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From Kobe to COVID-19 to Carson, here’s how The Inquirer covered sports in 2020 | Mike Sielski

It was a lousy year by any measure. We tried to cover it the best way we could.

The late Kobe Bryant, shown watching a tribute video at Staples Center before the final game of his career on April 13, 2016.
The late Kobe Bryant, shown watching a tribute video at Staples Center before the final game of his career on April 13, 2016.Read moreWally Skalij

Everyone does best-of lists this time of year, and nobody likes doing them more than sportswriters do. We get a chance to highlight some of the good work we did, and despite all protestations to the contrary, we actually did produce some good work. Honest. Even during those months when we didn’t have sports.

So here it is: The Inquirer’s best sports journalism of 2020. The stories and columns are in no particular order. Hope you enjoyed them then and enjoy them now, and hope you have a great 2021. I mean, it has to be better than 2020, right?

When sports shut down: an oral history from The Inquirer sports staff of the first days of the pandemic and its effect on professional and collegiate sports.

Phil Anastasia told the gnarly and totally awesome story of local bodyboarding champ Andrew Kerr.

Bob Ford wrote a wistful and evocative piece on senior runners at the Penn Relays.

Then Ford noted that Major League Baseball gets it all wrong on Jackie Robinson Day.

The story of how Kobe Bryant’s death brought an athlete and scholar named Bobby McIlvaine back to life.

Ace Carter on the consequences of COVID-19 on high school recruiting.

EJ Smith argued that college football players were under no obligation to play during the pandemic.

Early in the pandemic, Marcus Hayes warned Sixers and Flyers fans to stay home and stay safe.

Bob Brookover profiled Phillies manager Joe Girardi.

Jeff McLane detailed the Eagles’ dubious recent draft history.

Frank Fitzpatrick’s obituary for Kobe Bryant.

Scott Lauber with an oral history of Roy Halladay’s perfect game, 10 years later.

Joe Juliano broke the news of the first cancellation in the 126-year history of the Penn Relays.

In September, Les Bowen gave everyone a clear idea of what this NFL season, held in the midst of a pandemic, would look like.

Mike Jensen spent some time with former Philly basketball legend Rasheed Wallace, now a high school coach in North Carolina.

Sue Snyder on a coaching scandal at Swarthmore.

Sam Carchidi talked to former New York Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich, a Wayne, Pa., native who overcame the cancer that afflicted Flyers forward Oskar Lindblom.

Damichael Cole on 16-year-old Philly boxer Camille James.

Marcus Hayes called out the Sixers’ owners for having too cozy a relationship with stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

An Eagles fan died at Lincoln Financial Field during a game. Erin McCarthy explored a haunting question: Were EMTs late in trying to save him?

Jonathan Tannenwald talked to Kevin Durant about why Durant bought a stake in the Union.

Bob Brookover on the death of former Philadelphia-area sportswriter Kevin Roberts.

Marc Narducci wrote about LeBron James, on the cusp of a record.

EJ Smith on Eagles rookie defensive back K’Von Wallace.

David Murphy considered the real cost of the pandemic to Philadelphia’s high school athletes.

Paul Domowitch buried the speculation that Jeffrey Lurie would fire Howie Roseman after the Eagles’ ugly season.

Sixers beat writer Keith Pompey wrote a poignant, personal essay in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing.

Ed Barkowitz profiled Flyers coach Alain Vigneault.

Les Bowen’s obituary of longtime Daily News columnist John Smallwood.

A column on Michael Jordan, Jerry Krause, and The Last Dance.

After the Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl, Jeff McLane wrote about Andy Reid and his son Garrett, who died of a heroin overdose in 2012.

Frank Fitzpatrick on the tragedy of the “Phillies Special.”

Mike Jensen’s story on Haverford School graduate Jack Cloran, who lost a leg and kept shooting jumpers anyway.

Ace Carter on Langston “Jake” Wilson, a Monsignor Bonner graduate who fought back from Marfan syndrome to earn a Division I basketball scholarship.

Not long after the Eagles drafted Jalen Hurts, Jeff McLane foreshadowed the team’s quarterback controversy.

Joe Juliano on the track-and-field brilliance of Wynnefield’s Herb Douglas.

Flyers draft pick Tyson Foerster used to work on a sheep farm. The only disappointing part about Sam Carchidi’s story is that Sam was unable to go to the sheep farm himself.

Mike Jensen on The Miracle on Henry Avenue.

Scott Lauber explained how a 30-year friendship led to a 45-minute conversation that sold the Phillies on Alec Bohm.

When 2020 began, there were two surviving “Whiz Kids,” members of the Phillies’ 1950 National League pennant-winning team. Frank Fitzpatrick paid them a visit.

Les Bowen told the unusual and inspiring story of Eagles cornerback Kevon Seymour, who used to work in a Charlotte auto customizing shop.

Jonathan Tannenwald explained why the Union’s strategy of selling players to Europe is a good thing.

Chuck Bednarik, Frank Gifford, and the hit that changed the NFL.

Bob Ford reminded everyone that, even during the madness of March, sports was no comfort during a pandemic.