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From Kobe to California fires: Some of 2020's biggest non-Covid, non-election stories

2020 has been a year that no one will forget and it's not just because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic or President-elect Joe Biden's big win.

2020 has been a year that no one will forget and it's not just because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic or President-elect Joe Biden's big win.

A lot of major events have taken place this year. Here are recaps from a few of those big stories.

Kobe Bryant's death

The sports world was absolutely shaken to its core when legendary basketball player Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash outside of Los Angeles on Jan. 26.

The 41-year-old Los Angeles Lakers icon, who retired after the 2015-16 season, was killed in the accident, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others.

Image: NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Lakers
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James reacts during the national anthem after a pre-game tribute to Kobe Bryant on Jan. 31, 2020, in Los Angeles.Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY via Reuters

Nearly nine months later, when LeBron James led the Lakers to the NBA title, team president Jeanie Buss reminded fans of the emotional highs and lows of 2020, including Bryant's tragic loss.

"Let this trophy serve as a reminder of when we come together, believe in each other, incredible things can happen," Buss said during the trophy presentation.

Harry and Meghan 'step back' from royal duties

In a surprising January Instagram post, Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, announced that they were taking a "step back" from their roles as senior members of the British royal family.

The couple, who are parents to 1-year-old Archie, said they wanted to live a more independent life and split their time between the United Kingdom and the United States. They have since moved into a home in the Santa Barbara area of Southern California.

While Queen Elizabeth II expressed her support, others were not so understanding. Less than 24 hours after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex made their announcement Madame Tussauds London removed their wax figures, citing in a statement that it wanted to mirror "their progressive new role within the Royal institution."

Deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor

The summer was filled with protests against systemic racism sparked by the deaths of Black people, including George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.

Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, was shot to death on Feb. 23 in the coastal Georgia city of Brunswick after being followed by Gregory McMichael, 64, his son, Travis McMichael, 34, and their neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan.

All three men — who are white — were indicted by a grand jury in June on murder and aggravated assault charges, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.

Taylor, 26, was killed by Louisville police during a March 13 raid at her apartment. None of the involved officers were charged with her death.

Taylor's killing, as well as the death of Floyd, who died on May 25 in Minneapolis police custody, renewed calls for police reform. In a video of Floyd's arrest, he repeatedly said he could not breathe as now-fired officer Derek Chauvin pinned him to the ground with his knee on his neck.

The death led to Chauvin's firing from the Minneapolis Police Department as well as the termination of Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng. Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter, and the other three with aiding and abetting murder as well as aiding and abetting manslaughter.

California wildfires

California has been ravaged for months by an unprecedented wildfire season that scorched "well over" 4 million acres and resulted in at least 31 deaths.

The largest wildfire in state history is the August Complex Fire that started in Mendocino County. It alone burned 1,032,649 acres, according to the Fresno Bee.

Officials and experts have said that climate change and a buildup of dead and dried-out vegetation across the state's 33 million acres of forestland have contributed to the intense fires.

"While wildfires are a natural part of California’s landscape, the fire season in California and across the West is starting earlier and ending later each year," said the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire.

Flames from the Glass Fire consume the Black Rock Inn, late on Sept. 27, 2020, in St. Helena, Calif.Noah Berger / AP

"Climate change is considered a key driver of this trend. Warmer spring and summer temperatures, reduced snowpack, and earlier spring snowmelt create longer and more intense dry seasons that increase moisture stress on vegetation and make forests more susceptible to severe wildfire."

'Tiger King' makes Netflix debut

In March, Netflix released "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness," a docuseries that explored the bitter feud between animal rights activist Carole Baskin and Oklahoma zookeeper Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as Joe Exotic.

Maldonado-Passage is currently serving 22 years in prison for a number of crimes, including paying a hitman to kill Baskin.

The series was a social media hit and almost instantly became an overnight success. According to the streaming giant, more than 60 million viewers watched the series.

Verzuz becomes a cultural phenomenon

Wanting to give everyone a little escape from the coronavirus pandemic, Timbaland and Swizz Beatz debuted Verzuz, an Instagram Live battle between two musicians. The rappers kicked off the series with their own battle in April, not realizing that it would soon become a cultural pehnomenon.

Over the past several months, millions have watched as artists such as Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle, Beenie Man and Bounty Killer, and Brandy and Monica, among others, played hit for hit.