PHOENIX — 2020, amirite? It has been quite a year. Over the past 12 months, we experienced a gamut of events that greatly impacted our lives.
From the coronavirus pandemic to social justice, the presidential election to mysterious monoliths, 2020 has left its mark on all of us, even in the world of Arizona sports.
"Normal" is not a word anyone would use to describe sports in 2020.
COVID-19 forced leagues to adapt the way games, practices, and daily activities were conducted. As many across the world fought for social justice reform, athletes also made their voices heard.
But no matter how much uncertainty and unrest we found this year, sports continued.
As we look back and reflect on 2020, here are some of the top moments in Arizona sports in no particular order.
It can be said that the roller coaster that was sports in 2020 began in March. As the number of coronavirus cases began to spike across the United States, many sporting events began shutting their doors.
On March 11, the NBA decided to indefinitely suspend the 2019-20 season, after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the coronavirus. Soon after the news, other sports dominoes began to fall.
After the suspension of the NBA season, Spring Training games were canceled, leading to the delay of the 2020 MLB season.
Also, spring collegiate sports were canceled or postponed. All of the cancellations also led to the halt of March Madness, the beloved NCAA basketball tournament. At that time, the sports world stopped spinning.
First baseball game for D-backs
During the peak of the pandemic, all sports were halted. There was no pomp and circumstance in the spring as we welcomed another MLB season. There was no anticipation building in early summer as the NBA kicked off the postseason. Instead, fans found themselves without sports, and stadiums were left empty across the country.
But as the calendar turned to July, Major League Baseball was finally ready to get back on the field, albeit, for a shortened season. Whether it was for 162 games or 60, we were ready to welcome back the boys of summer.
On July 24, the Arizona Diamondbacks played their first game of the 2020 season. Now there wasn’t anything in the box score that made this a big moment, but rather the game itself. It signaled that we were adapting to our new normal and hopefully, bringing a sense of normalcy back to a chaotic year.
Coyotes advance in the postseason
The NHL also had to adapt its plans to finish out the 2020 season. And under the revised playoff scenario, the Arizona Coyotes found themselves in the postseason.
In the first round, the Coyotes found themselves facing off against the Nashville Predators. It was a thrilling series but Arizona ultimately took it. The series win was the first time the Coyotes advanced in the postseason in eight years.
The “Bubble Suns”
Once the NBA season resumed in July after being paused due to the coronavirus, 22 teams were invited to finish the season in Orlando to play eight remaining games.
The Phoenix Suns were one of the teams invited to the “Bubble” and faced an uphill battle to make the playoffs. But this young team, led by Head Coach Monty Williams, was up for the challenge.
During their time in the bubble, the Suns went 8-0 and narrowly missed a spot in the playoffs. A defining moment during the bubble experiment was Devin Booker's game-winning shot against the Los Angeles Clippers as time expired.
And the team was so hot during their streak, even the team's Twitter account was getting some much-needed recognition for their online engagement.
Jon Rahm sinks Hole-in-One at the Masters
The Masters was pushed back to November this year due to COVID-19 and didn’t have any fans in attendance. While Dustin Johnson won the tournament, Arizona State alum Jon Rahm had the shot of the week.
During a practice round, Rahm did a trick shot on the par 3 16th hole. For his tee shot, Rahm skipped his ball across the pond, onto the green and miraculously getting it in the cup for a hole-in-one. The shot easily took over the internet that week.
The Hopkins catch and the "Hail Murray"
Come over to the fireplace kids, and let me tell you about the story of the “Hail Murray.”
During a back and forth game between the Cardinals and Bills, Arizona found themselves behind 30-26 with only 30 seconds to go in the game. After driving down to the Bills' 43-yard line, Kyler Murray only had time for one, maybe two plays.
As the ball was snapped, Murray avoided a tackle scrambled to his left, and launched a prayer to the endzone.
On the other end, DeAndre Hopkins, blanketed by three Buffalo defenders, came down with the incredible catch and sealed the victory for the Cardinals.
It’s sure to be a play that will live on in Cardinals lore for generations.
The Match: Champions for Change
This entry has more to do with the event itself instead of the result. The Match: Champions for Change was a charity golf event at Stone Canyon in Oro Valley, Arizona.
For the third edition of the series, Phil Mickelson and Charles Barkley teamed up to take on Steph Curry and Peyton Manning.
As you could imagine, the match between these sports icons was chock-full of entertainment.
From some great shots and friendly ribbing between the golfers, the athletes had no problem putting on a show. In the end, it was the team of Mickelson and Barkley who came out on top.
Phoenix Suns sign Chris Paul
After the Suns’ success in the NBA “Bubble,” the team appears to be trending upward. And after Phoenix traded for perennial All-Star point guard Chris Paul, the expectations are going even higher.
Paul’s arrival in Phoenix means the Valley is once again becoming a preferred destination for NBA stars.
Along with the young core of Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton, Paul’s presence will, hopefully, stabilize the Suns’ backcourt and make Phoenix a playoff contender this season.
He scored for ASU
During Arizona State University’s 70-7 rout of the University of Arizona in the 2020 edition of the Territorial Cup, there was a very special moment.
In the fourth quarter of the game, running back Jackson He scored a touchdown. Now in a game where 70 points were scored, one touchdown shouldn’t stick out over the others, but He’s touchdown has a special significance.
When He crossed the endzone for ASU, the running back became the first Chinese-born player to score a touchdown in NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision history.
The game was well in hand before He scored, but the ASU sidelines couldn’t help but burst into elation as everyone celebrated the history-making moment. After the game, Head Coach Herm Edwards acknowledged the milestone, giving He a game ball.
Reddick reaches the Cardinals’ record books
On Dec. 13, the Arizona Cardinals defeated the New York Giants 26-7. And a record-breaking performance from Haason Reddick was a big reason why.
During the game, Reddick recorded five sacks and three forced fumbles. Those totals gave him the new franchise record for sacks in a game. He is also the first NFL player since 2002 with at least five sacks and three forced fumbles in a game. It was a career day for the outside linebacker.
2020 was full of incredible moments, both on and off the field. The sports world dealt with circumstances many of us thought would never be possible.
But the leagues, teams, and players took each hurdle in stride, adapting to adversity and becoming a vehicle for change in their communities.
It was a year that will surely not be forgotten any time soon.
Want to see more highlights from the world of Arizona sports in 2020? Check out our YouTube Playlist here.