Smoke from wildfires obscures the sky over Oracle Park in San Francisco as the Seattle Mariners take batting practice before their baseball game against the San Francisco Giants on Sept. 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Patrick Mahomes reveling after a huge play. Rafael Nadal clutching another trophy. Sarah Fuller kicking off a new generation.
The faces of sports in 2020, new and old, were familiar. But the images that most defined this year, on and off the fields, diamonds, courts and courses all over the world, definitely were not.
And from every corner, the photographers of The Associated Press were there to capture them.
Two fans in Tokyo, sitting in front of the lit Olympic rings at a games gone dark because of the coronavirus. NBA players lined up in front of Black Lives Matter lettering. An empty Oracle Park in San Francisco, the sky lit up in orange from the raging California wildfires.
Naomi Osaka and her masks at the U.S. Open, calling attention to racial injustice. A stadium worker walking among rows of cardboard cutouts.
COVID-19 ravaged and rearragned the schedules, but the sports went on.
Mookie Betts hollered as he rounded the bases in a World Series that capped a pandemic-shortened season. Dustin Johnson put on a green jacket after a record-setting effort at a Masters held in the fall, rather than the spring. LeBron James and Lakers finished off a title at a time they’d normally be starting anew.
In 20-20 hindsight, athletes and athletics never saw this coming. Thanks to the AP photographers, we saw it all.