returned to form this season, leading the Seattle Storm to a record-tying fourth WNBA championship.

Mary Holt/USA TODAY Sports

10.06 Smoke ’em if you got ’em

LeBron James became just the fourth player to win a title with three different NBA teams when he led the Los Angeles Lakers to their first championship since 2010.

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

10.24 Khabib calls it at 29-0

Undefeated lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov broke down after his second-round knockout of Justin Gaethje at UFC 254. He said the fight, his first since the death of his father, would be his last.

Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

10.27 Turner breaks protocol to celebrate

Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner was pulled from the World Series-clinching game in Arlington, Texas, in the eighth inning because of a positive COVID-19 test, but he returned to the field to celebrate and pose for photos with his teammates and manager Dave Roberts.

AP Photo/Eric Gay

10.30 Hamilton sets F1 record for wins

Six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton broke a record once thought unbreakable at the Portuguese Grand Prix when he crossed the finish line first for the 92nd time in his career.

Mark Thompson/Getty Images

11.03 Student-athletes rock the vote

The NCAA passed a measure in September prohibiting student-athletes from having to compete or practice on Election Day. Many athletic departments launched on-campus voter registration initiatives, and at Georgia Tech, athletes volunteered at the McCamish Pavilion polling place.

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images

11.07 Quite a ride for Notre Dame

Notre Dame knocked off top-ranked Clemson in double overtime 47-40. The South Bend crowd then stormed the field, a move that didn’t quite adhere to most social distancing guidelines. It was the Irish’s first win over a No. 1 team since 1993.

Matt Cashore/USA TODAY Sports

11.07 Iron Chris

Chris Nikic, 21, completed a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a marathon run in 16 hours, 46 minutes and 9 seconds, making him the only person with Down syndrome to finish an Ironman triathlon.

Jonathan Bachman & Michael Reaves/Getty Images for IRONMAN

“To Chris, this race was more than just a finish line and celebration of victory. IRONMAN has served as his platform to become one step closer to his goal of living a life of inclusion, normalcy and leadership.”

Nik Nikic, Chris’s father

11.08 A NASCAR legend’s last ride

After seven Cup titles, Jimmie Johnson capped off his career with a fifth-place finish at Phoenix — highest among drivers not in the playoffs. “It was nice to be competitive out there, but my bucket’s full,” Johnson said.

AP Photo/Ralph Freso

11.15 Johnson dominates Augusta National

The Masters might have started later in a break from tradition, but Dustin Johnson was right on time. He set a tournament record by finishing at 20-under 268, and became the first No. 1-ranked golfer to win the green jacket since Tiger Woods in 2002.

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

11.15 Hail Murray!

DeAndre Hopkins snagged a game-winning Hail Mary from Kyler Murray to give the Cardinals a win over the Bills. It was the first go-ahead Hail Mary in the fourth quarter of any NFL game since 2015.

AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

The soccer world suffered a profound loss with the death of Argentina legend Diego Maradona. He died at age 60 at his home on the outskirts of Buenos Aires following a heart attack.

11.28 Firsts for women

Sarah Fuller, the first woman to play and score in a Power 5 football game, joined Cleveland Browns interim tight ends coach Callie Brownson and new Miami Marlins GM Kim Ng as pioneering women in sports in November.

AP Photo/L.G. Patterson

11.28 Slam Dunk champ gets dunked

An anticipated fight between boxing legends Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. was overshadowed — on the Internet, anyway — by YouTuber Jake Paul’s right hand to three-time NBA Slam Dunk champ Nate Robinson’s jaw.

Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Triller

12.03 Midweek NFL

Because of a COVID-19 outbreak within the Baltimore Ravens’ organization, their scheduled Thanksgiving contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers was moved to the following Wednesday. It was only the second Wednesday NFL game since 1949.

Joe Sargent/Getty Images

12.03 ‘Tis the season

It’s trade season, folks, and by far the biggest trade to shake up the NBA sent Russell Westbrook from the Houston Rockets to the Washington Wizards in exchange for John Wall and a future first-round pick.

Sarah Stier/Getty Images

12.07 Breaking news

B-boys and B-girls such as Carlos Cruz, pictured, rejoiced when the International Olympic Committee announced break dancing officially has been added to the lineup of events for the 2024 Paris Games.

AP Photo/Fernando Llano

12.11 He is on the board

Jackson He, the only Chinese-born FBS player, scored the first touchdown of his career in Arizona State’s 70-7 win over rival Arizona. The walk-on’s nameplate for the game honored his Chinese heritage.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

12.12 A matchup for the ages

Less than a month after Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno both won at UFC 255, they agreed to fight each other at UFC 256 in what might go down as the fight of the year. They exchanged blow after blow on their way to a draw.

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

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