Honoring the legacy of the athletes that have passed this year
As we all know, 2020 has been a year filled with its ups and downs in the sports world. It was difficult for athletes to be recruited, sports leagues faced economic challenges and of course, many athletes experienced COVID-19 firsthand. Still, it was also a memorable year with many championships, unforgettable moments and fans uniting during this incredibly tough time. Unfortunately, legendary athletes were also lost in the process of 2020, but the legacy they left in their respective sports will never be forgotten.
One of the most popular sports figures of all time Kobe Bean Bryant, passed away in a helicopter crash last January at the age of 41. Bryant, his daughter and seven others were on their way to a youth basketball tournament when the helicopter crashed on a hillside outside of Los Angeles, Calif.. The pilot was traveling at about 184 mph and the impact caused a crater on the hill that scattered debris over an area the size of a football field.
Bryant was drafted to the NBA in 1996 straight from highschool by the Charlotte Hornets as the 13th pick and was then traded to the Los Angeles Lakers on draft night. He became the second youngest NBA player in history and the youngest player ever to play in an All-Star Game.
Kobe’s extraordinary talent made people ask the unthinkable: Could he possibly surpass Michael Jordan’s title of the Greatest of All Time? In his 20-year career with the Lakers, he won five championships, league MVP, a two-time NBA scoring champion and earned 15 All-NBA selections. Kobe was an inspiration to millions across the world and even those in the NBA today. Many players are great, but very few of them have something similar to the “Mamba Mentality,” which includes being the first one to every practice or giving every ounce of their effort. For this, many people, not only Laker fans, found him to be an astonishing person on and off the court, and his tragic passing will be remembered forever.
Mary “Mickey” Kathryn
Another heartbreaking death this year was legendary golf player Mary Kathryn Wright—nicknamed “Mickey.” She passed away at the age of 85 on Feb. 17. Wright’s lawyer told The Associated Press that the cause of her death was a heart attack.
Wright was born in San Diego, Calif. and studied at Stanford University until she dropped out after her first year to pursue her golfing career. She was regarded as the best golfer in history and is known for having a great swing that led her to set multiple records. Her tall and athletic build gave her a powerful swing, and her shot-making ability gave the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) a greater level of respect. Throughout her 14-year career, she won 82 tournaments,13 of them being majors. She was named the Woman Athlete of the Year after winning 13 LPGA tournaments in a single year, a record that still stands today.
To many people, especially young girls, Wright became an inspirational figure due to her talent with a golf club. Wright became bigger than the gender line in golf. Her name will forever be mentioned in the same breath as many legendary male golfers.
In March, Roger Mayweather, a world champion in boxing for two weight classes, died at the age of 58. Mayweather declined to speak about his long-term health complications and in line with his conditions being unspecified, Floyd Mayweather announced his uncle’s death in a statement leaving the cause of death unknown.
Mayweather’s professional career took off in 1981 and ended in 1999. His world titles were won in the junior lightweight and junior welterweight divisions. He faced many notable opponents during his 18-year career, including Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. twice, Pernell Whitaker, Kostya Tszyu, Rocky Lockridge, Samuel Serrano and many more in his storied career. Once he decided to move on from his professional career as a boxer, he became a trainer for his nephew, Floyd Mayweather Junior.
“He was a real warrior,” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, who promoted several of his fights said. “He’d fight anybody. And even after he retired, he was a human voice in the Mayweather camp. With all the boasting and stuff that Floyd did, Roger was a reality check.”
Former NFL player Tom John Dempsey, died in April at the age of 78 due to complications from COVID-19. He was born without fingers on his right hand or toes on his right foot.
Despite these challenges, in high school he was a defensive lineman and kicker, then briefly played at Palomar College in San Diego County. He was then signed by the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted player.
As a rookie he played as a place-kicker and hit 22 field goals in 41 attempts. He was remembered for his game-winning, 63-yard field goal for the Saints, a league record at the time.
Dempsey played wearing a custom shoe that featured a flattened and enlarged toe surface. He didn’t let his disability limit what he could accomplish, and the loss of Dempsey is much more than one of a person who played professional football, it is about someone who was inspirational.
“Life’s not about producing on one day, it’s about producing every day that counts,” Dempsey said.
It’s a motto he lived to the fullest and he will be fondly remembered for turning a disability into something inspirational.
One of the most recent and shocking deaths was that of former Argentinian soccer star Diego Maradona. He died of a heart attack at the age of 60. Maradona had been admitted to the hospital three times in the last 20 years for serious health issues due to his drug and alcohol addictions, and in early November, he underwent surgery to remove a blood clot in his brain.
Besides his major health concerns and personal battles, he was known as a great player because of his ability to control the ball and create scoring opportunities for himself and others. He led club teams to championships in Argentina, Italy and Spain, and he starred on the Argentine national team that won the 1986 World Cup held in Mexico. After he retired, Maradona began training and coaching for second division teams in Mexico, Argentina and United Arab Emirates. He soon stopped coaching teams because of his poor health conditions.
Maradona will continue to be a renowned player, due to his notable talent on the field. He was strong, skillful and ruthless, and he didn’t let his short stature deter him from dominating all opponents. His character on and off the pitch made him the legend he is and his skills will carry into future generations. Over the past decades, many football players around the world have wanted to replicate his style of playing, and because of that, his legacy as the best is secured for eternity.We have lost some of the most well-known and hard working professional players in the year of 2020. These lost athletes have shown young people worldwide that anything is possible and any challenge can be overcome. Some additional influential athletes in the sporting world who were lost this year include Don Larsen, Rocky Johnson, Chris Doleman, Nancy Darsch, John Andretti, Willie Wood, Tony Fernandez, among many others. They will all be remembered as people who have made an impact in their respective sport and in the lives of people close to them as well as for inspiring many others around the world.