It's not the Oscars, the Emmys or even the Tony Awards, but the ESPY Awards have reached a remarkable place in American society. The best moments and the top athletes in sports are formally recognized, and this year's list of luminaries is truly special. The ESPYs were handed out Wednesday night at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, as the top athletes, teams and moments were celebrated at t...
It's not the Oscars, the Emmys or even the Tony Awards, but the ESPY Awards have reached a remarkable place in American society. The best moments and the top athletes in sports are formally recognized, and this year's list of luminaries is truly special.
The ESPYs were handed out Wednesday night at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, as the top athletes, teams and moments were celebrated at the 25th annual awards show, as were a number of heartwarming moments of inspiration for courage inside and outside the sporting arena..
Here is a look at the list of the most notable individual award winners, followed by a deeper look at three of the victors.
Top ESPY Awards
Best Male Athlete: Russell Westbrook, NBA
Best Female Athlete: Simone Biles, Olympic gymnast
Best Breakthrough Athlete: Dak Prescott, NFL
Best Championship Performance: Kevin Durant, NBA
Best Record-Breaking Performance: Michael Phelps, Olympic swimmer
Best NFL Player: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Dak Prescott landed the Best Breakthrough Athlete ESPY, then landed in the @BallersHBO photo booth. https://t.co/tbBAvCGLQ62017-7-13 00:43:33
Dak Prescott, Best Breakthrough Athlete
The first award handed out was to one of the best and brightest—and also one of the most competitive.
Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys was a worthy winner, but he had to overcome the record-breaking achievement of New York Yankees rookie Aaron Judge.
The slugging centerfielder has belted 30 home runs midway through his rookie year, overpowering a team record held by Joe DiMaggio prior to the All-Star break. Judge followed up on that by obliterating the competition in the Home Run Derby at Marlins Park Monday night.
Prescott had his own list of credentials after taking over as the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys in 2016. The Mississippi State product was given the opportunity after veteran quarterback Tony Romo suffered a preseason back injury, and few expected him to thrive.
But from the first week of the season, Prescott showed off a razor-sharp passing arm, excellent instincts in the pocket and superb athleticism. More than the numbers, Prescott demonstrated remarkable leadership and maturity, as it seemed that he was able to handle every aspect of the job.
Prescott led the Cowboys to a 13-3 regular-season record, the best in the NFC. He had 23 TD passes during the regular season and just four interceptions. He also ran for six touchdowns.
The selfless Prescott thanked his family and teammates after receiving the award.
"I've got to thank my teammates," Prescott said on the ABC broadcast (h/t ESPN.com). "All those great vets that allowed me to come in as a rookie and just take over the team and propelled me to do so."
Kevin Durant, Best Championship Performance
Kevin Durant's decision to sign a contract with the Golden State Warriors was criticized in many corners.
The great scorer from the Oklahoma City Thunder had been frustrated in his bid for a championship, and many saw it as a capitulation of sorts when he signed with the high-powered Warriors.
While many said the Dubs were a cinch to win the title after Durant joined up Steph Curry, Klay Thompson & Co., it was never quite that simple.
Yes, Golden State was a stellar team that was determined to regain the championship it had lost the year before to a worthy Cleveland Cavaliers outfit. But Durant could not just walk in and automatically play at a championship level. He had to fit in with his new teammates so his talent could do the talking when it mattered most.
The Warriors had a brilliant campaign, earning the best NBA record during the regular season, and they went on a spectacular roll during the postseason. They swept their first three playoff opponents before meeting the Cavs in the NBA Finals for the third year in a row.
Golden State got its revenge, beating Cleveland in five games. Durant was magnificent, as he averaged 35.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists with a .556 field goal percentage in the final series.
While he shared the court with Curry, Thompson and Cleveland superstar LeBron James, Durant was the best player on the floor and earned the honor of having the best championship performance of all.
Simone Biles, Best Female Athlete
Olympic gymnast Simone Biles had a stellar year, and she was one of the breakout performers of the Rio de Janiero Games.
Biles won gold in the individual all-around, the vault and the floor exercise. Her electric performances throughout the Olympics helped make her a star on the world stage.
The 20-year-old tiny Texan—she's 4'8"—put on a remarkable show throughout the events and helped the Final Five reach new heights for the U.S. Olympic team.
The pressure on Biles was intense, and it could have crushed a lesser athlete. However, that pressure helped her raise her game to the greatest heights when it mattered most.