World sports

Giannis, Wade, Osaka lead athletes in TIME 100

JR Isaga

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Giannis, Wade, Osaka lead athletes in TIME 100
NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo, basketball legend Dwyane Wade, and young tennis sensation Naomi Osaka land on TIME’s list of Most Influential People

In the midst of a historically turbulent year, TIME Magazine has released its yearly list of 100 Most Influential People for 2020.

Among the ranks of world leaders and pillars of social activism, 8 athletes grace TIME’s illustrious list after dominating headlines with their spectacular feats on and off the fields of their respective sports.

It is an annual listicle published since 1999. Various public figures from Nelson Mandela to Kim Jong-un have been included on the pure basis of their influence over other people, whether the consequences are positive or negative.

In the sporting world, NBA superstar LeBron James is the record-holder for the most number of inclusions, currently sitting at 4 (2005, 2013, 2017, 2019). Golfing legend Tiger Woods comes in second with 3 selections. (2004, 2009, 2019).

Here are the superstar athletes who got the nod this year:

Giannis Antetokounmpo, basketball

Reigning two-time NBA MVP and first-time Defensive Player of the Year Giannis Antetokounmpo extended his influence off the hardwood after being one of the prominent figures in the Milwaukee Bucks’ sudden refusal to continue their playoff run in protest after the shooting of Jacob Blake, an African-American native of Wisconsin.

Their boycotting stand spread like wildfire across the NBA and other sporting leagues as well as players took a heavier stance in calling for social justice following the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

As a result, NBA team owners are now converting their home arenas as voting centers and enticing other Americans to express their democratic rights in the upcoming US elections headed by two other 2020 TIME 100 selections, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.

“Giannis sets an example by standing up for what he believes in. I once asked Giannis what his name meant, and he told me ‘the crown has arrived.’ It certainly has,” wrote Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a six-time NBA champion and Hall of Famer.

Dwyane Wade, basketball

Just as he was a winner on the basketball court, Dwyane Wade found himself being a champion once again, this time for LGBT awareness and civil rights.

Fueled by passion through his transgender daughter Zaya, Wade has gone out of his way to use his retirement time to support all of his children as they pursue their own goals and find their own purpose in life.

“Identity isn’t a desire or a wish: it’s more a matter of our understanding and making the necessary adjustments to ensure someone is celebrated for being their authentic and true selves,” he said in a previous TIME article.

“He’s modeling how parents can champion their kids, and fight for them, and help them become the best adult that they can be. I think that’s really beautiful,” wrote John Legend, an Oscar- and Grammy-winning African-American artist.

Naomi Osaka, tennis

Although tennis players usually make their living alone on the court, Naomi Osaka was anything but a loner as she supported a cause extremely close to her heart.

As a Japanese-Haitian player living in the US, the 22-year-old superstar knows all too well the pain her fellow minorities face on a daily basis in the supposed “Land of the Free.”

For this, she has openly supported the ongoing social justice protests consistently pressing on across the country led by oppressed communities of black and brown skin.

Inspired by the resilience of her fellow minorities, Osaka powered through the year and won her second US Open title last September 13, defeating veteran Belarusian Victoria Azarenka.

“She reminded us that we can all resist the excuses that guard us from giving love. Whatever power we have, the most lasting and life-giving way we can steward that power is by using it to lift others up. Especially those who aren’t exactly like us,” wrote WNBA star Maya Moore, her fellow TIME 100 athlete.

Lewis Hamilton, racing

On and off the racetrack, Lewis Hamilton is a champion many people can get behind on.

Like many other sports superstars like him, the six-time Formula One champion used his platform to support the Black Lives Matter movement in the midst of a very difficult social justice climate in the US.

Instead of just focusing on the sport and pursuing the title records set by racing legends like Michael Schumacher and Dale Earnhardt Sr, the 35-year-old veteran is divvying up his precious time between training and repelling racism from nationwide consciousness.

“I’m the only Black driver in NASCAR’s top level. So Lewis’ example – as the lone Black F1 driver—is particularly meaningful for me. He shows we’re out there doing it,” wrote Bubba Wallace, one of the most successful African-American NASCAR racers today.

“To see him conquering the track damn near every weekend, it motivates me to try to do the same.”

Megan Rapinoe, football

In the midst of unrelenting, misogynistic online backlash in 2020, Megan Rapinoe continued to stand tall with arms spread in a confident pose like it was still the 2019 FIFA World Cup.

In a year where most sporting events were halted due to the ongoing pandemic, the 35-year-old Olympic gold medalist instead devoted her time to be a beacon of activism with her continued calls for LGBT acceptance and gender pay equality.

Win, lose, or draw – Rapinoe is here to stay to shield the oppressed, whether her critics like it or not.

“Rapinoe’s impact goes far beyond the pitch. In an era where many demand that athletes ‘stick to sports,’ Rapinoe – a proud feminist and an out gay advocate – refuses to be silenced,” wrote Kirsten Gillibrand, an incumbent US Senator.

“Megan Rapinoe fearlessly uses her voice to make the world a more equal place. No matter your politics, ethnicity or gender, that’s something we should all celebrate.”

Maya Moore, basketball

It takes a great deal of courage for any athlete to step away from the game they love, and even more so if they do it in the midst of their prime for a greater cause.

That is exactly what four-time WNBA champion Maya Moore did as she stepped away from the game in 2019 to focus full-time in helping reform the US criminal justice system.

By doing so, Sports Illustrated’s “greatest winner in the history of women’s basketball” once again became a champion on the court, just not the one ballers call home.

Largely through Moore’s efforts, a Missouri judge junked a wrongful conviction on African-American man Jonathan Irons, who had 20 years of his life taken away from him despite being ultimately innocent.

In a surprise twist, Irons and Moore once again shocked the world after getting married shortly after the conviction was overturned.

“With so much angst, pain, sorrow and dismay in our nation, many are asking what we should require from our celebrated athletes, entertainers and influencers. On the day of Irons’ release, Moore – who was there to greet him – evoked a powerful line from scripture: do justice, love mercy, walk humbly,” wrote Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative.

Allyson Felix, track and field

Allyson Felix may be known worldwide for her unmatched skill in running, but she certainly did not run away from the causes she believed in.

The six-time Olympic gold medalist found herself on the pages of The New York Times not because of another feat of speed, but because of her stand against her sponsor Nike’s attempt to lower her compensation after childbirth in 2018.

In response to the spotlight thrust on their maternity policies, Nike underwent a revamp and is now safeguarding athletes’ pay for 18 months encompassing a childbirth.

Pregnancy discrimination puts women and their families at risk. Any brand profiting from the attributes and accolades of women should ramp up their support during this period – not cut it back. To do less is unjust,” wrote Christy Turlington Burns, a former supermodel and founder of the Every Mother Counts campaign.

Patrick Mahomes, American football

At just 25 years old, Patrick Mahomes is quickly rising up the ranks as one of the best quarterbacks in the world today.

In just his third season in the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs star led the team to its first Super Bowl appearance in 50 years and subsequently helped win Super Bowl LIV against the San Francisco 49ers.

As a reward for being the second youngest quarterback to win it all and only the third African-American QB to achieve the feat, Mahomes was given an astounding 10-year, $477 million extension, the largest pro sports contract in world history.

“There is a lot more promise in Patrick Mahomes’ future than just on-field accolades. He already has started to build a legacy as one of the most impactful athletes of his generation, and I, for one, am excited to see what is next,” wrote Derek Jeter, one of the greatest baseball players of all time.


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