By Ohmer Bautista
The world may have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, but sports managed to deliver some iconic moments. Yahoo Philippines looks back at the top sporting events of 2020 that caught the attention of Filipinos.
National Basketball Association (NBA)
Even in the face of stiff competition and unusual conditions brought about by the global health crisis, the Los Angeles Lakers would not be denied a date with NBA history. The powerhouse team claimed the franchise's 17th championship after taking down the Miami Heat 4-2 in the NBA Finals.
LeBron James, with a near triple-double Finals average, captured his fourth NBA championship and fourth Finals Most Valuable Player award. He set history by becoming the first player in the league to be named Finals MVP with three different franchises.
The glorious run of the Lakers concluded a season that went from shutting down to restarting in a bubble environment due to COVID-19. The NBA also became a platform for social justice with many players displaying their support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Giannis Antetokounmpo earned his second-straight league MVP award and was named Defensive Player of the Year. Ja Morant, Montrezl Harrell, Brandon Ingram, and Nick Nurse were hailed as Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, Most Improved Player of the Year, and Coach of the Year, respectively.
Philippine Basketball Association (PBA)
Ripping a page out of the NBA's bubble restart, the PBA launched its own closed circuit for the Philippine Cup, where Barangay Ginebra reigned kings.
The Gin Kings ruled the All-Filipino Conference after dispatching the TNT Tropang Giga in five games in the championship series. Ginebra captured its first Philippine Cup crown since 2007. It also marked the franchise's 13th title overall, equaling Crispa for fourth most in league history. Star player LA Tenorio was named Finals MVP.
Despite being the only conference played this year, the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup still provided Filipinos a respite from the unsettling reality of COVID-19.
The 2020 Australian Open was among the few major sporting events that operated before the outbreak.
Novak Djokovic made history when he won a record-extending eight Australian Open titles at the expense of Dominic Thiem. The Serbian star copped his 17th Grand Slam overall, becoming the first man in the Open Era to win a major title in three decades.
Sofia Kenin also carved her name in the record books by pulling off an upset victory over double-slam champion Garbiñe Muguruza in the women's singles finale. At the age of 21, Kenin became the youngest American to win a major women's singles title since 2002, as well as the youngest Melbourne champion since 2008.
Filipina teen sensation Alex Eala Indonesian partner Priska Nugroho, reigned supreme over the Australian Open juniors double tournament. It marked Eala's first Grand Slam title, making her the first Filipino to secure a juniors Grand Slam since Francis Casey Alcantra in 2009.
Major League Baseball (MLB)
Like a fast ball from the left field, the pandemic caught the 2020 MLB season by surprise. But it was not enough to stop the Los Angeles Dodgers from marching towards the World Series and beating the Tampa Bay Rays en route to the crown.
The Dodgers, who rallied behind the brilliance of World Series MVP Corey Seager, ended a 32-year World Series drought, giving the franchise its 7th championship in team history. The historical triumph punctuated a season for the ages in the MLB, where the original 162-game regular season only spanned for 60 outings due to COVID-19.
José Dariel Abreu of the Chicago White Sox and Frederick Charles Freeman of the Atlanta Braves took home the Season MVP honors in the American League and National League, respectively.
The French Open, originally the second Grand Slam event of the year, fell two weeks behind the US Open, which was supposed to be the fourth major tournament, due to the pandemic.
Rafael Nadal hoisted his fourth consecutive and 13th overall French Open Cup following a masterful showing against Novak Djokovic. He now has a total of 20 major titles, knotting Roger Federer's all-time record. Meanwhile, Iga Świątek raised her first Grand Slam trophy after defeating Sofia Kenin in the women's final.
Filipina tennis prodigy Alex Eala, who produced remarkable results in the Aussie Open, carried over momentum in the Roland Garros tournament.
The 15-year-old, mentored by Nadal, made a huge splash in her French Open Juniors debut by making the semifinal of the event. Though her stint came to a halt at the hands of eventual champion Elsa Jacquemot, she still made history as the first Filipino to reach the semis of a Grand Slam event since Felix Barrientos in the 1985 Wimbledon. This breakthrough also catapulted her to world number two ranking in the juniors division.
The 2020 FIA Formula One World Championship may have hit a speed bump due to the coronavirus outbreak, resulting in multiple race cancellations and postponements, but it still pushed through with 17 scheduled races. During that stretch, it was Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team that commanded attention.
Hamilton tied Formula One great Michael Schumacher with seven World Drivers' Championship titles by winning the Turkish Grand Prix.
Beyond the track, Hamilton used his platform to address racial injustice and diversity in the racing circuit, among other concerns, proving that he's more than a racing champion but also a champion for others.
National Football League (NFL)
Inside a jam-packed Hard Rock Stadium in Florida weeks before coronavirus became a global health emergency, Kansas City completed their climb atop the summit of the NFL. The Chiefs outlasted the San Francisco 49ers at Super Bowl LIV.
Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes was the driving force behind the spirited run of the Chiefs, who captured their 2nd Super Bowl title in franchise history after a 50-year drought.
For the regular season, Lamar Jackson powered his way towards the league MVP, as Calais Campbell earned NFL Man of the Year. Nick Bosa obtained Rookie of the Year, and John Harbaugh was adjudged Coach of the Year. Meanwhile, Michael Thomas and Stephon Gilmore received Offensive Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors, respectively.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)
In a sport where lives are always on the line, it never came as a surprise that the UFC took a huge risk, carrying out the first major professional sporting event in America amid a lethal pandemic. By setting up UFC 249 behind closed doors in May, it opened the floodgates to new possibilities for sports to thrive even in the thick of a health crisis.
As if the hard-hitting action wasn't enough, the league also drew attention for its off-the-cage developments. For one, longtime UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones relinquished his title midway through the year, opting to take time off from the sport. His decision came on the heels of a dispute with league president Dana White, who would later shock the public with the release of all-time great Anderson Silva from the UFC. The 45-year-old Silva had a dismal nine-game stretch, where he only won once, before his sudden release.
Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov caught MMA fans by announcing his retirement following an emphatic victory over Justin Gaethje in late October.
The 2020 US Open, though marred with the absences of defending champions Rafael Nadal and Bianca Andreescu due to COVID-19 concerns, set the stage for Dominic Thiem's impending breakthrough and Naomi Osaka's return trip to the summit.
Coming off three Grand Slam losses, Thiem displayed composure and experience over first-time finalist Alexander Zverev to crack the championship code. The emphatic victory secured him his first-ever Grand Slam trophy. Thiem’s triumph saw a first-time major champion at Flushing Meadows as well as a Grand Slam final without the Big Three of Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Jokovic since 2016.
On the other hand, Osaka, who helped raised racial injustice issues in the United States, secured her second US Open title and third major title overall by beating Victoria Azarenka. The daughter of a Haitian father and Japanese mother, Osaka has become a champion of the Black Lives Matter movement.
In an event primed to draw a crowd of thousands, the 2020 PGA Championship had no spectators in attendance at the Harding Park in San Francisco due to the pandemic. Still, the prestigious golf event remained a spectacle to behold with the emergence of a star in Collin Morikawa.
Morikawa nailed one big shot after another in a convincing performance that clinched the Wanamaker Trophy. The 23-year-old, who was partaking in only his second major championship event, bested seasoned golfers in Paul Casey and Dustin Johnson. He also became the third youngest PGA Championship winner since 1958.
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