The year 2020 was a rollercoaster of a year for American sports. Though losses have been no stranger to Atlanta sports teams, the impact of this year’s pandemic made losses all the more harrowing.
Pandemic strips Atlanta of championship glory
The pandemic stripped the world of many coveted sporting events, but one of the biggest blows was the cancellation of the college basketball postseason. March Madness shifted into sadness as the 2020 NCAA Final Four Championship was called off on March 12. The tournament was scheduled to be played in Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the first time and bring thousands of hoop heads to the city of Atlanta. The Final Four was previously held at the Georgia Dome in 2002, 2007, and 2013 and now the city awaits its next opportunity to become a tournament town.
NBA Shuts down due to COVID-19
The 2019-2020 NBA sea-son paused March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Utah’s Rudy Gobert’s recent positive test. The Atlanta Hawks played their final game of the season the night before and took one more loss be-fore calling it a wrap. The New York Knicks overcame the young squad 136-131 and pushed the Hawks to 14th in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks’ 20-47 record and low seeding weren’t enough to book them a ticket to the NBA Restart in Orlando, Flordia. However, the underwhelming season did secure Atlanta a number six overall draft pick in the NBA lottery.
Vince Carter bids farewell in Atlanta
Vince Carter’s fascinating NBA career touched four decades after being selected number five over-all in the 1998 NBA draft. The old reliable and former All-Star held stints with the Raptors, Nets, Mag-ic, Suns, Mavericks, and Grizzlies before eventually retiring as an Atlanta Hawk in 2020. At 42 years old, Carter averaged 15 minutes and five points per game in his final NBA season.
If leadership was a stat line, Carter would have been named off the charts for the wisdom he instilled in the young squad around him. Vince Carter was an eight-time NBA All-Star, 1999 NBA Rookie of the Year, and 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Champion. But above all else, he was true to Atlanta.
Atlanta Hawks roll the dice in Free Agency
After acquiring the number six overall pick in the NBA 2020 draft and missing out on the bubble experience, the Hawks were on a mission to build a playoff team. Many trade rumors circulated throughout the city, but the clear need for a defensive presence was at the forefront of General Manager Travis Schlenk’s mind.
The Hawks selected Onyeka Okongwu out of The University of Southern California with their lottery pick. Okongwu was a First Team All Pac -12 selection and arguably one of the best defensive players in the draft. The Hawks continued to build around Trae Young and John Collins after selecting the rookie. The Hawks signed free agents Kris Dunn, Rajon Rondo, Danilo Gallinari, and outbid to secure restricted free agent Bogdan Bogdanovic. Atlanta did not stop there.
The Hawks also traded Dewayne Dedmon to Detroit for the Pistons Tony Snell and Khyrie Smith. The move for Dunn adds next-level defensive prowess while Rondo brings extreme leadership and depth at the point guard position. The addition of Gallinari provides instant offense off the bench, while Bogdanovic will take the scoring pressure off of Young. The biggest question heading into the 2020-2021 season is how all of the new talents will lineup with the budding Cam Reddish and DeAndre Hunter.
LSU vs Clemson National Championship Game, LSU wins 42-25
Joe Burrow led the LSU Tigers to their national championship, in New Orleans in January after beating the defending champions in the Clemson Tigers. It was a historic season for the Tigers going undefeated while defeating major top 10 teams in Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Oklahoma, and Clemson.
Burrow took home the Heisman while other Tigers such as Ja’Marr Chase and Grant Delpit took home the Biletnikoff and Jim Thorpe Awards, respectively. Although their following season did not live up to championship implications, the Tigers pulled off a major upset against Florida to ruin their chances of winning a national title.
On UGA football, one word to define this season: Quarterback
After Jake Fromm declared for the NFL draft, many Bulldog fans wondered who would become the starting quarterback. At first, Jamie Newman who transferred from Wake Forest was the leading candidate for starting until he opted out for the season. Next, many people thought J.T. Daniels would get the nod to start but health played a huge role in his practice activity and reps.
In the season opener, D’Wan Mathis got the start but struggled to get the offense going. Who would’ve thought that Stetson Bennett, a player who was not even in the conversation to be the start-er came in to save the day? After going 3-0 to start the season, bad performance and loss at Alabama and Florida put Bennett out of the starting seat. Mathis got the nod in the game against Florida after Bennett failed to be effective on offense. Although the Bulldogs were in striking distance of making it a one-possession game, Mathis failed to deliver and make necessary plays.
Once Daniels was healthy, the Bulldogs offense took major steps toward becoming explosive and putting up more points. Unfortunately, it was a bit too late. One thing for sure, the future is always bright for the Bulldogs and they have their quarterback in J.T. Daniels.
A.J. Terrell: From Westlake to Clemson and back home with the Falcons
The Westlake Lions product is now back in his hometown playing for the Atlanta Falcons. His time at Clemson was a great one combining for 74 tackles and six interceptions in his three years. Although he failed to perform at a high standard against LSU in the 2020 National Championship game (get-ting beat repeatedly on big plays by Chase), many wondered if the Falcons made the correct pick in drafting him. So far in 13 games with the Falcons as a rookie, Terrell has 69 tackles, six pass deflections, and one interception. Although the Falcons record does not show it, Terrell has held his own and has shown that he can be a future NFL star at cornerback.
Falcons fire Dan Quinn
On Sunday, Oct. 11, Atlanta Falcons owner and chairman Arthur M. Blank announced the team would fire head coach Dan Quinn and GM Thomas Dimitroff. Falcons President and CEO Rich McKay would assume day-to-day oversight of football operations in the interim and will assist in the search for a new general manager and head coach.
Under the direction of McKay, Dimitroff’s current responsibilities will be handled by current members of the football operations staff for the remainder of 2020. Quinn finished his Falcons’ tenure with a 43-42 regular-season record and 3-2 in the playoffs. However, Quinn famously led the Falcons to Super Bowl LI. However, giving up a 28-3 lead to the New England Patriots would prove to be an unforgivable sin that Quinn, the franchise and the fans alike, could not recover from. At the time of Quinn’s firing, Atlanta is 31st in total defense, 31st in pass defense, and tied for 30th in scoring defense. The situation has become untenable.
“Dan Quinn represents everything you would want in a man, coach, teacher, or neighbor,” Blank said. “He is a man of integrity, character, and determination. He’s also a friend anyone would like to have. While we have not achieved the results we all expect, I’m very proud of how Dan has represented all of us and the passion he has poured into leading our team. Dan and Stacey have also given back so much to our community, particularly those serving in the military and their families. They will always have my gratitude and our best wishes for all the very best in the future.”