Last Wednesday, the Knicks' dream season came to an unfortunate end against the Hawks in game 5 of the first round in the NBA playoffs. As tough as it was, the team gave fans a reason to smile for the first time in years. They went from being one of the worst teams in the league over the last five years, to winning more games this season than the last two combined. Let's look at how successful their season has been.
Despite the praise the Knicks received for hiring head coach Tom Thibodeau, expectations were low to begin the season. It looked like the losing would continue when the Knicks lost their first two games. But then they showed signs of what was to come with a stunning blowout over the Milwaukee Buck, which set the tone the season. Every game, the Knicks looked like they might've peaked, only to prove fans wrong and go on another winning stretch. In early April however, it seemed as though their magic was out after losing five out of six games. But like earlier in the season, New York wasn't done yet and proceeded to go on an amazing nine game winning streak. Even after their streak ended, they ended the season on an impressive note, winning three straight games to clinch the fourth seed before Atlanta ended the dream.
There are many people who deserve a ton of credit for the Knicks' success, starting with president Leon Rose. He made some smart, low-profile free agent signings, such as Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel, that significantly helped the team. Trading draft bust Dennis Smith Jr. as well as a second round pick for Derrick Rose was another fantastic move that brought more scoring and leadership to the team. His best move however, was hiring this season's Coach of the Year, Tom Thibodeau, the primary reason for New York's success. Night in and night out, Thibodeau always got the Knicks to play hard through working together on offense and defense. Their defensive in particular was amazing all season because all five players worked together to stop their opponents rather than one guy making a defense better. It's why they were the number one defense in points allowed. Thibodeau also got the best out of his players, most notably Julius Randle. After a rocky first season with the Knicks, Randle responded by leading the team in points, rebounds, and assists. He was rewarded with his first career all star appearance and the Most Improved Player award. RJ Barrett became a more polished player in his sophomore season, upping his scoring average from 14 to 17, while improving his shooting percentage from 32 to 40. Derrick Rose was a great midseason acquisition who gelled immediately and added more scoring. Other players were key contributors such as Noel, Burks, Immanuel Quickly, and Reggie Bullock.
As for the team's future, they don't have to rely on the draft lottery anymore. They have two first round draft picks, and with Quickley looking like a reliable scorer, fans can trust management to draft wisely. In addition they have lots of cap room to sign free agents. While most upcoming free agents have been extended by their teams, there are still some available free agents such as Kawhi Leonard, Mike Conley, and Demar Derozan who could make a difference.. They should especially be interested in signing with the Knicks after the Garden crowd was rocking in every home playoff game. The Knicks can also use the money they have to bring back Rose, Noel, Burks, and Bullock among others. Giving Julius Randle an extension is another important priority. While they don't have to rush it, and his play fell off in the playoffs, he deserves the money for getting the Knicks in that position to begin with. The only exception might be giving him the max, but any other deal would work for both sides. Randle has previously said that he wants to stay in New York so there seems to be little obstacles in the way.
Although the Knicks season came to an end, this teams has a lot to be proud of. They finally look like a competitive team with players who play for one another, and got more out of this season than anyone could've thought. Fans have also taken notice and are excited to watch a good team for the first time in awhile, with celebrities such as Spike Lee. Fat Joe, Tracy Morgan, and Chris Rock filling the front rows. Although the Knicks didn't win a playoff series, the fact that some people predicted they'd win says a lot about their season. This team was fun to watch and more importantly, they have the foundation to be a great team.
On April 29th, the New York Jets entered the NFL needing to set themselves up for success in the short term and long term. After hiring Robert Saleh as their head coach, and trading their quarterback Sam Darnold, Joe Douglas set up himself for his most critical draft yet as a general manager. With the selection of quarterback Zach Wilson, trading up, and their commitment toward building around Wilson, this draft class is going to define Douglas' tenure with the Jets. With that being said, here's my opinion about their draft class.
1. Drafting Zach Wilson
Three years after, drafting Sam Darnold to be their franchise quarterback, the Jets are once again hitting the reset button on the quarterback position. Personally, I would've liked to see them keep Darnold and trade down to draft another skill position, such as Kyle Pitts. While Zach Wilson had an amazing season at BYU throwing for 33 touchdowns and only three picks, it was in a season affected by COVID-19 and he played against an easy schedule. However, Douglas still deserves to be trusted by fans since he has been a part of two organizations that have won Super Bowls in the Ravens and Eagles. He was very intrigued by Wilson throughout the offseason and was all in on drafting him following his pro day. Wilson is a talented quarterback who should succeed in the NFL, but in order to make that happen, the Jets must surround him in an environment with the right players and coaches. Something they can't do again after Darnold's tenure.
2. Trading Up
Although the Jets already had an extra first pick, Douglas wanted to move up. He traded the 23rd pick along with both third round picks to the Vikings for the 14th spot, which was used on offensive guard Alijah Vera-Tucker. Trading up to get an offensive lineman who plays on the interior is a risky move despite the fact that this position was their biggest need on the line entering the draft. On the other hand, Jets fans can get used to seeing Vera-Tucker playing on the left side next to last year's standout rookie and pancake machine Mekhi Becton. In addition, Vera-Tucker's ability to thrive in a zone blocking scheme, will be essential for their run game, which is based off the 49ers' system. It has been awhile since the Jets had stability at the offensive line, but Becton and Vera-Tucker can hopefully be cornerstones of that unit in the future.
3. More Skill Positions
In the following rounds, the Jets arguably already gave Zach Wilson more weapons than they did during Darnold's entire tenure. With their second round pick, they selected wide receiver Elijha Moore. Even though cornerback was one of their needs, Moore is a skilled receiver who was expected to go into the first round. He could be a huge steal for the Jets in the years to come. Moore is also from Ole Miss, which has produced two other talented receivers in DK Metcalf and AJ Brown. As for Wilson, this selection gives him a promising receiving core of Moore, last year's rookie Denzil Mims, and free agent acquisition Corey Davis.
The Jets continued to add weapons for Wilson with the selection of running back Michael Carter in the fourth round. Despite sharing touches with Javonte Williams at UNC, Carter had a very productive college career, and could work his way up the team's depth chart at running back. It's very common nowadays for a team to improve their running game through finding a running back later in the draft, and the Jets could be one of those teams if Carter establishes himself as an every down back. He must also establish himself as the better "Michael Carter" since the Jets drafted a cornerback who happens to have the same name.
This draft by the Jets had many positives. They hopefully selected their franchise quarterback who Douglas really trusts, and have committed themselves toward building around Zach Wilson. My original hopes were for them to keep Darnold while trading down, and select a cornerback in the second or third round rather than the fifth round. However, Douglas has experience with Super Bowl winning teams, most notably with the Ravens whose front office is one of the best in football. Therefore he probably knows what he's doing and hopefully, this draft will finally change the team's fortunes.
This NBA season has seen a drastic change in the standings compared to last year. Teams who have missed the playoffs for years, but are back in the mix include the Knicks, Suns, and Hawks. The return of fans after last year's hiatus, also adds to the excitement of this postseason.
Eastern Conference: Western Conference:
#1 76ers 4 #1 Jazz 4
#8 Wizards 1 #8 Grizzlies 1
#1 76ers 4 #1 Jazz 4
#4 Knicks 2 #4 Clippers 3
#4 Knicks 4 #4 Clippers 4
#5 Hawks 1 #5 Mavericks 1
#1 76ers 2 #3 Bucks 4 #1 Jazz 4
#3 Bucks 4. #1 Jazz 2 #6 Lakers 2
#3 Bucks 4 #3 Nuggets 2
#6 Heat 2 #6 Blazers 4
#2 Nets 3 #6 Blazers 4
#3 Bucks 4 #7 Lakers 3
#2 Nets 4 #2 Suns 2
#7 Celtics 0 #7 Lakers 4
When the best running backs are mentioned, names such as Jim Brown, Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, and Barry Sanders are usually mentioned. With that being said, why isn't hall of famer LaDainian Tomlinson mentioned? Despite his incredible accomplishments, factors such as where he played and the fact that he never won a championship seem to have resulted in him being left out of the discussion for the greatest running backs.
Fresh off an amazing college career with TCU, Tomlinson was one of the top prospects and the San Diego Chargers viewed him as their savior in 2001. While winning didn't come right away, Tomlinson was immediately one of the league's best players. In his third season, he became the first running back to rush for 1,000 yards and catch 100 passes in a season. In the following year, the Chargers made the playoffs for the first time in a decade with Tomlinson scoring 17 touchdowns. In 2006. he rewrote the record books in one of the best seasons for a running back, rushing for a career high 1,815 yards while tallying 508 receiving yards. His most impressive accomplishment was breaking the record for total touchdowns in a season with an amazing 31. The Chargers made the playoffs with a 14-2 record, but were upset by the hated Patriots in a heartbreaking loss. Frustration for Tomlinson only grew when his beloved mentor, coach Marty Schottenheimer was fired along with the death of Tomlinson's own father. For the next two seasons, he was still one of the top running backs in the league, leading the league in rushing in 2007, but his workload slowly started to decrease. He also dealt with injuries during the playoffs, and the Chargers eventually released Tomlinson following the 2009 season, making him a free agent for the first time in his career.
It wouldn't take long however, for Tomlinson to find a new suitor. The New York Jets signed him to a two year contract. Tomlinson had a strong season rushing with 914 yards while totaling over 1,000 scrimmage yards. In the playoffs Tomlinson helped the Jets win a rematch of the AFC championship game over the Colts by rushing for two critical touchdowns. The next week, Tomlinson finally got revenge on the Patriots with a touchdown reception in another victory. After a quiet 2011 season, Tomlinson signed a one day contract to retire as a Charger.
As of now, Tomlinson is seventh on the rushing list with 13,684 yards. He is third all-time in 162 total touchdowns, and his 624 receptions ranks third among running backs. His all-around game made him stand out apart from other running backs. Besides running and receiving, he was known to buy his quarterbacks extra time to throw thanks to his ability to pick up blitzes. On top of that, Tomlinson was able to throw the ball. His seven career touchdown passes are the second most in NFL history for a non-quarterback.
So for all of his greatness on the field, why doesn't he currently get the recognition he deserves? One reason might be the increasing number of fans who never saw the Chargers play in San Diego. With the Chargers now in L.A., many fans in San Diego have abandoned the team. In addition San Diego was a really small market team on the west coast which kept Tomlinson from the spotlight. The Charger's failure to win a Super Bowl also played a factor the lack of recognition for Tomlinson's game. Although people might not realize it, Tomlinson deserves to be mentioned in the best of the best without debate.
This year has been a exciting surprise for Knicks fans, as the team finally holds a strong spot in the standings. One of the main contributors toward their success is Immanuel Quickley who should be mentioned among league's top rookies. Despite being drafted at 25, he is a big reason why the Knicks are in this stellar position, and here's how he got them there.
Quickley is already good at running the floor in the early stages of his career. He knows how to set his teammates up for assists or make the pass toward an assist. Perhaps the most impressive skill he has, is his ability to get in front of his man. He usually puts some kind of move on his opponent and once Quickey gets a step, he getting back in front of him by putting putting his on his hip pocket. By doing that, Quickley has the option to kick it out, which he's not bad at doing, but he's better at drawing the foul or shooting his floater. In addition, Quickley runs the pick and roll better than most guards. That's when his passing is at its best. https://www.instagram.com/p/CKKLt3PHHly/ utm_source=ig_web_copy_link. His kind of play style has been a major reason why he's one of the top rookies.
When it comes to scoring, Quickley can get the job done in numerous ways. His floater game is his bread and butter. As previously mentioned, Quickley will usually rely on his floater once he gets in front of his man, which is something he has practically perfected only four months into his career. https://twitter.com/sny_knicks/status/1355951688159526913?s=20. He also knows how to get to the foul line. When it comes to shooting free throws, he's money foul line, demonstrated by his 89% free throw shooting. Quickley's outside shooting is also a strong aspect of his game thanks to his respectable three-point shooting. He can shoot off the catch or create for himself as shown below. https://twitter.com/MikeVorkunov/status/1374516153544962060?s=20.
On top of that Quickley sometimes gets the defender jumping and then drive where to the basket where he can use his floater.
Quickley's game is resulted in a significant amount of production on the offensive end for a team that mainly wins through defense. He averages 12 points in only 20 minutes. His three point shooting is respectable and hovers just under 40%. Per 36 minutes, his stats jump up to 23 points and 4 assists, which is really impressive for a rookie drafted late in the first round. His play has earned the respect of peers such as Lou Williams and Paul George following a 26 point performance against one of the league's toughest defenses. Perhaps the greatest thing to come out of Quickley's season, is the fact that the Knicks are in the fifth seed as one of the league's most surprising teams.
Whether or not the Knicks will be able to persevere through the second half of the season, Quickley has established himself as a fan favorite through his positive energy. He has already had a terrific start to his career and should only go up from here.
Last season, the Yankees were a little bit of a disappointment. Picked by many to win the World Series, the Yankees couldn't adapt to a season that was heavily affected by COVID-19. This resulted in a roller coaster season full of high and low moments, ultimately ending in a divisional series loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. But as Spring Training is right around the corner, there are many reasons to look forward to 2021.
One reason for optimism is the Yankees' successful offseason. For the most part, they were able to check off some of their important priorities starting with re-signing star infielder DJ Lemahieu. Since he was signed to a two year contract, Lemahieu has outplayed his deal and has become a major contributor to the team. In the beginning of the offseason, the negotiations for a new contract started off on a rocky note, but both sides were able to agree to a deal consisting of six years and $90 million. In addition, Brian Cashman signed two time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber to a one year deal. Despite injuries over the last two seasons, management probably believes that he could add depth to the rotation and become a mentor for the younger pitchers.
There are other bright spots of last year that will be primed to make an impact next season, starting with their 6 ft 7 slugger, Aaron Judge. Last year, he was looking like an MVP candidate during the first stretch of the season, which included six home runs in five games. Injuries put him out of the race, but he returned toward the end of the season, and had a strong postseason. Fellow hitter Giancarlo Stanton also served as a contributor after being sidelined for the majority of last year. While he also dealt with injuries, he returned to play a prominent role when the postseason arrived. Both players have changed their winter routines, in hopes of reducing the amount of injuries they get. Gerrit Cole, their prized free agent signing last offseason, has looked like a good signing for the most part. After a streaky start, he rebounded in September and was very solid in the postseason. With the urgency to win a championship increasing, these guys must continue to produce.
While the Yankees didn't adjust well to the season's modifications as a result of COVID-19, the effect the pandemic had on baseball last year, shouldn't be the case this year. Last season, the shortened schedule affected the Yankees chances of making the playoffs at a higher seed. When there was a month to go toward the end of last season, the Yankees were barely in the playoff picture at a record of 21-21. Had that been in a 162 game season, there wouldn't have been any concern, but here were the Yankees in danger of missing the playoffs. They then went on a tear as the season ended, going on a 10 game winning streak, the kind of momentum that they're usually able to maintain with a full schedule.
Even with last year's disappointing finish, there were still some bright spots that will be essential going into next season. In what will likely be a less uncertain baseball season, the Yankees should be able to rediscover their winning ways on a more consistent basis. On top of that, they checked off some of their most notable offseason priorities. This is a team that can really break through the playoffs and hopefully capture a long-awaited 28th championship.
On Thursday, the New York Jets announced Robert Saleh as their new head coach. Saleh was the defensive coordinator of the San Fransisco 49ers since 2017, where he inherited a defense that was historically bad, and turned it into one of the top units. His energy on the sidelines during games is noticeable and is something that the Jets need. Fans will be counting on him to turn the team around following one of the worst seasons in their history.
Jets fans have a lot to look forward to with the hiring of Robert Saleh. To begin with, he's a fresh start following the tenure of previous head coach Adam Gase, who set the franchise back during his last two seasons. On game days, he brings much-needed energy and passion to the sidelines, which has been demonstrated on numerous occasions when the 49ers would come up with a big stop. His motivational and player-friendly demeanor, was well appreciated by players on the defense such as Sherman and Warner. So far, he has already reached out to every Jets players and they seem to like him despite not having played a game under him yet. Even with his motivational tactics, Saleh also has a technical approach on Sundays. With the hiring of fellow offensive coordinator Mike LeFleur, the offense will likely be run-oriented with lots of receivers in motion and play action passes.
Robert Saleh is a protege of one of the league's top coaches, Pete Carroll. During Saleh's tenure with the 49ers, his first two years weren't the easiest and there were calls for him to be fired. In 2019 however, the defense was one of the best units. Running a cover three defense, he finally had the group of pass rushers to really make his system work in Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Erik Armstead, and Dee Ford. Fred Warner served as the perfect linebacker for that scheme, and Richard Sherman who he was with in Seattle, anchored the secondary. They were a big reason why San Fransisco made the number one seed and breezed through the playoffs en route to a Super Bowl. While they didn't win, it was still a successful turnaround for the defense. In 2020, many of the key players suffered injuries, but the defense still remained a productive unit. Saleh's last two years proved to be more than enough for the Jets to hire him.
Overall, this is a very good hire for the Jets. Saleh really knows how to bring a winning attitude. This is illustrated through his 10 lessons of coaching:
If there's someone who can really put all of the Jets' dreadful years behind them, Robert Saleh could be the answer. His energetic and technical approach on Sundays could be a critical factor to the team. It doesn't often happen that a team makes a hire that everyone seems to love, but the Jets have made it. Now the results must come next.
This NFL season was unique in many ways. Throughout the season, COVID-19 threatened to derail the season. Many teams suffered outbreaks causing games to be rescheduled. Nonetheless all 256 games were still able to happen. Another thing that made this season unique was the introduction of a new playoff format. After previously having a six team playoff format with two teams having a first round bye, the NFL expanded its format to seven teams with only one of them having a first round bye. This caused the final weeks of the regular season to be very crucial with a handful of teams playing for a playoff spot, better seeding, or a first round bye. Here are the fourteen teams that are left standing.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Following their Super Bowl title last February, the Chiefs have looked as good as they are last year if not better. With an offense that was healthier than last year, Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce once again put up ridiculous numbers. In addition, they also have an improved running game led by rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The defense led by Chris Jones and Tyrann Mathieu has also continued to make life difficult for opponents dating back to the end of last season. For the cherry on top, the Chiefs have home field advantage locked up for the playoffs, making their chance to repeat more likely.
2. Buffalo Bills: After a surprise 10-6 season that put them in the playoffs as a Wild Card, the Bills have only gotten better. The defense, which was a big reason why they got in last year, didn't have the same kind of year, but were still a good unit. It was the offense however, that was their main strength. With career years from third year quarterback Josh Allen as well as the newly acquired Stefon Diggs, the offense was one of the best in football. Under Sean McDermott, he and his coaching staff are hungry for a playoff win after losing in their previous trips.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers: There was a time where the Steelers were undefeated for the first 11 games of the season. Ben Rothlesberger was enjoying a resurgent year. His receivers of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, and Diontae Johnson were wrecking havoc in secondary. The defense, led by sack leader T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick was dominating opponents. However, this team is sputtering into the playoffs with a 1-4 record. If there's any time for them to recapture their magic, now is the time.
4. Tennessee Titans: They are another team entering the playoffs riding a potent offense. While the passing game led by Ryan Tannehill along with A.J. Brown has been very effective, it's their running game that has really been stellar. Derrick Henry became the eighth running back in NFL history as well as the second Titan to top the historic mark of 2,000 rushing yards. Like last year, this team is primed for a deep playoff run.
5. Baltimore Ravens: After a 14-2 season, many expected the Ravens to win the Super Bowl. But with five games left, they appeared to have no shot at even getting to the playoffs. After that, they finally started to show shades of last year winning out to get to the playoffs at 11-5. With Lamar Jackson looking like his MVP self, the offense has been very efficent. The defense with a well balanced mix of young players and veterans has had a knack for takeaways all season.
6. Cleveland Browns: After 18 painful years of missing the playoffs, it's only fitting that in 2020, the Browns were finally able to break through. With a strong running game led by Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt along with a defense led by Myles Garrett, they rode two stretches of four game winning streaks which was enough to earn them a playoff spot. However, there are questions surrounding the passing game with Baker Mayfield, and teams will be willing to led Mayfield beat them.
7. Indianapolis Colts: They are the first AFC team to benefit from the new playoff system. Riding a stingy defense with Darius Leonard and DeForest Buckner, the Colts appeared to have a playoff spot locked in going into their game against the Steelers. But after blowing a 17 point lead, they needed luck to get in the playoffs with a Dolphins loss and a win. Both scenarios happened, allowing the Colts to return to the playoffs. With Philip Rivers likely nearing retirement, this will be a chance to send him into the sunset with a long-awaited championship.
1. Green Bay Packers: This year, Green Bay showed that last season's 13-3 record wasn't a fluke. If anything, they've looked better. Aaron Rodgers put up one of his best seasons yet throwing for an absurd 48 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Davante Adams had his own specular season with 118 receptions, over 1,300 yards, and 18 touchdowns. The run game and defense once again complemented their offense. With the no. 1 seed, the Packers will have their long time home Lambeau Field, as a bonus to their advantage.
2. New Orleans Saints: Just like last year, the resilience of this team was on full display. Despite a 1-2 start with age noticeably catching up to Drew Brees and wide receiver Michael Thomas missing nine games, the Saints were still able to rally with a 12-4 record. Sean Payton deserves a ton of credit for fielding an offense that finished fifth thanks to the skills of running back Alvin Kamara. The defense was also a well balanced unit finishing in the same ranking. With a healthy roster and a chip on their shoulder from previous heartbreaks, this team will be ready.
3. Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks have many reasons to feel confident going into the playoffs. They started off 5-0 due to the amazing play of Russell Wilson. Later on in the season, they did slump going 3-4 in their next seven games, but rallied to close out the season with four straight wins. The catalyst of this team is Russell Wilson without question. Whether it's perfectly placing a ball to D.K. Metcalf or completing a pass to Tyler Lockett scrambling out of the pocket, he has found ways to get it done and that must continue.
4. Washington Football Team: When Washington changed its name from the Redskins to the Football Team, it seemed like it was a sign of how laughable this team was going to be on the field. However, they weren't focused on all the off-field opinions. Rallying around coach Ron Rivera's defeat of cancer and Alex Smith's comeback from a brutal leg injury the Football Team finished 7-9 which was enough to make the playoffs.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tom Brady still has Buccanneers fans wondering how they got him, but here they are in the playoffs for the first time since 2007. While the team did have a streaky season, they were more than good enough to make the playoffs. Brady enjoyed the luxury of having big-time weapons at his side once again and the defense make significant strides after a solid finish last year. Whether they can compete against the top teams still remains a question.
6. Los Angeles Rams: After a season in which they missed the playoffs following a Super Bowl appearance, expectations were low for the Rams entering this season. This time, they overachieved going 10-6. The offense enjoyed a resurgent year thanks to Jared Goff along with wide receivers Robert Woods and Cupper Kupp. With Aaron Donald dominating backfields and Jalen Ramsey locking up receivers the defense also enjoyed a bounce back year. The big question is how can the Rams compete against non NFC East teams in which they went 6-6 against in the regular season.
7. Chicago Bears: Out of all the playoff teams, this is probably the worst one. After a 5-1 start, they dropped six straight before reeling off 3 wins in their next four games while receiving help from the Arizona Cardinals losing their last two games. Led by pass rusher Khalil Mack, their defense is a tough unit to play against but questions remain about the offense. Despite having two solid skill players in David Montgomery and Allen Robinson.
Bills over Colts
Steelers over Browns
Titans over Ravens
Chiefs over Titans
Bills over Steelers
Chiefs over Bills
Saints over Bears
Seahawks over Rams
Buccaneers over Football Team
Saints over Seahawks
Packers over Buccaneers
Packers over Saints
Chiefs over Packers
This year was filled with uncertainty that extended to the world of sports. It started during March, when all of sports shut down due to concerns over COVID-19. Then, social unrest began to erupt prompting many athletes to stand up not just for themselves, but in support of others. Sports eventually resumed but that didn't stop notable sports figures from meeting these challenges head on. Here are some notable people who made a big influence in the sports world.
1. LeBron James
On the court, LeBron James made his mark. After being derailed by injuries last year, he put up MVP numbers, led the Los Angeles Lakers to the best record in the Western Conference, and won his fourth NBA championship as well as Finals MVP. When James retires, this will be remembered as one of his most impressive seasons. To maintain the same skills and still have a winning effect on his team in his mid 30s is really amazing. James has almost made as big an impact off the court as he has on the court. He spoke out on police brutality through social media and during press conferences in the bubble. This included a video in which he concludes, "This is why we can't just stick to sports. Do you understand now?" In addition, he launched a website More Than a Vote, which focuses on giving Black people access to voting. By the time of the election, James had successfully prevented many people from having their voices suppressed, Last month, James's efforts of social activism were rewarded with the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, and the Time's Magazine Athlete of the Year.
2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Throughout his career, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar established himself as one of the most dominant big men in NBA history. His accolades include a record six MVP awards, the most career points at 38,387, and six championships. Along with his success, he is one of the first basketball players to speak out against social issues. Last July, he delivered a powerful message on the fight for social justice in an edition of the NBA on TNT. He reflected on the turning point toward using his voice when he, along with other athletes, supported Muhammed Ali's refusal to fight in Vietnam. During the video, he stated "To witness Ali's unwavering integrity even as the government spent years trying to destroy him was a turning point for me. How could I do any less? How can any American do any less? How can any American athlete do any less?" That same month, Kareem also cited the importance of fighting against other forms of discrimination amid the Black Lives Matter movement such as anti-Semitism. Although his playing days are long passed, his voice is still as important as it was over 50 years ago.
3. Patrick Mahomes
Despite only having three full seasons under his belt, with two as a starter, Patrick Mahomes is already on top of the football world. He has already become the fastest quarterback to reach over 10,000 career passing yards, as well as over 100 touchdown passes which took him only 44 games to surpass that milestone. Earlier in February, Mahomes led the Kansas City Chiefs to their first Super Bowl championship in 50 years, in a game where he led what turned out to be the game winning drive. After the game, he was announced as the Super Bowl MVP, the youngest to ever win the award. When it has come to social justice, Mahomes has put his accolades to the side and has been an advocate. In June, he participated in a Black Lives Matter video with fellow athletes, pushing the NFL to publicly condemn racism. He was also one of the high-profile athletes to join James' More than a Vote campaign. A month later, Mahomes signed the richest contract extension of any athlete at over $500 million. With the Chiefs currently aiming toward another Super Bowl, Mahomes is slowly becoming an icon.
4. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif
For his first six seasons, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif was a regular starter for the Kansas City Chiefs. Like Mahomes, he won his first Super Bowl with the Chiefs in February. However, it was off the field where Duvernay-Tardif wanted to make an impact. During July, he became the first NFL player to opt out of the season because of COVID-19. Duvernay-Tardif wanted to join the front lines in the fight against the virus. He did this by working long term at a healthcare facility in his native hometown of Montreal. Weeks ago, Duvernay-Tardif's impact was recognized by Sports Illustrated who named him as one of their Sportspeople of the Year. In addition, he was awarded the Lou Marsh trophy, which is given to the top Canadian athlete every year. This is well deserved for Duvernay-Tardif, who decided to give up football for a year to help prevent COVID-19 off the field.
This was a year that presented different challenges beyond sports. From COVID-19, to the fight for social justice for Blacks, there has been a lot of uncertainty and unrest in the world. Everyone has taken on these challenges in their respective ways. These current and former athletes not only faced these problems, but have done so in a way that should continue to inspire people into the new year.
On December 3rd, the Washington Wizards traded star point guard John Wall to the Houston Rockets for another star point guard in Russell Westbrook along with a couple of draft picks. While both teams got really good players, there's still a winner yet to be determined based on the large salaries each player carries to their teams. However one thing for sure: that Wall's impact in the nation's capital on and off the court won't be forgotten.
In 2010, the Washington Wizards used the number one overall pick in the NBA draft to recruit John Wall out of Kentucky. Wall was tasked with reviving a team that had spent the last two seasons in the basement of the NBA. It didn't take long for him to live up to the hype, and soon the Wizards slowly began building around him with players such as all star Bradley Beal who complimented Wall perfectly in the backcourt during their tenure. By Wall's fourth season (2013-14), he blossomed into an all-star putting up averages of around 20 points, 10 assists, and two steals. In addition, he was able to turn the team from a laughingstock to a yearly playoff team in four of those next five seasons,. Washington went to the second round in three of those four seasons, but none of those seasons were more memorable than 2017. Wall played arguably the best basketball of his career and led them to their first division title in almost four decades. After defeating the Atlanta Hawks in the first round, the Wizards faced the Boston Celtics in the second round. Although the Wizards lost the series in seven games, Wall had his signature moment, hitting a game winning shot to force a game 7. Over the following two seasons, injuries have limited Wall's play. That only doubled down on the pressure Wall was facing after receiving a supertax contract extension dating back to the 2017 offseason. Eventually, he was traded to Houston, ending one of the best stretches of Wizards basketball.
When Wall was off the court, he still found ways to make assists - but rather than to his teammates, those assists were to the community of Washington D.C. Wall's most meaningful actions was a special bond he developed with a six year local girl who was ill with cancer. In the morning of December 8, 2014, she passed away. Wall, who learned of the heartbreaking news, dedicated his 26 point, 17 assist performance in a double overtime victory to her. After the game, he was overcome with emotion while describing how much she meant to him. His contributions are also found through the charitable work he's done with Beal, whether it's donating to local charities, helping feed hospital workers, or providing meals during the holidays. Wall's efforts toward reaching to the community were recognized in 2016 when he won the NBA Cares Community Award. Even despite missing all of last season, Wall started a website designated to help provide rent relief for Ward 8 residents who were affected by COVID-19. So far, over $550,000 has been raised for the website. About a month after launching the website, Wall and his teammates led a "Together We Stand" march across the National Mall all the way to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement. The march specifically took place on June 19th as a commemoration of the day Juneteenth.
December 3rd, might mark the end of an era, but John Wall's impact on Washington D.C. will always be remembered. On the court, he turned the Wizards, into a successful playoff team. Off the court, he gave back to the community he loved in so many ways. These kinds of players don't come around often. John Wall is one of them.