The sports figures we've lost in 2020

Illustration for article titled The sports figures weve lost in 2020
Image: (Getty Images)

2020 has seen much loss, and the sports world was not spared.

Whether it was Hall of Famers, champions or innovators, the we lost a number of giants this year. From Gale Sayers to Don Shula to Tom Seaver to Kobe Bryant, legendary athletes, coaches and other sports figures have died this year.

We look back at some of the icons we’ve lost.

Been editing/writing sports for some time, mainly in NYC and a stint in LA.

Managing editor. Former N.Y. Daily Newser. Former broke poker player.

Advertisement

2 / 52

Diego Maradona - November 25

Diego Maradona - November 25

Illustration for article titled The sports figures weve lost in 2020
Image: (AP)

Maradona, one of the true legends in the international soccer community, passed away at age 60. He played for the Argentinian soccer team in the 1982, 1986, 1990, and 1994 World Cups - a ridiculous display of longevity. In his 91 career international appearances for Argentina, he recorded 34 goals. Two of those goals have etched their place in history and in the hearts of soccer fans — the “Hand of God,” and “The Goal of the Century,” both of which he recorded within four minutes of each other in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final match against England.

When asked about the goal he scored with his hand in the 1986 World Cup, he responded by saying “The goal was scored a little bit by the hand of God, a little by the head of Maradona.”

Maradona played with nearly an unparalleled speed and fluidity. In 2006, former teammate Jorge Valdano said “Stressing his personal life is a mistake. Maradona has no peers inside the pitch.” Maradona, who had his demons in his personal life, should be remembered for the grace in which he played the game.

Advertisement

3 / 52

Jake Scott - November 19

Jake Scott - November 19

Illustration for article titled The sports figures weve lost in 2020
Image: (AP)

The free safety was a key piece of the Miami Dolphins dynasty in the early-to-mid 70s. In 1972, Scott’s Dolphins completed the NFL’s only undefeated season in NFL history when perfect Miami went 17-0, including the playoffs and Super Bowl VII. Scott was named the Super Bowl VII MVP after he recording two interceptions in the 14-7 win against Washington. Scott and the Dolphins would go on to win the Super Bowl the next year, too.

Scott died on November 19. He was 75.

Advertisement

4 / 52

Lindy McDaniel - November 14

Lindy McDaniel - November 14

Lindy McDaniel, right, with Dick Groat in 1960 photo.
Lindy McDaniel, right, with Dick Groat in 1960 photo.
Image: (AP)

Lindy McDaniel, an ace reliever who pitched 21 years in the majors, died at an urgent care center in Carrolltown, Texas, on Nov. 14 on due to complications from COVID-19. He was 84.

McDaniel never made it to the postseason, having the misfortune of pitching for two of baseball’s most storied franchises – the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals – during down periods for each. He had 174 saves, leading the league three times, and finished with a 141-119 record. His best season was 1960, when he posted a 12-4 won-lost mark with 27 saves and a 2.09 ERA, finishing third in the Cy Young voting for the Cardinals. The 6-foot-3 right-hander also pitched for the Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals.

Advertisement

5 / 52

Paul Hornung - November 13

Paul Hornung - November 13

Illustration for article titled The sports figures weve lost in 2020
Image: (AP)

Nicknamed “The Golden Boy” for his blonde locks, chiseled jaw and charmed football life, Hornung was one of the biggest names in the sport, first starring for Notre Dame, where he won the 1956 Heisman Trophy, and then as the do-it-all back for the champion Green Bay Packers of the 1960s.

Hornung was 84.

For the Packers, Hornung was a scoring machine, rushing for TDs in coach Vince Lombardi’s Power Sweep, and kicking field goals and extra-points. He won the MVP award in 1961, and was a four-time champion including being a part of the Packers team that won the first Super Bowl in 1967. But his football career took turn due to injuries and a gambling scandal (he bet on NFL games), which brought about a suspension in 1963.

He is in the college and pro football Hall of Fames, and had a successful career in broadcasting with CBS after his playing days, but got into hot water again in 2004 when asked about Notre Dame’s struggles he said:

“We can’t stay as strict as we are as far as the academic structure is concerned because we’ve got to get the black athletes. We must get the black athletes if we’re going to compete.”

Advertisement

6 / 52

Tommy Heinsohn - November 10

Tommy Heinsohn - November 10

Illustration for article titled The sports figures weve lost in 2020
Image: (AP)

Heinsohn did it all in his 86 years of life. The Celtic great won ten titles total, eight as a player and two as the C’s head coach. He was also a play-by-play broadcaster for the team before and after he took the coaching reins. The beloved Bostonian (originally from N.J.) was called “the godfather of the city of Boston,” by his former teammate, John Havelicek. And the Celtics said Heinsohn was “the single-most devoted figure in franchise history,” and “the embodiment of Celtic Pride.”

Advertisement

7 / 52

Nancy Darsch - November 2

Nancy Darsch - November 2

Illustration for article titled The sports figures weve lost in 2020
Image: (AP)

The longtime basketball coach began her collegiate coaching career under the legendary Pat Summit. Darsch then got a job as a head coach at The Ohio State University and later, an assistant position at Boston College. She was also an assistant coach for USA basketball, where she won two Olympic gold medals in 1984 and 1996.

In 1997, she made her professional coaching debut in the first year of the WNBA. Her New York Liberty team won the first ever WNBA game. That team, led by Darsch and star Rebecca Lobo, would also go on to play in the first-ever WNBA championship. After the Liberty, Darsch coached the Mystics, Lynx and Storm, where she won a WNBA championship as an assistant in 2010.

Darsch died at age 68 from Parkinson’s disease.

Advertisement

8 / 52

Herb Adderley - October 30

Herb Adderley - October 30

Illustration for article titled The sports figures weve lost in 2020
Image: (AP)

Adderley made a name for himself playing for Lombardi’s championship teams in the 1960s. The star cornerback won his first and the first two Super Bowls with Green Bay. He won his third Super Bowl with Dallas in 1971. The hall of famer was immortalized in Canton in 1980. Adderley died on October 30 at 81.

Advertisement

9 / 52

Travis Roy - October 29

Travis Roy - October 29

undefined
Image: (AP)

The BU Hockey player became paralyzed from the neck down 11 seconds into his first college shift. After the life altering event, Roy would go on to be a motivational speaker and advocate for people with disabilities. He died on October 29 at 45.

Advertisement

10 / 52

Vaughn McClure - October 15

Vaughn McClure - October 15

undefined
Image: (AP)

The Atlanta Falcons beat reporter for ESPN died last month at age 48. Before his time at ESPN, McClure wrote for the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun Times. The Chicago native was respected and admired by his colleagues and the athletes he covered. The Falcons honored McClure last month, leaving his Sunday seat empty with flowers in the press box.

Advertisement

11 / 52

Fred Dean - October 14

Fred Dean - October 14

undefined
Image: (AP)

The Pro Football Hall of Famer and notorious pass rusher played 11 years in the league, winning two Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers. He died on October 14 battling COVID at his home in Louisiana. Dean was 68.

Advertisement

12 / 52

Joe Morgan - October 11

Joe Morgan - October 11

undefined
Image: (AP)

The Hall of Famer and member of the Big Red Machine died on October 11. Morgan was known for his play then later, for his commentary in the booth. He was championed by the analytics he hated but will be known as one of the best second basemen in MLB history. Joe Morgan was 77.

Advertisement

13 / 52

Whitey Ford - October 9

Whitey Ford - October 9

undefined
Image: (AP)

There are too many baseball accolades to include into a few sentences about Whitey Ford. The Yankee pitching star was inducted to the Hall of Fame, won six World Series, and was awarded with the 1961 Cy Young Award among many other accolades. Ford died on October 9 at 91.

Advertisement

14 / 52

Bob Gibson - October 2

Bob Gibson - October 2

undefined
Image: (AP)

One of the most iconic ball players of all time passed away on October 2. Gibson played all 17 seasons of his MLB career with the St. Louis Cardinals where he won two world series, two NL Cy Youngs, nine gold gloves and a NL MVP. He was 84.

Advertisement

15 / 52

Gale Sayers - September 23

Gale Sayers - September 23

undefined
Image: (AP)

Sayers was one of the greatest running backs in NFL history. The longtime Chicago Bear got his gold jacket in 1977 at age 34. He is still the youngest person to ever be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Advertisement

16 / 52

Jamain Stephens Jr. - September 8

Jamain Stephens Jr. - September 8

undefined
Screenshot: CAL U.

The 20-year-old college football player made national news this summer when he passed away after being hospitalized with COVID. Days after her son’s death, Stephens mother went on CBS and expressed concern about other college athletic programs restarting play amidst a pandemic. “I’m very, very nervous for these young men and women,” she said. “These kids, their lives are priceless. And it’s just not worth it. It’s not worth it.”

Advertisement

17 / 52

Lou Brock - September 6

Lou Brock - September 6

undefined
Image: (AP)

The Hall of Famer spent 19 years in bigs with the Cubs and Cardinals. A prolific base stealer, Brock broke Ty Cobb’s MLB steals record and Maury Wills’ single season stealing record. Brock retired with two World Series titles, a Roberto Clemente award and many All-Star appearances. To this day, he ranks second on Baseball’s all time stolen base list. Brock died on September 6, he was 81.

Advertisement

18 / 52

Tom Seaver - September 2

Tom Seaver - September 2

undefined
Image: (AP)

“Tom Terrific” or “The Franchise” was the face of the New York Mets and a beloved pitcher. He helped the organization win its first championship in 1969. The twelve time All-Star, three-time NL Cy Young winner and the Mets’ all-time leader in wins, became a first ballot hall of famer in 1992. Seaver died on September 2 at 75.

Advertisement

19 / 52

John Thompson - September 1

John Thompson - September 1

undefined
Image: (AP)

Thompson became the first Black head coach to win a NCAA basketball championship in 1984, paving the way for coaches to come. The longtime Georgetown University coach was known for the white towel over his shoulder and the care he would take of his players. Our columnist, Carron Phillips, wrote that Thompson coached life, not basketball. Thompson died on September 1, he was 78.

Advertisement

20 / 52

Cliff Robinson - August 29

Cliff Robinson - August 29

undefined
Image: (AP)

The 19 year NBA vet and fierce proponent of marijuana legalization died August 29 at 53. Robinson, otherwise known as “Uncle Cliffy,” played most of his NBA career with the Portland Trail Blazers and was given the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award in 1993.

Advertisement

21 / 52

Lute Olson - August 27

Lute Olson - August 27

undefined
Image: (AP)

Olson’s coaching career spans decades, generations even. The high school turned college basketball coach is credited for turning the University of Arizona into a basketball powerhouse program. Olson won a NCAA championship with the Wildcats in 1997. He was 85.

Advertisement

22 / 52

Regis Philbin - July 24

Regis Philbin - July 24

undefined
Image: (AP)

You may not know that the iconic broadcaster helped launch FS1 in the later years of his life. Philbin was part of the network’s first studio show, Crowd Goes Wild. He was a diehard Notre Dame and Yankee fan. He was 88.

Advertisement

23 / 52

Claudell Washington - June 10

Claudell Washington - June 10

undefined
Image: (AP)

The Outfielder spent 17 years in the bigs for seven teams. The two time All-Star was called up to the MLB as a teenager and left the league with a ring. Washington was 65.

Advertisement

24 / 52

Wes Unseld - June 2

Wes Unseld - June 2

undefined
Image: (AP)

The longtime Bullet began his career with a MVP, making him the second player in NBA history to win the award in his rookie year, with Wilt Chamberlain as the only other player to do so. Unseld won a NBA championship and Finals MVP in 1978. After playing for the Bullets, he coached them as an assistant from 1987 to 1988, then as a head coach from 1988 to 1994. He was 74.

Advertisement

25 / 52

Pat Dye - June 1

Pat Dye - June 1

undefined
Image: (AP)

Dye was the football coach responsible for turning Auburn into an SEC power. The College Football Hall of Fame coach was honored by the University in 2005, when Auburn named the football field the “Pat Dye Field.” He was 80 years old.

Advertisement

26 / 52

Chris Beaty - May 30

Chris Beaty - May 30

undefined
Image: (AP)

The former college football player was shot during a night of violence in Indianapolis. Beaty played on Indiana University’s offensive line from 2000 to 2004. He was an entrepreneur and businessman, beloved around Indianapolis. He was 38.

Advertisement

27 / 52

Jerry Sloan - May 22

Jerry Sloan - May 22

undefined
Image: (AP)

Sloan played 11 seasons in the NBA then became a head coach for decades to come. Sloan spent the majority of his coaching career in Salt Lake City where he brought the Utah Jazz to multiple NBA finals appearances. Sloan ranks fourth on the all-time coaching wins list. He died May 22, at 78.

Advertisement

28 / 52

Bob Watson - May 14

Bob Watson - May 14

undefined
Image: (AP)

Bob Watson played 19 years in the bigs with the Astros, Red Sox, Yankees and Braves. The two time All-Star became a coach then general manager then MLB executive. In 1996, as a general manager of the Yankees, Watson became the first Black GM to win a World Series. He was 74.

Advertisement

29 / 52

Phyllis George - May 14

Phyllis George - May 14

undefined
Image: (AP)

George was a trailblazing sportscaster. In 1975, the TV personality and former Miss America joined the all male cast of “The NFL Today” on CBS. Former president of CBS, Neal Pilson, said George “changed the face of sports television.” She was 70.

Advertisement

30 / 52

Mike Storen - May 7

Mike Storen - May 7

undefined
Screenshot: NBATV

Storen served as ABA commissioner from 1973 to 1974. He had a hand in the NBA-ABA merger in 1976. Storen spent most of his career in basketball, but he had a stint in football before retiring. He was 84.

Advertisement

31 / 52

Mary Pratt - May 6

Mary Pratt - May 6

undefined
Image: (AP)

Pratt played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League from 1943 to 1947. She pitched a no-hitter in 1944. After pro baseball, Pratt spent decades teaching physical education in her hometown Quincy, Massachusetts. There, as a coach, she won ten softball state championships. Pratt died on May 6, she was 101.

Advertisement

32 / 52

Don Shula - May 4

Don Shula - May 4

undefined
Image: (AP)

Shula, the perfect coach, is the winningest play caller in NFL history. He holds records that will never be broken and lead the one and only NFL team (‘72 Dolphins) to an undefeated season. Shula won two Super Bowls and four coach of the year awards. He died on May 4 at 90.

Advertisement

33 / 52

Hank Steinbrenner - April 14

Hank Steinbrenner - April 14

undefined
Image: (AP)

Hank was a part owner and co-chairman of the New York Yankees. He was the Boss’s son and lived up to the Steinbrenner name. He died at 63 on April 14.

Advertisement

34 / 52

Tarvaris Jackson - April 12

Tarvaris Jackson - April 12

undefined
Image: (AP)

Jackson, a veteran NFL backup, died in a car accident days before his 37th birthday. Jackson won a Super Bowl behind Russell Wilson in 2014. In that game, Jackson came in to relieve Wilson and the Seahawks, who blew out the Denver Broncos 43 to 8. It was the first time in 13 years that a backup QB had seen the field.

Advertisement

35 / 52

Anthony Causi - April 12

Anthony Causi - April 12

undefined
Image: (AP)

Causi was an immensely talented sports photographer for the New York Post who captured some of the most iconic images in NY sports history. He died at 48 from the coronavirus. As a former copy editor at the Post then sports editor at the NY Daily News, Deadspin’s Eric Barrow wrote about Causi, his camera, and his tragic death.

Advertisement

36 / 52

Al Kaline - April 6

Al Kaline - April 6

undefined
Image: (AP)

Kaline, otherwise known as “Mr. Tiger” played 22 seasons in the MLB with, you guessed it, the Detroit Tigers. Kaline won a World Series, ten gold gloves and was the youngest player to win a batting title. We called the first ballot hall of famer the greatest player time forgot. He was 85.

Advertisement

37 / 52

Bobby Mitchell - April 5

Bobby Mitchell - April 5

undefined
Image: (AP)

Bobby Mitchell was the first black star on the Washington Football Team in the early 1960’s after the ballclub gave into pressure from the Kennedy administration and integrated. Washington was the last team in pro football to do so. Mitchell, a running back, made four Pro Bowls and was inducted into Canton in 1983. He died on April 5. He was 84.

Advertisement

38 / 52

Tom Dempsey - April 4

Tom Dempsey - April 4

undefined
Image: (AP)

Dempsey was born without toes on his right foot but went on to be one of the most successful kickers in NFL history. While playing for the Saints in 1970, Dempsey kicked a game winning 63 yard field goal — an NFL record for decades. That record was broken in 2013 when Matt Prater hit a 64 yard field goal. Dempsey contracted the coronavirus on March 30 at a senior home. Days later, on April 4, he passed away at 73.

Advertisement

39 / 52

Fred “Curly” Neal - March 26

Fred “Curly” Neal - March 26

undefined
Image: (AP)

Neal played 22 seasons with the world famous Harlem Globetrotters. His bald head gave him the nickname “Curly” in reference to the Three Stooges’ Curly Howard. Neal died on March 26, he was 77.

Advertisement

40 / 52

Roger Mayweather - March 17

Roger Mayweather - March 17

undefined
Image: (AP)

The former pro boxer and trainer died on March 17 at 58. He was a two weight world champion, winning the WBA lineal super featherweight titles from 1983 to 1984 and WBC light welterweight belt from 1987 to 1989. Roger is part of the Mayweather boxing family.

Advertisement

41 / 52

Mickey Wright - Feb 17

Mickey Wright - Feb 17

undefined
Image: (AP)

Wright joined the LPGA tour in 1955. She retired with 82 tour wins, the second most behind Kathy Whitworth. Wright also won 13 majors in her career (also second most in LPGA history). She is widely considered to be one of the best female golfers of all time. Wright was 85.

Advertisement

42 / 52

Tony Fernandez - Feb 16

Tony Fernandez - Feb 16

undefined
Image: (AP)

Fernandez played nearly two decades in the big leagues for seven different teams, but he is known for his time with the Blue Jays. In Toronto, Fernandez won four consecutive Gold Gloves. He also won a World Series with the Jays in 1993. Fernandez died on February 16. He was 57.

Advertisement

43 / 52

Roger Kahn - February 6

Roger Kahn - February 6

undefined
Image: (AP)

Kahn was an American writer who wrote one of the best sports books of all time, The Boys of Summer. He began his career reporting on Dodger games. He then became the sports editor at Newsweek then editor-at-large at the Saturday Evening Post. Kahn was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2006. He was 92.

Advertisement

44 / 52

Willie Wood - Feb 3

Willie Wood - Feb 3

undefined
Image: (AP)

After going undrafted in 1960, Wood played 12 years with the Green Bay Packers and wound up in Canton. A two time Super Bowl champion, Wood left the league as a player only to come back as a play caller. He coached pro football for a decade bouncing around from the NFL to the World Football League to the CFL. Wood passed away a day after this year’s Super Bowl at 83.

Advertisement

45 / 52

Chris Doleman - Jan 28

Chris Doleman - Jan 28

undefined
Image: (AP)

Doleman played the majority of his NFL career in Minnesota, where he was crowned the NFC Defensive Player of the Year in 1992 and led the league in sacks (1989). He was selected for eight Pro Bowls and three All-Pro teams. The Hall of Famer died on January 28 at 58.

Advertisement

46 / 52

Kobe Bryant - Jan 26

Kobe Bryant - Jan 26

undefined
Image: (AP)

Kobe Byant’s death shocked the world in January. The 41-year-old died in a helicopter crash on his way to a youth basketball game with his daughter, Gigi, and seven others. He is one of the best basketball players of all time. In April, Kobe was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame. Formal celebrations have been postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus.

Advertisement

47 / 52

Gigi Bryant - Jan 26

Gigi Bryant - Jan 26

undefined
Image: (AP)

As mentioned in the previous slide, Kobe’s daughter Gigi was on the helicopter too. She was a rising basketball star and dreamed of playing in the WNBA. In April, the league introduced the Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award. The award “will recognize an individual or group who has made significant contributions to the visibility, perception and advancement of women’s and girls’ basketball at all levels.” Gigi was 13 years old.

Advertisement

48 / 52

Rocky Johnson - Jan 15

Rocky Johnson - Jan 15

undefined
Screenshot: WWE

Johnson was a professional wrestler who won multiple National Wrestling Alliance titles. He was the first Black Georgia Heavyweight Champion and in 1983, he and his wrestling partner Tony Atlas became the first black co-champions in WWE history. Rocky was the father of actor and former wrestler Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Rocky died at 75.

Advertisement

49 / 52

Sam Wyche - Jan 2

Sam Wyche - Jan 2

undefined
Image: (AP)

Wyche played 11 years of pro football and coached the game for the rest of his life. He won a Super Bowl as an assistant coach but he is known for introducing the no huddle offense as a style of play — not just a scheme to use with two minutes left. Wyche died on January 2 at 74.

Advertisement

50 / 52

David Stern - January 1

David Stern - January 1

undefined
Image: (AP)

Stern was the commissioner of the NBA from 1984 to 2014. During his tenure, he grew the NBA into one of the most popular sports leagues in the world. Stern globalized the game, helped found the WNBA and developed NBA Cares. Stern died on the first day of 2020. He was 77.

Advertisement

51 / 52

Don Larsen - January 1

Don Larsen - January 1

undefined
Image: (AP)

Larsen played 15 years in the bigs for seven teams. But he is most known for his perfect game as a Yankee in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series. That year, the Yankees won it all and he was named World Series MVP. Larsen would win another one with the Bronx Bombers in 1958. Larsen died on January 1. He was 90 years old.

Advertisement

52 / 52

Been editing/writing sports for some time, mainly in NYC and a stint in LA.

Managing editor. Former N.Y. Daily Newser. Former broke poker player.