Pro athletes in 2020 have reinforced the overlap between sport and society, and in this year’s TIME 100 Most Influential People list, the NBA is well-represented, with both retired Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade and two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo featured.
The list, which is not written in a specific order, highlights powerful people from all walks of life who made a difference in 2020. For Wade, whose influence increasingly comes outside the scope of basketball even as he serves as an analyst for Turner, it was about ongoing activism in all walks of society. That includes partnering with organizations and companies like CAA and Goldman Sachs on the Social Change Fund along with Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul. It also includes Wade’s purposeful discussion of his daughter, Zaya’s, transition as a young transgender girl.
Here’s what John Legend wrote about Wade in TIME:
He has always been willing to spend his social capital on standing up for other people, using his platform and his philanthropy to move the conversation forward. He doesn’t have to do these things. But he sees that he has a larger purpose, and that his athletic career put him in a position to make the world a better, safer and more loving place.
Antetokounmpo continues to dominate the NBA and was a figurehead of the NBA’s strike of playoff games in late August as his Milwaukee Bucks created a ripple across pro sports to demonstrate against police brutality in America.
The great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote of Giannis: “I once asked Giannis what his name meant, and he told me ‘the crown has arrived.’ It certainly has.”
Many athletes affected change in their growing spheres of influence in 2020, but TIME highlighted a pair of distinct and powerful NBA stars who took on new power this year and pushed the boundaries of athlete activism even further.