The dreaded 2020 is finally coming to an end. If the global effect of the coronavirus pandemic wasn’t bad enough, the sporting world also lost some of its favourite stars this year.
From the legendary Diego Maradona to former India football captain PK Banerjee, from Dean Jones to Kobe Bryant…the losses will be hard to fill. As we take baby steps into 2021, a look at the sporting icons who left for heavenly abode.
Diego Maradona (Oct 1960 – Nov 2020)
One of the greatest footballers of all time, the Argentina star was born in Lanus, a town near Buenos Aires, on October 30, 1960. He started playing football in the streets around his neighbourhood and at the age of twelve, he was part of the children’s team Los Cebollitas.
The World Cup-winning footballer represented Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla, and Newell’s Old Boys as a player. Diego was considered solely responsible for taking Argentina to their second World Cup title in 1986.
With the Argentine team, he won the World Cup at Mexico 86, a tournament in which he stood out, above all, in a match against England. He scored two goals, including one with his hand which went down in history as ‘the hand of God,’ and another exceptional strike that is considered one of the best in the history of the competition.
Maradona was hospitalised after he complained of being fatigued regularly. His tests at the La Plata clinic revealed a blood clot in the brain, which doctors later revealed was operated on successfully. He passed away on November 25 after suffering a heart attack.
Kobe Bryant (Aug 1978 – Jan 2020)
American basketball legend Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. The 41-year-old Bryant had won five National Basketball Association (NBA) championships in his 20-year-long career while playing for Los Angeles Lakers.
Bryant became one of NBA’s most popular players and the face of the Lakers during his career. Winning a record four NBA All-Star Game MVP awards, he was the overall league MVP in 2008, a two-time NBA scoring champion, and 12 All-Defensive selections.
He teamed with Shaquille O’Neal in a combustible partnership to lead the Lakers to NBA titles in 2000, 2001, and 2002. He later teamed with Pau Gasol to win two more titles in 2009 and 2010.
Dean Jones (Mar 1961 – Sept 2020)
Former Australia cricketer Dean Jones passed away due to a cardiac arrest at the age of 59 on September 24 during the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL). A gritty, attacking player, the Victorian made 3631 runs at an average of 46.55 in Tests, while in ODIs he made 6068 runs, at 44.61, with seven hundreds and 46 fifties. He also remains No.5 on the all-time ICC Batting Rankings in the format.
His most memorable Test innings came in 1986 when in the heat and humidity of Chennai, he battled exhaustion and illness to make a heroic 210 in what would be only the second tied Test ever.
Jones went on to make 10 more hundreds, with a career-best 216 against West Indies in Adelaide in 1989. He retired from international cricket in 1994 – much too early, according to his supporters, but went on to play first-class cricket till the 1997/98 season.