The world shut down nearly one year ago due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

The world of sports shut down one year ago Tuesday for a different reason.

I remember sitting in the Romero Student Apartments with my roommates when one said, “Kobe Bryant is dead.” 

There were seven or eight of us in the room who heard the rumor that would soon turn to reality.  However, since there was still no official report, there was hope that it was just a bad publicity stunt. 

Less than five minutes later, as we all sat and scrolled through Twitter, there were multiple reports confirming a helicopter crash in LA County killing seven passengers and one pilot.

Kobe Bryant was dead.

Since this accident, the world has changed in more ways than anyone thought was possible. 

However, sports continued to play, almost as if we are not in a global pandemic. 

Of course, players and coaches are masked on the sideline and the stands are no longer filled with fans. 

The Los Angeles Lakers were named National Basketball Association champions in an isolated bubble held on the ESPN campuses in Disney World with only family members in attendance. 

Before the teams were allowed inside of their hotel room, each player was to test negative. Once they entered the “bubble,” they were to stay on the grounds until their teams were eliminated.

Major League Baseball crowned the Los Angeles Dodgers as World Series Champions in late October. The brand new Globe Life Field in Arlington, TX was built to house 40,000 roaring fans for the Fall Classic. Instead, just a little over 11,000 fans were in attendance to see the crowning of the Dodgers. 

While the Dodgers hoisted their title, COVID-19 had taken 229,000 American lives. 

Since then, the coronavirus has continued to rapidly spread across the United States. The US has surpassed 420,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. 

Now, in two short weeks, the coveted Super Bowl will be played in Tampa Bay with 22,000 fans in attendance, about one-third the capacity of Raymond James Stadium.

Selfishly, I miss the full roar of the fans. The automated crowd noise facilities use cannot remake some of the electricity that fans were able to produce back when Kobe hit game winners in the Staples Center. 

Last year, sports were different, but so was the year of 2020. 

So many events changed the way that people look at their lives, how they protect themselves and the ones that they love. 

Last year reminded me of sports and the reflection they have on our lives. 

When teams are able to come together when things are not going well, they tend to succeed in the end. That is what ultimately will save the US during this global pandemic: unity.

When Kobe Bryant died, that is what the entire sports world channeled. People from all places of the world banded together to help one another heal, to remember the life that he had and what he did for the game of basketball. 

Sports are a crutch that people lean on to distract themselves, now more than ever.