The calendar can’t seem to turn fast enough.

“2020” became a catch-all social media expression for destruction, unpredictability and backup plans as the world buckled under a pandemic and racial reckoning. As stadiums sat empty and athletes marched through streets, sports stayed at the forefront through it all.

With his NBA Finals most valuable player trophy tucked under his arm minutes after winning his fourth NBA title, the Lakers’ LeBron James spoke about the on-court accomplishment in the same breath as the league’s dedication to advancing social change. A basketball superstar also became a symbol of voting rights during a presidential election year. Whatever remained of the wall separating sports and politics fell in 2020.

“We know we all want to see better days,” James said on ESPN from the NBA’s bubble near Orlando, Fla. “When we leave here, we gotta continue to push that. … Continue to push [against] everything that’s the opposite of love. If we can continue to do that, all of us, America would be a much better place.”

The death of Kobe Bryant, his teenage daughter and seven others in a helicopter crash plunged Los Angeles into mourning less than a month into 2020.

Dec. 22, 2020


The Lakers celebrated their first championship since 2010 just months after a franchise legend’s death in January shocked the world. Kobe Bryant was a source of motivation and inspiration as the Lakers overcame the longest season in NBA history. The five-time NBA champion also played a role in the Dodgers’ World Series celebration as star outfielder Mookie Betts shared a Bryant-narrated video after the Dodgers’ title run. It was their first championship since 1988.

Two droughts ended in 2020 for sports teams in Los Angeles. Others continued, possibly none in more agonizing fashion than the Clippers’ pursuit for their first conference final ending in seven games after a 3-1 lead.

There’s still next year.