Nominees - Laureus World Team of the Year

Rarely is sporting greatness achieved alone. In team sport, the collective is everything. Without the bond between teammates, without the organisation and spirit that makes the greatest teams much more than the sum of their parts, they would never give us those moments that live forever.
In 2020, some of our nominated teams added another chapter to a dynasty; others made the giant leap from contenders to champions, and for one the year will be forever remembered for one against-all-odds performance that shocked the world. 
When events around them overshadowed their sports, these teams stood up for their communities in ways not even they could have thought possible before this most extraordinary of years.
Sometimes, one game is enough. New Zealand 15, Argentina 25. Sydney, Australia. November 14, 2020. Victory for the Pumas in their first game in the 2020 Rugby Championship had an impact that can hardly be overstated. It was their first win in 33 attempts against the greatest team in the sport. But the story behind it made that breakthrough result all the more powerful. 
It was Argentina’s first Test since the World Cup, a 402-day wait. Players and staff had spent months in isolation, whether that was training on their own or with family members during Argentina’s six-month lockdown, or eating in hotel rooms and training in conference rooms during an enforced quarantine following their arrival in Australia. During the autumn, more than 20 members of the squad tested positive for coronavirus.
Yet the team, coached by former international Mario Ledesma, played ferociously and defeated the All Blacks with all their points coming from fly-half Nicolas Sanchez, who scored a try, six penalties and a conversion. 
Coach Ledesma said: “This is really special for us. It’s surreal just playing that game after everything that has happened this year.
“Some of the players have not seen their families for four months and they haven’t complained once. We’ll remember this for a long time.”
The All Blacks head coach Ian Foster said: “Everybody said their disadvantage was that they hadn’t played a lot of rugby, but they came here with massive energy and probably a massive desire to prove something for their country, who have gone through a heck of a hard time.”
As big an upset as this was, the Pumas came close to pulling off a championship that would have rocked the power structure of southern hemisphere rugby. With World Cup winners South Africa absent due to travel restrictions and safety concerns, the tri-nation Rugby Championship featured New Zealand, Australia and Argentina, who played each other twice. The All Blacks’ revenge was swift; they overwhelmed Argentina in the return match, which ended 38-0. But either side of that, the Pumas played out two draws with Australia and were one kick away in either match from claiming a historic title.
The Pumas of 2020 were a truly inspirational sports story – at a time when their most fervent fans back home needed one the most. 
A Kingsley Coman header gave Bayern the 1-0 win over Paris Saint Germain that made them champions of Europe for the sixth time and the first team in the history of the Champions League to win the tournament with a 100% record. And they completed a historic treble by winning the Bundesliga and the DFB-Pokal. However, if their dominance was marked by a single game, it did not come in either of the finals, or a defining moment in the league campaign.
Bayern’s 8-2 demolition of Barcelona in the one-off quarter-final after the re-start of the Champions League had to be seen to be believed. It showcased the relentless pressure that opponents of Hansi Flick’s team face and it featured key contributions by the stars of this phenomenal unit, including Manuel Neuer, Robert Lewandowski, Alphonso Davies and Thomas Muller.
Bayern’s dominance in domestic matches saw them take the Bundesliga title by 13 points, scoring 100 goals in the process. In July they defended the DFB-Pokal by beating Bayer Leverkusen 4-2 in Berlin – their second consecutive domestic double. 
As the world battled the effects of Covid, Bayern donated €250,000 to lifeline charity We Kick Corona, which had been launched by players Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka two months earlier. In total, 3,800 donors contributed more than €3.5million to support 480 organisations struggling to survive during the pandemic.
Kimmich and Goretzka, who made a joint pledge of €1million, said: “As professional footballers, we live a healthy and privileged life. We therefore feel obliged to take on responsibility in these difficult times.”
Striker Lewandowski, a Laureus Sportsman of the Year Award Nominee, and his wife Anna, also donated €1million, and defender Jerome Boateng provided significant support to a Munich foodbank, while Muller delivered food supplies to those isolated at home.
The Lewandowskis said: “We are all aware of the difficult situation around us. Today we all play as a team. If we can help someone, do it.”
In March 2020, Bayern launched Rotts Gegen Rassismus (Reds Against Racism) with a powerful series of personal statements from the biggest names across the organisation. This campaign has since been adopted as an ongoing and integral part of the European champions’ identity.
Not only were Kansas City the best NFL team in 2020, they were undoubtedly the most fun to watch. Led by their all-action quarterback Patrick Mahomes, a Laureus Breakthrough of the Year Award Nominee, the Chiefs’ calling card was the comeback. This was a team that never knew when it was beat. 
They won the AFC West Division with a 12-4 record, before setting off on a post-season rollercoaster like no other. The Chiefs overcame a 24-0 second quarter deficit to defeat the Houston Texans 51-31 in the Divisional play-offs. Then in the AFC Championship game, Mahomes’ 27-yard sideline run, seconds before half-time, provided the game-changing touchdown as they came from behind to overpower the Tennessee Titans 35-24.
Then, in Super Bowl LIV in Miami, the San Francisco 49ers started the final quarter with a 20-10 advantage over Kansas City. The Chiefs scored 21 unanswered points, with two touchdowns from Damien Williams, to seal the triumph. Mahomes became the second-youngest quarterback to lead his team to glory. For the Chiefs it was a first Super Bowl victory since 1970.
Off the field, the Chiefs and the Hunt Family Foundation matched player contributions to the Harvesters community food network during the Covid outbreak. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill, tight end Travis Kelce, safety Tyrann Mathieu and Mahomes were among players to donate tens of thousands of meals.
Mathieu said: “It’s so important that everyone protect themselves, their loved ones and give back during this challenging time. I urge everyone to remain informed and remember that we are stronger together.”
Liverpool began 2020 as champions of Europe but by its end they had captured a title that was even more cherished by their fans – a first Premier League crown for 30 years. They finished on 99 points, 18 ahead of Manchester City, and had set a new league record by winning 18 consecutive games.
Jurgen Klopp was named FIFA Best Coach of the Year for the second successive time and his team became the benchmark for attacking football: from the all-star front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, to flying full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson.
The Reds led the league from matchday two and closed out the title with seven games remaining – another record. 
Liverpool also led the way when it came to their response to the pandemic. Jordan Henderson was at the forefront of #PlayersTogether, a committee of captains from Premier League clubs who arranged donations from players at their clubs which raised over £4m. 
In the city of Liverpool, the players and staff were part of the club’s community action, which centred around an emergency foodbank appeal launched in March 2020. In addition, chefs at Anfield produced and delivered tens of thousands of meals to school hubs, community groups and local vulnerable people.
The English champions also launched a mental health project for schools across Merseyside.  LFC Foundation director Matt Parish said: “Early intervention in children’s mental health is key and this new programme will be really important in equipping young people with the knowledge they need to understand their own mental health as well as the confidence to discuss it openly and seek support when needed.”
LA was a city in mourning in January 2020, after Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, 13, were among nine people who died in a helicopter crash. Ten months later, the team clinched a record-equalling 17th NBA Championship and dedicated it to the memory of the Lakers legend, one of their greatest to play the game.
The Lakers had failed to qualify for the playoffs for six consecutive seasons, but with a new head coach, Frank Vogel, and led by the inspirational LeBron James, a Laureus Sportsman of the Year Award Nominee, they put together the best start to a season in franchise history, winning 17 of their opening 19 games.
By the time they defeated the Miami Heat 106-93 in Game Six of the NBA Finals to clinch their first title since Bryant lifted the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy in 2010, the motivation behind the Lakers’ remarkable season was clear. 
Anthony Davis, who joined the team at the start of the season, said: “We didn’t let [Bryant] down. Ever since the tragedy, we’ve wanted to do it for him, and we didn’t let him down. I know he’s looking down and is proud of us. He was a big brother to all of us. We did this for him.”
Off the court, the Lakers helped foster reading, writing and storytelling in schools with their Literacy League project. And they were part of a collective of Los Angeles sports teams which supported the 2800 staff whose livelihoods were threatened by the closure of the Staples Centre, their home stadium, during the pandemic.
Individuals team members supported some of those most affected by Covid. Anthony Davis led an initiative to get free, healthy meals to frontline workers in Los Angeles, while LeBron James increased his charitable work in his native Akron, Ohio, to support at-risk children through his I Promise project.
When Lewis Hamilton took the chequered flag followed by Valtteri Bottas at Imola in November, their one-two gave Mercedes a record seventh consecutive constructors’ world championship.
Their domination of the sport continued as lead driver Hamilton, a Laureus Sportsman of the Year Award Nominee, won the drivers’ championship for the seventh time, his sixth championship with Mercedes.
Led by team principal Toto Wolff, the German team had 13 Grand Prix victories during the year, 11 by Hamilton and two by Bottas, and 25 podium finishes for a total of 573 points – 254 clear of second place Red Bull.
Hamilton said: “I look at my crew, this team here, and I know all the guys and girls back at the factory and Brixworth, they are the unsung heroes. They are the ones who have grafted away and never given up. Just continued to push and elevate and innovate.”
In March, Mercedes engineers were at the front of the Project Pitlane effort to apply F1 teams’ expertise to the fight against the pandemic. Incredibly, the Mercedes team reverse engineered a breathing aid that is less intrusive than mechanical ventilation.. The Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) was developed using devices already in use in China and Italy and was soon approved for use in the UK. 
Mercedes also led the way on addressing diversity and representation by announcing a five-year programme called Accelerate 25, which aimed to ensure that at least 25 percent of new staff members came from under-represented groups.
In addition, the team partnered with the Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers to encourage and support engineers from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. In June they announced they would adopt an all-black base livery for the coming season, with the words ‘End Racism’ on the halos of both F1 cars. These visual signifiers of the team’s advocacy in the fight against racism will once again be seen all over the world in 2021.
Mercedes also joined forces with social enterprise Stemettes, who work to inspire girls, young women and nonbinary young people into STEM fields.
Wolff said: “Our legacy off the track is just as important to this team as the success that we have achieved with our historic seventh consecutive world championship this year.
“We have a real opportunity to drive the change that we all want to see in our sport through strengthening an inclusive and diverse culture at our team and using our platform to take that thinking beyond just our factory.”

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