The 2020 calendar year in sports saw much upheaval due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But it also marked the breakout year for plenty of sports' biggest stars. Among them were Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, Washington Mystics forward Myisha Hines-Allen and Cleveland baseball team pitcher Shane Bieber.
The 2020 nominees for Sports Illustrated's Breakout of the Year Award presented by Emsculpt Neo:
* Donovan Mitchell
* Jamal Murray
* Myisha Hines-Allen
* Shane Bieber
Jamal Murray took home the honor for his part in the Denver Nuggets' postseason run.
The 24-year-old Mitchell enters the 2020-21 NBA season coming off the best season of his young NBA career. Last season, he recorded a 55.8% true shooting percentage on a 30.8% usage rate and made his first NBA All-Star team. Mitchell upped his scoring to 24 points per game and 4.3 assists per game, playing a career-high 34.3 minutes per game. In the postseason, Mitchell battled with Jamal Murray and notched two 50-point games.
This offseason, Mitchell and the Jazz agreed to a five-year, $163 million extension that could be worth up to $195 million. While he has yet to have major postseason success, the team's commitment to the former 2017 No. 13 pick makes a strong statement for what the team thinks of their budding star.
Murray was a driving force in Denver's magical postseason run, which saw the franchise overcome two 3-1 series deficits. While a number of his regular-season averages were nearly identical between 2018-19 and 2019-20, Murray's scoring jumped eight points per contest in last year’s postseason. He scored 30 or more points in six of Denver’s 19 playoff games and posted up multiple 40- and 50-point showings.
Murray comes into the 2020-21 NBA season poised to make his first All-Star team and build off his successful stint in the NBA's bubble. Alongside Nuggets star center Nikola Jokić, the franchise is eying its first finals berth since their ABA days.
A second-round pick in the 2018 WNBA draft, Hines-Allen emerged as one of the sport's bright stars within the WNBA bubble this summer. Heading into this season, Hines-Allen had only started one game in her WNBA career and had only scored in double-digits three times. This season, with the Mystics dealing with a diminished roster, Hines-Allen started all 22 of her team's games and averaged 17 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.
In just his third season, Bieber was unanimously voted as the winner of the 2020 American League Cy Young Award in 2020. He led the majors in wins (8), ERA (1.63) and strikeouts (122). Throughout his dominant campaign, he also struck out 10 or more hitters in eight of his 12 starts. Bieber had success in 2019 when he made his first All-Star team and won 15 games. He took it to another tier in 2020 and will likely be relied upon to lead Cleveland's pitching staff for years to come.
Along with "Game of the Year," SI will also recognize:
* Best Dressed, presented by JCPenney
* Game of the Year, presented by Brooks Brothers
* Player of the Year, presented by Yappa
* Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, presented by Wheaties
* 2020 Sportsperson of the Year recipients
The all-new SI Awards will honor some of the best athletes in the world when it announces the winners on Dec. 19th. Tune into the free global broadcast starting at 7 p.m. ET streaming on Facebook via the Sports Illustrated Facebook page. The broadcast will also be simulcast by our partner LiveXLive across 20+ other platforms including SportsIllustratedAwards.com, LiveXLive, YouTube, Twitch, TikTok, Twitter and more.