Sports figures lost in 2020

Yahoo Sports

From Kobe Bryant to David Stern and Don Shula, these are the sports figures we lost in 2020.

A mainstay for the Bullets in Baltimore and later in Washington, Unseld died after battling a variety of ailments. He was 17. The rebounding machine was the NBA's MVP and Rookie of the Year in his debut season and later added a Finals MVP to his trophy chest. His ties to the franchise continued in his post-playing days as he served as both the team's coach and GM.
Wes Unseld | June 2
A mainstay for the Bullets in Baltimore and later in Washington, Unseld died after battling a variety of ailments. He was 17. The rebounding machine was the NBA's MVP and Rookie of the Year in his debut season and later added a Finals MVP to his trophy chest. His ties to the franchise continued in his post-playing days as he served as both the team's coach and GM.
A welterweight whose counterpunching style earned him a title, but irked some fans, Cokes died of heart failure. He was 82. Cokes won the welterweight title in 1966 and successfully defended it five times. He took pride in landing, and avoiding punches, famously saying: 'The sport is boxing, not fighting. ... It's an art to hit and not be hit.'
Curtis Cokes | May 29
A welterweight whose counterpunching style earned him a title, but irked some fans, Cokes died of heart failure. He was 82. Cokes won the welterweight title in 1966 and successfully defended it five times. He took pride in landing, and avoiding punches, famously saying: 'The sport is boxing, not fighting. ... It's an art to hit and not be hit.'
The longtime Oklahoma State basketball coach, and Class of 2020 Hall of Fame inductee, Sutton died in hospice care at age 84. Sutton is one of only 12 men's D-I coaches with more than 800 wins, and he made 25 NCAA Tournament appearances with three trips to the Final Four. In addition to coaching at Oklahoma State, he also worked the sidelines at Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky and San Francisco.
Eddie Sutton | May 23
The longtime Oklahoma State basketball coach, and Class of 2020 Hall of Fame inductee, Sutton died in hospice care at age 84. Sutton is one of only 12 men's D-I coaches with more than 800 wins, and he made 25 NCAA Tournament appearances with three trips to the Final Four. In addition to coaching at Oklahoma State, he also worked the sidelines at Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky and San Francisco.
The Hall of Fame coach, who led the Utah Jazz to its most successful seasons, died at 78 following bouts with Parkinson's disease and Lewy body dementia. Sloan was an 11-year NBA veteran but found his calling on the bench, where he won 1,272 games with the Bulls and, most notably, the Jazz. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009 and also coached a pair of Hall of Famers in John Stockton and Karl Malone. The Jazz played in two NBA Finals under Sloan.
Jerry Sloan | May 22
The Hall of Fame coach, who led the Utah Jazz to its most successful seasons, died at 78 following bouts with Parkinson's disease and Lewy body dementia. Sloan was an 11-year NBA veteran but found his calling on the bench, where he won 1,272 games with the Bulls and, most notably, the Jazz. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009 and also coached a pair of Hall of Famers in John Stockton and Karl Malone. The Jazz played in two NBA Finals under Sloan.
McCaskey took over as chairman of the Chicago Bears in 1983 after the death of his grandfather George Halas, original team owner and former coach. Under McCaskey's leadership, the Bears won a Super Bowl title at the end of the 1985 season, for which he was named NFL Executive of the Year. McCaskey held his position with the team until 2011. He died at 76.
Michael McCaskey | May 16
McCaskey took over as chairman of the Chicago Bears in 1983 after the death of his grandfather George Halas, original team owner and former coach. Under McCaskey's leadership, the Bears won a Super Bowl title at the end of the 1985 season, for which he was named NFL Executive of the Year. McCaskey held his position with the team until 2011. He died at 76.
Zach Hoffpauir, a multisport athlete at Stanford, died suddenly at age 26. His family did not disclose a cause of death. Hoffpauir played both baseball and football with the Cardinal and in 2015 played minor league baseball after being drafted by the Diamondbacks. He is considered one of the best prep athletes in Arizona history.
Zach Hoffpauir | May 14
Zach Hoffpauir, a multisport athlete at Stanford, died suddenly at age 26. His family did not disclose a cause of death. Hoffpauir played both baseball and football with the Cardinal and in 2015 played minor league baseball after being drafted by the Diamondbacks. He is considered one of the best prep athletes in Arizona history.
When she joined the cast of The NFL Today on CBS in 1974, George became the first woman to hold a national on-air position as a sportscaster. The former Miss America later became the co-host of the show and remained there until 1984. She was previously married to Kentucky Gov. John Brown Jr., who served in office from 1979-1983. George was 70.
Phyllis George | May 14
When she joined the cast of The NFL Today on CBS in 1974, George became the first woman to hold a national on-air position as a sportscaster. The former Miss America later became the co-host of the show and remained there until 1984. She was previously married to Kentucky Gov. John Brown Jr., who served in office from 1979-1983. George was 70.
Tucker won an NBA championship with the Syracuse Nationals in 1955, a trailblazing team that was the first to win a title with two black players in the lineup. On the day Syracuse received its trophy, Tucker was in the news for a much bigger feat; his apartment building was engulfed in a three-alarm fire and Tucker saved an infant from the burning building. Tucker was a two-time All-America for Duquesne before entering the NBA. He died from Alzheimer's complications at age 87.
Jim Tucker | May 14
Tucker won an NBA championship with the Syracuse Nationals in 1955, a trailblazing team that was the first to win a title with two black players in the lineup. On the day Syracuse received its trophy, Tucker was in the news for a much bigger feat; his apartment building was engulfed in a three-alarm fire and Tucker saved an infant from the burning building. Tucker was a two-time All-America for Duquesne before entering the NBA. He died from Alzheimer's complications at age 87.
After playing 19 seasons in the majors, most notably as an outfielder and first baseman for the Astros, Watson became the first black general manager to lead a team to a World Series title. He guided the Yankees to a championship in 1996, and later worked in MLB's league office before retiring in 2010. Watson was 74.
Bob Watson | May 14
After playing 19 seasons in the majors, most notably as an outfielder and first baseman for the Astros, Watson became the first black general manager to lead a team to a World Series title. He guided the Yankees to a championship in 1996, and later worked in MLB's league office before retiring in 2010. Watson was 74.
The last known living member of the Rockford Peaches, Pratt died in her hometown of Bridgeport, Connecticut, at age 101. Pratt’s team, the most successful squad of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League of the 1940s, was immortalized in the film “A League of Their Own.” Pratt, while not featured specifically in the film, was a standout pitcher, winning 21 games in 1943 and pitching a no-hitter in 1944. When her playing days wrapped up, she became a teacher and coach in Massachusetts, guiding 10 championship softball teams along the way.
Mary Pratt | May 6
The last known living member of the Rockford Peaches, Pratt died in her hometown of Bridgeport, Connecticut, at age 101. Pratt’s team, the most successful squad of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League of the 1940s, was immortalized in the film “A League of Their Own.” Pratt, while not featured specifically in the film, was a standout pitcher, winning 21 games in 1943 and pitching a no-hitter in 1944. When her playing days wrapped up, she became a teacher and coach in Massachusetts, guiding 10 championship softball teams along the way.
The winningest coach in NFL history, Shula led the Miami Dolphins to an undefeated, title-winning season in 1972 on his way to a league-record 347 victories. In his 33 seasons as a head coach, Shula posted only two losing campaigns. One of the great marks of Shula’s Hall of Fame career was his adaptability. His early Miami teams were built on defense and running (the 1972 team only threw the ball 259 times in 14 regular-season games), but he quickly changed to a passing offense when Dan Marino came to town. Shula, who won two Super Bowls with Miami, was 90. (AP Photo/ George Widman)
Don Shula | May 4
The winningest coach in NFL history, Shula led the Miami Dolphins to an undefeated, title-winning season in 1972 on his way to a league-record 347 victories. In his 33 seasons as a head coach, Shula posted only two losing campaigns. One of the great marks of Shula’s Hall of Fame career was his adaptability. His early Miami teams were built on defense and running (the 1972 team only threw the ball 259 times in 14 regular-season games), but he quickly changed to a passing offense when Dan Marino came to town. Shula, who won two Super Bowls with Miami, was 90. (AP Photo/ George Widman)
Smith, a motocross pioneer and a Hall of Famer in the sport, was killed in a dune buggy crash along with his wife, Nancy. Smith burst on the scene as a teenager, winning the first two AMA 125CC National Motocross titles before turning 20. He retired at an early age but continued his involvement in the sport as a driver coach. He was 63.
Marty Smith | April 24
Smith, a motocross pioneer and a Hall of Famer in the sport, was killed in a dune buggy crash along with his wife, Nancy. Smith burst on the scene as a teenager, winning the first two AMA 125CC National Motocross titles before turning 20. He retired at an early age but continued his involvement in the sport as a driver coach. He was 63.
The real-life Nuke Laloosh, of "Bull Durham" fame, Dalkowski had a live arm and little control over it. Stories of Dalkowski's velocity were legendary – Cal Ripken Sr. said he threw harder than both Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan; Ted Williams said he was "the fastest pitcher in baseball history" – as were his bouts with wildness (he once threw 39 wild pitches in a minor-league game). But Dalkowski was troubled, and alcoholism sadly gripped him for most of his life. Dalkowski was 80.
Steve Dalkowski | April 19
The real-life Nuke Laloosh, of "Bull Durham" fame, Dalkowski had a live arm and little control over it. Stories of Dalkowski's velocity were legendary – Cal Ripken Sr. said he threw harder than both Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan; Ted Williams said he was "the fastest pitcher in baseball history" – as were his bouts with wildness (he once threw 39 wild pitches in a minor-league game). But Dalkowski was troubled, and alcoholism sadly gripped him for most of his life. Dalkowski was 80.
The oldest son of boisterous Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, Hank earned the nickname "Baby Boss" when he took a more active role in the team's operations as his father's health began to fade in the early 2000s. Hank Steinbrenner had a knack for filling reporters' notebooks, just like his father, but it was his brother, the more reserved Hal, who ultimately took over for their father as the public face of the Yankees. Hank was 63.
Hank Steinbrenner | April 14
The oldest son of boisterous Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, Hank earned the nickname "Baby Boss" when he took a more active role in the team's operations as his father's health began to fade in the early 2000s. Hank Steinbrenner had a knack for filling reporters' notebooks, just like his father, but it was his brother, the more reserved Hal, who ultimately took over for their father as the public face of the Yankees. Hank was 63.
A 10-year NFL backup quarterback, Jackson was killed in a car crash in his native Alabama. He was 26. Jackson, who played for the Vikings and won a Super Bowl as Russell Wilson's backup with the Seahawks, had just finished his first season as a coach at Tennessee State University following a stint at his alma mater, Alabama State.
Tarvaris Jackson | April 12
A 10-year NFL backup quarterback, Jackson was killed in a car crash in his native Alabama. He was 26. Jackson, who played for the Vikings and won a Super Bowl as Russell Wilson's backup with the Seahawks, had just finished his first season as a coach at Tennessee State University following a stint at his alma mater, Alabama State.
"Mr. Tiger," Kaline spent all of his 22 seasons in Detroit, where he put together a Hall of Fame career and helped bring a World Series to the city in 1968. An 18-time All-Star, Kaline finished his career with 399 home runs and 3,007 hits. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot in 1980, becoming at the time only the 10th player to be enshrined in his first year of eligibility. He was 85.
Al Kaline | April 6
"Mr. Tiger," Kaline spent all of his 22 seasons in Detroit, where he put together a Hall of Fame career and helped bring a World Series to the city in 1968. An 18-time All-Star, Kaline finished his career with 399 home runs and 3,007 hits. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot in 1980, becoming at the time only the 10th player to be enshrined in his first year of eligibility. He was 85.
Mitchell gave up on a potential career as an Olympic track star to play for the Browns for $7,000 in 1958. It turned out to be the right move, as the versatile halfback carved out a Hall of Fame career, first running alongside Jim Brown and later as a flanker with the Redskins. Mitchell was one of the first black players in Washington, ushering in an era of integration with the last NFL franchise to do so. He was 84.
Bobby Mitchell | April 5
Mitchell gave up on a potential career as an Olympic track star to play for the Browns for $7,000 in 1958. It turned out to be the right move, as the versatile halfback carved out a Hall of Fame career, first running alongside Jim Brown and later as a flanker with the Redskins. Mitchell was one of the first black players in Washington, ushering in an era of integration with the last NFL franchise to do so. He was 84.
The former Saints kicker, who for decades held the record for the longest field goal in NFL history, died following a brief battle with COVID-19. He was 73. In 1970, Dempsey drilled a 63-yard field goal to give the Saints a one-point win over the Lions. His record-setting kick stood for 43 years.
Tom Dempsey | April 4
The former Saints kicker, who for decades held the record for the longest field goal in NFL history, died following a brief battle with COVID-19. He was 73. In 1970, Dempsey drilled a 63-yard field goal to give the Saints a one-point win over the Lions. His record-setting kick stood for 43 years.
One of the stars of the "Game of Change," Hunter, center, helped deliver a championship to Loyola Chicago in 1963 as a double-double machine, averaging 17 points and 11 rebounds. The 1962-63 Ramblers faced discrimination and harassment on their way to the championship as they bucked the unspoken rule of having only three black players on the court a the same time. He was 77.
Les Hunter | March 26
One of the stars of the "Game of Change," Hunter, center, helped deliver a championship to Loyola Chicago in 1963 as a double-double machine, averaging 17 points and 11 rebounds. The 1962-63 Ramblers faced discrimination and harassment on their way to the championship as they bucked the unspoken rule of having only three black players on the court a the same time. He was 77.
One of the most dazzling ballhandlers in Harlem Globetrotters history – with a nickname that belied his bald head – Curly Neal entertained fans across three decades, playing more than 22,000 games for the barnstorming ballers in 97 countries. Neal’s Globetrotters jersey was retired in a ceremony at Madison Square Garden in 2008. He was 77.
Curly Neal | March 26
One of the most dazzling ballhandlers in Harlem Globetrotters history – with a nickname that belied his bald head – Curly Neal entertained fans across three decades, playing more than 22,000 games for the barnstorming ballers in 97 countries. Neal’s Globetrotters jersey was retired in a ceremony at Madison Square Garden in 2008. He was 77.
Bartholomay purchased the Braves in 1962 and moved the team to Atlanta following a legal battle with the state of Wisconsin. A Chicago-area native, Bartholomay owned the team for 14 seasons before selling the club to Ted Turner but remained on the board of directors until 2003. He was 91.
Bill Bartholomay | March 25
Bartholomay purchased the Braves in 1962 and moved the team to Atlanta following a legal battle with the state of Wisconsin. A Chicago-area native, Bartholomay owned the team for 14 seasons before selling the club to Ted Turner but remained on the board of directors until 2003. He was 91.
The rib-breaking linebacker who made one of the most famous plays in Bills history, Stratton died due to heart complications at age 78. Stratton's signature moment came in the 1964 AFL title game when his picture-perfect tackle of San Diego running back Keith Lincoln broke Lincoln's ribs and turned the tide in a game Buffalo ultimately won for its first championship.
Mike Stratton | March 25
The rib-breaking linebacker who made one of the most famous plays in Bills history, Stratton died due to heart complications at age 78. Stratton's signature moment came in the 1964 AFL title game when his picture-perfect tackle of San Diego running back Keith Lincoln broke Lincoln's ribs and turned the tide in a game Buffalo ultimately won for its first championship.
The Washington State defensive back, who figured to be a key cog of the Cougars' secondary in 2020, was found dead in his Pullman apartment at age 22. The coroner said that Beekman died after taking a combination of a powerful painkiller along with an allergy medication. His death was deemed accidental.
Bryce Beekman | March 24
The Washington State defensive back, who figured to be a key cog of the Cougars' secondary in 2020, was found dead in his Pullman apartment at age 22. The coroner said that Beekman died after taking a combination of a powerful painkiller along with an allergy medication. His death was deemed accidental.
A sure-handed shortstop who won four Gold Gloves and played in five All-Star Games, Fernandez won a World Series with the Blue Jays in 1993. He died at age 57 due to complications from a kidney disease.<br>
Tony Fernandez | Feb. 15
A sure-handed shortstop who won four Gold Gloves and played in five All-Star Games, Fernandez won a World Series with the Blue Jays in 1993. He died at age 57 due to complications from a kidney disease.
A Packers lifer whose interception of Len Dawson in Super Bowl I was the most memorable play of that game, Wood died at age 83 with no memory of that play – or his Hall of Fame induction – due to the devastating effects of dementia. Before landing with the Packers, where he won five championships and two Super Bowls as Vince Lombardi's All-Pro safety, Wood played quarterback at USC, becoming the first black QB at that program and in the conference that is now known as the Pac-12.
Willie Wood | Feb. 3
A Packers lifer whose interception of Len Dawson in Super Bowl I was the most memorable play of that game, Wood died at age 83 with no memory of that play – or his Hall of Fame induction – due to the devastating effects of dementia. Before landing with the Packers, where he won five championships and two Super Bowls as Vince Lombardi's All-Pro safety, Wood played quarterback at USC, becoming the first black QB at that program and in the conference that is now known as the Pac-12.
A versatile driver from one of the sport's first families, Andretti died at age 56 following a lengthy fight with colon cancer. The nephew of racing legend Mario Andretti, John recorded wins in NASCAR, IndyCar and the Rolex 24 over the course of his career.<br>
John Andretti | Jan. 30
A versatile driver from one of the sport's first families, Andretti died at age 56 following a lengthy fight with colon cancer. The nephew of racing legend Mario Andretti, John recorded wins in NASCAR, IndyCar and the Rolex 24 over the course of his career.
A first-round pick out of Pittsburgh, Doleman was a force at defensive end for the Vikings, chasing quarterbacks all the way to the Hall of Fame. Doleman finished his career with 150.5 sacks, including 22 during a havoc-wreaking 1989 season. Doleman, who battled cancer and had a brain tumor removed in 2018, was 58.
Chris Doleman | Jan. 28
A first-round pick out of Pittsburgh, Doleman was a force at defensive end for the Vikings, chasing quarterbacks all the way to the Hall of Fame. Doleman finished his career with 150.5 sacks, including 22 during a havoc-wreaking 1989 season. Doleman, who battled cancer and had a brain tumor removed in 2018, was 58.
A five-time champion, league MVP and Lakers icon, Bryant's death in a tragic helicopter crash that killed all nine passengers on board shocked the global community. Bryant, who was 41, was heading to a basketball camp with his daughter, Gianna, when the helicopter went down in difficult weather conditions. He is survived by his wife, Vanessa, and daughters Natalia, Bianka and Capri. <br>
Kobe Bryant | Jan. 26
A five-time champion, league MVP and Lakers icon, Bryant's death in a tragic helicopter crash that killed all nine passengers on board shocked the global community. Bryant, who was 41, was heading to a basketball camp with his daughter, Gianna, when the helicopter went down in difficult weather conditions. He is survived by his wife, Vanessa, and daughters Natalia, Bianka and Capri.
Dubbed the "Mambacita' by her father, Gianna Bryant inherited her father’s love of the game and his competitive fire. Gianna never backed down from a challenge, routinely playing against some of the country's best college players, and even a few WNBA stars. And she always believed she would win. Sound familiar?
Gigi Bryant | Jan. 26
Dubbed the "Mambacita' by her father, Gianna Bryant inherited her father’s love of the game and his competitive fire. Gianna never backed down from a challenge, routinely playing against some of the country's best college players, and even a few WNBA stars. And she always believed she would win. Sound familiar?
The longtime baseball coach at Orange Coast College, who had a hand in grooming MLB players Aaron Judge and Jeff McNeil, died along with his wife, Keri, and daughter, Alyssa, in the crash that also killed Kobe and Gianna Bryant. Gianna and Alyssa were teammates.
John Altobelli | Jan. 26
The longtime baseball coach at Orange Coast College, who had a hand in grooming MLB players Aaron Judge and Jeff McNeil, died along with his wife, Keri, and daughter, Alyssa, in the crash that also killed Kobe and Gianna Bryant. Gianna and Alyssa were teammates.
A WWE Hall of Famer and former world tag-team champion, Rocky "Soul Man" Johnson died from a heart attack brought on by a blood clot. He was 75. Following his own decorated career – much of it alongside Tony Atlas – Johnson had a hand in training his son, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who went on to become one of the world's biggest stars. <br>
Rocky Johnson | Jan. 15
A WWE Hall of Famer and former world tag-team champion, Rocky "Soul Man" Johnson died from a heart attack brought on by a blood clot. He was 75. Following his own decorated career – much of it alongside Tony Atlas – Johnson had a hand in training his son, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who went on to become one of the world's biggest stars.
A former Walmart executive, Glass purchased the Royals in 2000 and saw the team win two pennants – including a World Series in 2015 – during his ownership. Glass, who was 84, died from complications of pneumonia. <br>
David Glass | Jan. 9
A former Walmart executive, Glass purchased the Royals in 2000 and saw the team win two pennants – including a World Series in 2015 – during his ownership. Glass, who was 84, died from complications of pneumonia.
The designer behind some of golf's most majestic courses – including TPC Sawgrass, home of the iconic island 17th green – died at age 94. Known for making some of the game’s most challenging courses, Dye's portfolio also included Whistling Straits’ Straits Course, home of this year's Ryder Cup, and the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort, among others. <br>
Pete Dye | Jan. 9
The designer behind some of golf's most majestic courses – including TPC Sawgrass, home of the iconic island 17th green – died at age 94. Known for making some of the game’s most challenging courses, Dye's portfolio also included Whistling Straits’ Straits Course, home of this year's Ryder Cup, and the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort, among others.
The last coach to lead the Bengals to the Super Bowl, Wyche died due to complications from cancer. Wyche coached in Cincinnati for eight seasons, leading the team to Super Bowl XXIII after the 1988 season. The Bengals ultimately lost that Super Bowl to Joe Montana’s 49ers in the final seconds. He also coached Tampa Bay and had a career record of 84-107. Wyche was 74.
Sam Wyche | Jan. 2
The last coach to lead the Bengals to the Super Bowl, Wyche died due to complications from cancer. Wyche coached in Cincinnati for eight seasons, leading the team to Super Bowl XXIII after the 1988 season. The Bengals ultimately lost that Super Bowl to Joe Montana’s 49ers in the final seconds. He also coached Tampa Bay and had a career record of 84-107. Wyche was 74.
Famous for the perfect game he threw for the Yankees in the 1956 World Series – still the only perfect game in World Series history – Larsen won 81 games over his 15-year career. He was 90.
Don Larsen | Jan. 1
Famous for the perfect game he threw for the Yankees in the 1956 World Series – still the only perfect game in World Series history – Larsen won 81 games over his 15-year career. He was 90.
Stern, a former league lawyer who built the NBA into the global league it is today, died suddenly following a brain hemorrhage. He was 77. Elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014, the hallmark of Stern's commissionership is undoubtedly the league's massive, international growth, though he also had to navigate controversies that included a referee gambling scandal, the relocation of the Seattle SuperSonics and two lockouts, among other issues.
David Stern | Jan. 1
Stern, a former league lawyer who built the NBA into the global league it is today, died suddenly following a brain hemorrhage. He was 77. Elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014, the hallmark of Stern's commissionership is undoubtedly the league's massive, international growth, though he also had to navigate controversies that included a referee gambling scandal, the relocation of the Seattle SuperSonics and two lockouts, among other issues.

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