2020 foresight: 20 names to dominate the New York sports conversation

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New York Sports

For better or worse, here are the names that will dominate the New York sports discussions throughout the new decade.

Geoff Magliocchetti

The 2010s will close this week with a resounding chorus of “thank goodness” from the metropolitan area’s plethora of sports teams.

New York City’s endless supply of sports did have its share of good times. Heroes emerged from all fields and several squads teetered on the verge of greatness. Championship immortality, however, was not to be, a failure made all the more agonizing by several more trophies shipping up to Boston during the decade.

A fresh slate begins as this month ends, as these 20 names will, for better or worse, define New York’s athletic fortunes in the decade to follow…

Jamal Adams

The safety is the perfect brand of smashmouth football backed up by talent that New York/New Jersey prides itself on. Adams began the final year of the decade by introducing himself to a wider audience. His first Pro Bowl nomination was headlined by his “attack” on the Patriots’ mascot and he later took home game MVP honors alongside Patrick Mahomes. A strong 2019 campaign, headlined by 6.5 sacks, has been somewhat marred by rumors of trades and disgruntledness. With his rookie deal’s end approaching, Adams will either continue to brand himself as the face of resurgent New York football or become the one that got away.

Josh Allen

Allen represents a different kind of New York, his home games taking place six hours away in Orchard Park. The antics of his Buffalo Bills have caused many to take note that they are indeed the only team to physically play their games in the Empire State. Buffalo’s 10 wins are also their most since 1999. While Allen’s stats leave something to be desired, a sense of what might have been could strike both metropolitan squads. Both the Giants and Jets had a chance to take the Wyoming product at second and third respectively in the 2018 draft proceedings. He instead went to the Bills at seventh overall. Time will only tell if the right decisions were made, but there’s no denying both blue and green fans could feel a sense of jealousy when Allen opens the decade by partaking in the NFL postseason next month.

Pete Alonso

The New York Mets have seen plenty of promising pitchers waste their primes away due to a lack of run support. Enter Alonso, a slugger tailor-made for today’s era. Through Alonso, the Mets have a name that can contend for the title of “face of baseball”. He immediately capitalized on the game’s home run surge to the tune of 53 departures, breaking a rookie record Aaron Judge held for just two seasons. Alonso also made a perfect impression on NYC citizens with a campaign by spearheading a campaign for his Mets to wear 9/11 tribute gear, defying MLB rules in the process. His emergence comes as the NL East-dwelling Mets now deal with not only the resurgent young squads in Atlanta and Philadelphia, but the defending national champions in Washington D.C.

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 22: Saquon Barkley #26 of the New York Giants is shoved out of bounds by Kayvon Webster #38 of the Washington Redskins during overtime at FedExField on December 22, 2019 in Landover, Maryland.
Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Saquon Barkley

Unfair as it may be, Barkley’s legacy may be forever reliant on factors beyond his control: the performances of Sam Darnold and Daniel Jones. In choosing him second overall in the 2018 draft, Barkley’s New York Giants passed on the USC alum, Darnold. An Eli Manning successor was eventually chosen with the following draft’s fifth pick, but many felt that Jones was a reach in that spot. Barkley has done a decent amount to justify his high selection, but more wins need to follow to truly quell the sense of metropolitan uncertainty that has lingered since Roger Goodell called his name.

Mathew Barzal

Metropolitan hockey enjoyed a period of prosperity from the New York Rangers during the 2010s. The good times continue to roll through the New York Islanders, who have gleefully proven that there’s life after John Tavares. At the forefront of this movement is Barzal. Islanders’ fanfiction couldn’t have come up with a better script for his career so far. Barzal became the fifth Islander to capture to Calder Memorial Trophy in 2017-18. That campaign began with his first career goal, scored against the Rangers. Previous Islanders to earn the title include Dennis Potvin, Mike Bossy, and Bryan Trottier. It’s safe to say that the team has found a new icon as they enter an exciting new era.

Steve Cohen

Christmas came early for Mets fans, as early December brought news of the best holiday sale of all. It was announced that Great Neck-born billionaire and hedge fund manager Cohen would purchase a majority share of the team and take control from the Wilpon family over the next five seasons. Optimism has been high over Cohen’s purchase and the Mets have slow begun to make major moves as the power transition begins. The Mets had their share of success in the prior decade (peaking with a World Series appearance in 2015), but the hope is that Cohen can finally bring the consistency the team has spent decades looking for.

Gerritt Cole

Cole hasn’t pitched a single game for the Yankees yet. But there’s a decent chance he could still be on the team when we’re making a list of 30 names for the 2030s. The Yankees’ past 10 seasons are listings a majority of MLB teams would give their left arm for. The most important column, that of World Series titles, was left empty, which might as well be a fate worse than death in The Bronx. That goose egg was partly thanks to the lack of a true ace/consistent starting pitcher. Thus, the Yankees turned to an old Houston enemy in Cole and granted him a nine-year deal worth $324 million. A literal price to pay after passing on so many notable arms, the addition of Cole would well determine how long it will take to break the Yankees ghastly streak of a full decade without a Commissioner’s Trophy.

Sam Darnold

The New York Jets have endured countless false prophets in the franchise quarterback slot. Darnold is one of the most, if not the most, promising name the Jets have penciled into the void in a long time. The early portions of his Jets career have been a roller coaster. Just when it appears Darnold is ready to turn the corner, disaster seems to strike in the form of a bad decision (28 interceptions over two seasons) or pure bad luck (mononucleosis in 2019). Time will tell if Darnold is truly the green savior Jets fans have long sought.

James Dolan
(AP Photo / Frank Franklin II)

James Dolan

The lack of Knicks on this list comes from the team’s bizarre brand of unpredictability. Franchise saviors can become trade bait in the blink of an eye, evidenced by the ballad of current Dallas Maverick Kristaps Porzingis. The Knicks’ 2020 fortunes will depend entirely on the hands-on owner Dolan. Who will he hire as the next head coach? Will general manager Scott Perry join David Fizdale in unemployment? Will Dolan finally acquiesce to the pleas of the fans and sell the team? Time will only tell.

Joe Douglas

The surprise spring outsing of Mike Maccagnan gave way to Douglas, the new general manager of the New York Jets. Douglas expressed immediately enthusiasm upon his entry and wasted no time in making moves intended to lead the Jets out of the league’s depths. While the late signing of former All-Pro center Ryan Kalil didn’t pan out, Douglas earned some points among fans for instantly addressing an area Maccagnan long neglected. It will be interesting to see how Douglas opens the decade, as 2020 will mark his first draft and free agency period in his Jets career.

Kevin Durant 

It was shocking enough to see the Brooklyn Nets land star shooter and NBA Finals hero Kyrie Irving. But the addition of Durant has the chance to be the most impactful metropolitan basketball acquisition since Jason Kidd’s New Jersey arrival in 2001. The Nets, having completed their own “process” have managed to tread water in the standings as Durant heals from a 2019 postseason injury. Once he returns, they will have a bona fide, established superstar, the true missing piece in contending in today’s top-heavy Association. But if Durant is less than his dominant self, questions will be raised about the massive check it took to lure him to the Borough of Churches (four years, $164 million).

Daniel Jones

Life after Eli Manning is finally upon the New York Giants. Team management was relentlessly dragged across the social media coals for the selection of Jones with the sixth overall pick of the most recent draft. Wins didn’t follow, but Jones was at least able to silence a few critics and put Giants fans at ease with big numbers. His 24 touchdown passes topped all rookies and he accompanied the tally 3,027 yards. Jones certainly isn’t without his faults (i.e. turnovers), but this latest iteration of the Giants’ rebuild will center on the man who took over for Manning.

Dexter Lawrence

Lawrence took on a massive role in Giants’ history before he even took his first NFL snap. The pick used to take Lawrence was the pick the Giants obtained from Cleveland in the polarizing Odell Beckham Jr. trade. Lawrence responded well to the pressure in the early going with 38 tackles and 2.5 sacks. The Giants undoubtedly hope he becomes one of the cornerstones of a revamped defense.

Jon Ledecky

Few in the area had a more enjoyable 2010s than Ledecky. He saw his niece Katie become one of the most decorated swimmers in Olympic history and took majority control of the New York Islanders in 2016. Not only have the Islanders become the New York area’s premier hockey power in that span, but Ledecky also helped the team secure its future, namely one that takes place on Long Island. The team is expected to move into a new, permanent arena in Belmont Park in time for the 2021-22 season. For a team and fanbase bamboozled by false prophecies (remember The Lighthouse Project?), Ledecky has turned dreams into reality and then some.

Kia Nurse
(Photo by Michael J. LeBrecht II/NBAE via Getty Images)

Kia Nurse

The New York Liberty will play their games within city limits once more as the decade begins, as they will move into Brooklyn’s Barclays Center under the new management of Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai. Liberty exploits still flow through star forward Tina Charles, but the tenacious Nurse is a perfect name to lead the next generation of seafoam. The UConn alumna and 2018 draftee closed the decade in style…literally. Nurse (along with teammate Asia Durr) became the second WNBA player to represent the Jordan Brand, and she also made her first WNBA All-Star Game. Her performance on the court and off makes her a great symbol for New York’s most prominent women’s sports franchise.

Artemi Panarin

A decade-ending rebuild notwithstanding, the New York Rangers have been regular contenders since Henrik Lundqvist’s arrival in 2005. The one thing missing on the ice in the Lundqvist era has been the prescience of a consistent scorer since Jaromir Jagr left in 2008. No Ranger, for example, has reached 100 points since Jagr’s franchise-record 123 in 2005-06. That streak, however, appears to be in thankful jeopardy thanks to the newcomer Panarin. The former Columbus Blue Jacket was added to the Rangers on a seven-year, $81.5 million deal this summer. He’s been worth every penny thus far to the tune of 21 goals and 30 assists (both good for eighth in the NHL). Panarin’s New York emergence ensures a scorer at the end of the Lundqvist era and put The King’s successor in an easier spot with scoring in front of him.

Greg Schiano

The recently-closed Star Wars sequel trilogy featured old heroes returning to battle to deal with a new, deadlier threat. Schiano is in a similar position as he returns to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights football team. He guided the team to five bowl victories in six seasons, including the magical 2006 campaign (Rutger finished 12th in the final AP poll). After sabbaticals with both Tampa Bay and Ohio State, Schiano now returns to clean up a new mess in Piscataway. Rutgers’ Big Ten dream has become an unprecedented nightmare, having gone 3-33 in conference play since 2016. Can his long-awaited return revitalize The Birthplace of College Football?

Igor Shestyorkin

Few want to admit it, especially with the unfortunate lack of a Stanley Cup hoist, but the reign of Henrik Lundqvist is in its twilight stages in Manhattan. Lundqvist is still posting passable efforts alongside Alex Georgiev, but the future must always be accounted for, especially with so many youngsters already in the fold. The Rangers seem set in their future with the Moscow-born Shestyorkin. A 2014 draft pick, Shestyorkin went toe-to-toe with his homeland’s finest in the KHL (1.11 GAA over 28 starts in 2018-19). His dominance has extended to the World Championships (1.46 GAA in the 2018 World Championships) and the Rangers’ AHL affiliate in Hartford (1.99 GAA this season). Life after Lundqvist will be tough to bear, but Shestyorkin is set to soothe the blow.

Giancarlo Stanton 

The New York Yankees have made their recent luck through the antics of young, homegrown talent. Stanton is more of a throwback to their juggernaut days of throwing money at expensive veterans. The slugger came to The Bronx in 2017 via a trade with the Miami Marlins. His $325 million price tag came with him…as did strikeouts and injuries. Stanton hasn’t fully satisfied the notoriously hard-to-please New York crowd. His 211 strikeouts were second in the AL in 2018, and ailments limited him to 18 games last season. With the Yankees fully stocked for a World Series run, Stanton could be the difference-maker in a championship run… for better or worse.

Han Xu

Another new face of Brooklyn basketball, Han made history even before she became a member of the New York Liberty. Her selection in the second round of last year’s WNBA Draft was the first of a Chinese-born player since the inaugural edition in 1997 (Zheng Haixia). The 6’9 Han, then just 19 years old, struggled to gain a consistent spot in the New York lineup but nonetheless gained a large following among the Liberty’ vocal, loyal fanbase. New owner Joe Tsai has stated that Han has a chance to become what Yao Ming was to the NBA. If she earns the chance to prove her mettle, she can become one of the faces of not just this new era of Liberty basketball, but of the growing WNBA as a whole.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490

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