From Kobe Bryant’s Tragic Death to Harden’s Trade Demand – Top 5 Shocking Moments for NBA Fans in 2020

Published 12/29/2020, 5:00 AM CST
During the National Anthem Lakers Kobe Bryant points to upward honoring Lakers owner Jerry Buss at the Staples Center Wednesday. Dr. Jerry Buss, died Monday of cancer at age 80. (Photo by Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

2020 has been a year full of unexpected events for the NBA. First the COVID-19 pandemic halted the season, leading to the conception of the Orlando Bubble. After that, players and organizations alike had to deal with the shortest off-season in the league’s recent history, with hurried drafts and surprise trades. Let’s take a look at the 5 most shocking moments for NBA fans in 2020.


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5. James Harden demands a trade to the Rockets

James Harden has been with the Houston Rockets for eight years now. In his time with the Rockets, he has cemented himself as one of the best scorers the NBA has ever seen.


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Harden and the Rockets have had their fair share of ups and downs. They almost beat the Big Three of Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson in the 2017 playoffs. If not for Chris Paul’s injury, they could have been in the NBA finals.

Dec 26, 2020; Portland, Oregon, USA; Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) dribbles the ball during the first half against the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Over the years, the Rockets front-office has always tried to bring in a second star alongside Harden. But somehow, this experiment has failed. The list includes the likes of Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, and Russell Westbrook.

Eventually, each of them were traded away in favor of Harden. The franchise has always tried to satisfy their star’s demands. But somehow it still isn’t enough for James Harden, who demanded a trade this off-season.

There is still no breakthrough in trade talks as the NBA awaits the next destination for James Harden.

4. Rudy Gobert’s disaster

In 2020, Rudy Gobert became one of the most searched NBA stars of the year; however, for all the wrong reasons. Back in March, when COVID-19 had brought the world to a standstill, the NBA became one of the first leagues to suspend the league, as Gobert had tested positive for coronavirus.

Dec 17, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA; Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) drives to the basket between LA Clippers guard Terance Mann (left), LA Clippers guard Luke Kennard (5), forward Kawhi Leonard (2) and Clippers forward Nicolas Batum (33) during the second quarter at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

It was his actions before this which led to all the controversy surrounding the French center. In a press conference a day before this news broke, Gobert had joked regarding the virus and had touched all the microphones and surfaces.

It backfired massively for the 30-year-old as NBA fans all around the world he ridiculed and criticized him. As an added blow, Gobert was also responsible for his teammate Donovan Mitchell testing positive for COVID-19.

3. Miami Heat being crowned as Eastern Conference Champions

When the 2019-20 season started, the Miami Heat where no where near labeled as one of the best in the East. They had a volatile leader in Jimmy Butler, who was known for his questionable stints at the 76ers and the Timberwolves. They had a trio of young players in Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson and Bam Adebayo.

The Heat ended the regular season as a respectable fifth seed. They had a clean sweep against the Indiana Pacers in the first round and faced off against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round. The Bucks were the favorite, but to everyone’s surprise, it was a pretty easy series win for the Heat, who won the series in five games.

They then faced off against the favorites Boston Celtics, who had their own version of Big three of Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The Heat were exceptional against the Celtics with some solid performances from their young core. They finally came out on top in six games.

They were a little short of defeating the champions Lakers as two of their stars in Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo missed the majority of the series. Jimmy Butler was exceptional and averaged monstrous numbers against the Lakers but the Heat lost in six games.

2. Denver Nuggets – The comeback kings

The Denver Nuggets have been one of the best young teams in the NBA. Led by the dynamic duo of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, they have been in the top three in a stacked Western Conference for the last two seasons.

In the first round of the 2019-20 playoffs, the Nuggets faced off against the Donovan Mitchell-led Utah Jazz. They were off to a horrendous start to the series as they were down 3-1. But the Nuggets made a miraculous comeback against the Jazz, with Murray bringing in his A-game.

They then faced off against the championship favorites, LA Clippers. The Clippers assembled a monstrous team led by the duo of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The Clippers were heavy favorites and took a very comfortable 3-1 lead against the Nuggets.

It seemed unlikely that the Nuggets could comeback from this. In the game 5, the Clippers were headed to a routine series win as they led by 15 points in the third quarter, but somehow the Nuggets won the fifth game.

This same trend continued in the next two games, and the series was now tied. In the game 7 against the Clippers, the Nuggets controlled the game and completed one of the biggest shockers in recent NBA history.

The Nuggets could not continue the same against the Lakers as they crashed out in five games.

1. NBA loses a legend in Kobe Bryant

The NBA has seen a host of legendary players, but only some have had the impact as Kobe Bryant. The Los Angeles Lakers legend retired from the game in 2016 but continued to impact the game even after retirement.

Kobe had started his own sports academy, named ‘Mamba Sports Academy’, which focused on the development of women’s basketball. Not only was he a legend on the court, he was also an inspiration to many.

LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 26: Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the second half of a NBA basketball game at Staples Center on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016 in Los Angeles. Los Angeles Lakers won 119-115.”n(Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

On January 26, Kobe with his daughter Gigi Bryant, along with seven other people, were on their way to a game in Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy. Tragically, the helicopter could not make a safe landing, and this dreaded news shocked the world.


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Kobe Bryant,41, lost his life in the crash. Another legend gone too soon.



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With 2021 around the corner, NBA fans all around the world will hope that they do not have to witness any other tragedy off the court, and the league becomes known for its hits, rather than its misses.


Aditya Mohapatra

867 articles

Aditya Mohapatra is a sports enthusiast who primarily covers the NBA for EssentiallySports. Having graduated in Mass Communication, he has prior experience in writing for ABP News, and has been writing for EssentiallySports since November 2020. This die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan feels that LeBron James is the best thing to have ever happened to the NBA, and will hold a healthy debate with anyone suggesting otherwise.