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Sports people we lost in 2020

FEEL THE GAME - Bobby Motus (The Freeman) - January 3, 2021 - 12:00am

The year that was will generally be remembered as challenging because of the situation we are having.  It has been a terrible year for sports losing some of its biggest names.   Some died at the prime of their lives, some died of natural causes and old age, some fell to illness, others died because of shootings and suicide.  Here are some of the local and international sports figures who died in 2020.

January

DAVID STERN (77) – The new year opened with the NBA’s influential commissioner passing away due to complications from a brain hemorrhage.  A lawyer by profession, Stern headed the NBA from 1984 to 2014 that led to the globalization of basketball.

KOBE BRYANT (41) – The Laker legend died in a helicopter crash with his daughter Gigi.

JOHN ANDRETTI (56) – Mario Andretti’s nephew was a fixture in the motor racing circuit, particluarly IndyCar and NASCAR.  He succumbed to colon cancer.

February

FR. FERNANDO SUAREZ (52) – The healing priest supported tennis tournaments all over the country in different divisions and age groups.  A tournament named in his honor was ongoing for a few years at the time of his death.

March

ROGER MAYWEATHER (58) – A super featherweight and light welterweight champion, he was Floyd Mayweather, Jr.’s uncle and  trainer.

ARIC DEL ROSARIO (80) – A multi-titled college coach who served as Tim Cone’s assistant in Alaska’s 90s glory run in the PBA.  He coached the PH men’s team to the 2003 SEA Games gold.

CURLY NEAL (77) – The popular Harlem Globetrotter wowed the crowds with his ballhandling wizardry.

April

GEORGE STEINBRENNER (63) – Principal owner and managing partner of MLB’s New York Yankees.

ALFONSO MARQUEZ (82) – A 2-time Olympian, Marquez was a member of the 1962 PH basketball team that won the last basketball gold for the country during the Asian Games.  He was one of the PBA pioneers playing for Mariwasa.

MAUI HUELAR – The former USJR Jaguar was drafted by FedEx in the 2004 PBA Draft but never got to play in the league.  However, the brought the MBA’s Negros Slashers to fame with his court savvy.

BUDDY ANDRADA (83) – Once served as commissioner of the Philippine Sports Commision, he was a long-serving head of the Philippine Lawn Tennis Association and was the first Filipino to serve as president of the Asian Tennis Federation.

May

JERRY SLOAN (78) – Played for the Chicago Bulls in the 70s and later became a Hall of Fame coach for the Utah Jazz.  He died of complications from Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia.

June

DANDING COJUANGCO (85) – He revitalized the country’s basketball program in the 1980s and saw the rise of PH basketball in international competitions.  As chairman of San Miguel Corporation, his magic touch extended to the PBA where SMC teams won multiple titles.

NIC JORGE (78) – Coached in the UAAP, the PH Men’s team and in the PBA but his legacy was his creation of the Basketball Efficiency and Scientific Training (BEST) Center where a good number of the country’s basketball stars had their training.

WES UNSELD (74) – A 5-time All-Star, he was the NBA’s MVP in 1969 and led the Washington Bullets to the title in 1978.  He was named to the NBA’s 50th anniversary All-Time Team.

July

EKATERINA ALEXANDROVSKAYA (20) – The Russian-bord figure skater competed for Australia in the 2018 Winteer Olympics.  She out of the window of her 6th floor apartment in Moscow in an apparent suicide.  She was diagnosed with epilepsy and depression at the time of her death.

August

JAMES HARRIS (70) – Popularly known as World Wresting Federation’s Kamala, he died of complications from diabetes.

CHADWICK BOSEMAN – The actor more popularly known as The Black Panther, he played the role of baseball legend Jackie Robinson in the movie “42”.  The star of “42” died at 43 from cancer.

JOHN THOMPSON (74) – The legendary Georgetown Hoyas coach was the first black coach to win an NCAA D-1 championship in 1984.  The team had NBA legend Patrick Ewin

September

ORLY BAUZON (75) – He played for the country in the 1968 Mexico Olympics and was part of the original Toyota team when the PBA began in 1975.  He coached the UAAP after retiring from active play.

JOE LAURINAITIS (60) – Also known as Road Warrior Hawk, the other half of WWF’s popular tag team The Road Warriors died of natural causes.

October

WHITEY FORD (91) – Won more World Series games than any other pitcher in major league baseball history.

RICO NAVARRO (53) – The sportswriting colleague  was a popular ring announcer and broadcaster who founded the Cebu Youth Basketball League, was Regional Director of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, an officer of the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation, Inc. and athletic director of Ateneo de Cebu at the time of his death.

November

TOM HEINSOHN (86) – Boston Celtics’s beloved player, coach and broadcaster.

DIEGO MARADONA (60) – The best footballer Argentina ever had alongside Lionel Messi, he struggled with alcohol and drug addiction and died of a heart attack.

December

PAOLO ROSSI (64) – The Italian football Hall of Famer played a big part in Italy’s 1982 World Cup win and was one of the few Italians to win the Ballon D’Or.

PAT PATTERSON (79) – The first Intercontinental Champion of the WWF, he was the first wrestling star to openly admit that he’s gay.  He was the creator of the Royal Rumble.

KC JONES (88) - Won two NCAA titles with Bill Russell and later, both led the Celtics to 8-straight NBA titles in the 60s.  One of only eight players to win titles in the NCAA, the Olympics and the NBA, he coached the Celtics to two titles in the 80s.

SUDAN DANIEL (31) – The American-born but PH resident “Su-perman” led the San Beda Red Lions in 2010 to a perfect season where he was named Season and Finals MVP.  He died of asthma attack.

bobbytoohotty@lycos.com

bobbymotus1961@gmail.com

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