The greatest of the greats were feted in Los Angeles on Wednesday night and, in case you missed the 22nd annual awards ceremony, allow me to present a primer because there are two speeches you must see. The ESPYs, which is ESPN’s yearly salute to sports' greatest heroes, zoomed to a different level 21 years ago when Jim Valvano, dying of cancer, made one of the most memorable speeches in history. “Never Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up.”
This year’s winner of the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance was ESPN SportsCenter anchor Stuart Scott, who is suffering from a recurrence of cancer that was first diagnosed seven years ago. He famously said you don’t lose if you die from cancer; you win by the way you handle it while you are alive. Watch his speech; it’s incredible.
The other we all must see is the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, which was given to St. Louis Rams draftee Michael Sams, the great collegiate football player from Missouri who announced he was gay after his senior season. In an emotional tape, his message was “Great things can happen when you have the courage to be yourself.”
You owe it to yourself to watch both tapes.
Among the winners at this year’s ESPYs were:
BEST MOMENT -- The U.S. men's soccer team defeating Ghana 2-1 in its opening game of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. After Ghana tied the game, 21-year-old defender John Brooks headed in a goal off a Graham Zusi corner kick in the 86th minute for the game-winning goal.
BEST GAME – The “Iron Bowl” college football game between Auburn and Alabama. The No. 4 Tigers won 34-28 on a 109-yard run with time expired to upend No. 1 Alabama.
BEST TEAM – The Seattle Seahawks after they won the Super Bowl over Denver.
BEST OVERALL MALE ATHLETE – Kevin Duran of the NBA champion Oklahoma City Thunder, who was also the league’s MVP.
BEST OVERALL FEMALE ATHLETE – Ronda Rousey, a UFC fighter, who was chosen over WNBA star Maya Moore, basketball star Brenna Stewart of UConn, and Olympic skier Mikaela Shiffrin.
PAT TILLMAN AWARD FOR SERVICE – Josh Sweeney, a retired Marine who lost both legs in an Afghanistan explosion but scored the lone goal for the U.S. Sled Team in the Sochi Paralympics.
BEST BREAKOUT ATHLETE – Seattle Seahawk Richard Sherman, who led the NFL in interceptions with eight.
BEST NFL PLAYER – Denver’s Peyton Manning, who was the NFL’s Most Valuable Player for the fifth time.
BEST NBA TEAM – San Antonio Spurs, the NBA champion.
BEST UPSET -- Mercer, the 14th-seeded Bears toppled third-seeded Duke, 78-71, in the first round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
BEST COACH/MANAGER -- Gregg Popovich, who led the Spurs to a league-best 62-20 regular-season record and their fifth NBA championship, earning his third coach of the year award.
BEST CHAMPIONSHIP PERFORMANCE – Kawhi Leonard, who led the Spurs past Miami in the NBA Finals, averaging 17.8 points and 6.4 rebounds on 61 percent shooting. He exploded in the last three games of the series, scoring 71 points on 24-for-35 shooting.
BEST COMEBACK ATHLETE – Russell Westbrook, who missed two months because of a reinjured knee, then returned to the Thunder lineup to help Oklahoma City finish the season with a 59-23 record and the second seed in the Western Conference.
BEST NHL PLAYER – Sidney Crosby, who led the NHL with 104 points on the season, including a league-high 68 assists, 17 points ahead of his closest competitor.
BEST DRIVER – Ryan Hunter-Reay, who became the first American to win the Indianapolis 500 since 2006.
BEST INTERNATIONAL ATHLETE -- Cristiano Ronaldo, the star forward for Portugal and Real Madrid who scored 66 goals in 56 games on his way to winning FIFA's Ballon d'Or Award as World Player of the Year.
BEST MALE COLLEGE ATHLETE – Doug McDermott, winner of the Wooden, U.S. Basketball Writers Association and AP Player of the Year awards who led the country in scoring, averaging 26.7 points per game on 52.6 percent shooting from the field.
BEST FEMALE COLLEGE ATHLETE -- Best Female College Athlete: Breanna Stewart, the Naismith Trophy winner and AP National Player of the Year who averaged 19.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists to lead UConn to a perfect 40-0 record and NCAA title.
BEST MALE TENNIS PLAYER – Rafael Nadal, who racked up a total of 10 ATP tournament wins, including both the French and US Opens, ending the year with the No. 1 ranking.
BEST FEMALE TENNIS PLAYER – Maria Sharapova, who won the 2014 French Open crown. It was her third consecutive French final and her second title.
BEST MALE GOLFER – Bubba Watson, who earned his second green jacket, taking the 2014 Masters title.
BEST FEMALE GOLFER -- Michelle Wie, who earned her first career LPGA major title by taking the U.S. Women's Open at Pinehurst.
BEST WNBA PLAYER -- Maya Moore, who led the Minnesota Lynx to the WNBA championship by averaging 20 points, 6 rebounds and 2.3 assists in the Finals.
BEST MLS PLAYER -- Tim Cahill, who led the New York Red Bulls in scoring with 11 goals, five of them game winners.
BEST MALE U.S. OLYMPIAN -- Sage Kotsenburg, the snowboarder who threw down a fearless and unmatched first run in the slopestyle final to win the gold medal and become the first Olympic champion of the Sochi Games.
BEST FEMALE U.S. OLYMPIAN -- Jamie Anderson, who scored a near-perfect 95.25 on her final run to win the inaugural women's snowboard slopestyle at the Sochi Olympics.
BEST MALE ACTION SPORTS – Nyjah Huston who successfully defended his 2013 Skateboard Street title with a gold medal at X Games Austin in 2014.
BEST BOWLER -- Pete Weber, who won the Barbasol PBA Tournament of Champions to become the first bowler to complete the PBA Triple Crown for a second time.
BEST JOCKEY -- Victor Espinoza, who rode California Chrome to victory in both the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
BEST MALE ATHLETE WITH A DISABILITY -- Declan Farmer, the 16-year-old who helped the U.S. defeat Russia for the sled hockey gold medal at the 2014 Winter Paralympics.
BEST FEMALE ATHLETE WITH A DISABILITY -- Jamie Whitmore, who won gold medals in the time trial and pursuit events with world-record times at the 2014 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships.