Tiger, NY Giants, Parker Big Winners at ESPYs

Associated Press
Thursday, July 17, 2008; 12:26 AM

LOS ANGELES -- Tiger Woods won three trophies at the ESPY Awards on Wednesday night, including his fifth male athlete of the year award, giving him a career-leading 21 wins in the show's 16-year history.

Woods surpassed retired cyclist Lance Armstrong for most wins as male athlete. He earned his fourth consecutive ESPY for best golfer and won best championship performance for his playoff victory at the U.S. Open on a bad left knee.

Woods is at home in Florida recuperating from last month's knee surgery, causing him to miss this week's British Open and the rest of the PGA season.

Singer Justin Timberlake, an avid golfer and Memphis Tigers fan, hosted the show honoring the year's best sports moments and athletes, which moved this year to the Nokia Theatre downtown. It airs Sunday at 9 p.m. EDT on ESPN.

Timberlake performed an original rock opera that showcased his passion for sports. He repeatedly zinged Los Angeles Galaxy star David Beckham, who sat in the front row with his wife, Victoria.

"Dude, I got to give you props. Single-handedly you made soccer in America this much more popular," Timberlake said, holding his thumb and index finger an inch apart. "I call it soccer because in America we already have a game dudes play called football."

The Super Bowl champion New York Giants tied Woods with three victories: best game, best upset and best play, which was David Tyree's leaping catch of quarterback Eli Manning's pass that kept the team's game-winning drive alive.

Being with his teammates again had recently retired defensive end Michael Strahan joking that he's considering a comeback, a la Brett Favre.

"There's mornings I wake up and I feel like calling the Giants, especially after watching Brett, and saying, 'If it's not going to be a big deal like the Brett Favre situation, I'd like to come back,'" Strahan said backstage, drawing laughter from his teammates.

"We're having a controversy in New York. I want my position back. The gap attack is back," a smiling Strahan said, exposing the famous gap in his front teeth.

Candace Parker was a double winner, earning female athlete of the year and female college athlete honors. She led Tennessee to its second consecutive NCAA national championship before becoming the WNBA's No. 1 draft pick and going to the Los Angeles Sparks.

"I'm just excited I got to meet David Beckham," said Parker, who received her trophy from the English superstar. "I grew up playing soccer, so I love David Beckham. I was thinking, 'Don't trip, don't trip.' He's truly an inspiration."

Tennis players Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova, along with Woods, boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., NHL star Sidney Crosby and bowler Norm Duke repeated as winners in their individual sports categories. Like Woods, Federer won his category for the fourth straight year.

Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton was chosen as comeback of the year, having successfully battled drug addiction to reach the major leagues. Tuesday, Hamilton hit a record 28 homers in the first round of the All-Star Home Run Derby.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award nearly 40 years after their black power salute on the medals stand at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

The track stars bowed their heads and raised their black-gloved fists toward the sky as the national anthem played, an action they said represented the struggle for racial equality but got them kicked out of the games. The Ashe award is given to individuals whose contributions transcend sports.

"So many times people have tried to split Mr. Smith and I up," Carlos told the crowd. "None of those snipes will ever, ever erase the history that Mr. Smith and I have. We are one and we will continue to be one."

Smith noted that he and Carlos have had differing opinions in the ensuing years, but he said, "The important thing about Carlos and Smith is the issues are the same about human rights."

Former Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett was given the Jimmy V ESPY for Perseverance, named for the late North Carolina State basketball coach Jim Valvano.

Everett sustained what was thought to be a paralyzing spinal cord injury during the 2007 season opener, but after rehabilitation, he is walking again.

"I had to persevere from this injury. It was tough and I'm real nervous right now," he told the crowd. "I'm real happy I can be here standing before everybody. Jimmy V. said never give up. That's the main thing I told myself every day lying in the hospital bed."

The best moment category honored Western Oregon's Sara Tucholsky, along with Central Washington's Mallory Holtman and Liz Wallace, for their sportsmanship during a Division II softball game.

Tucholsky homered, but missed first base and started back to tag it when she collapsed with a knee injury. Holtman and Wallace, her opponents, stunned fans by carrying Tucholsky around the bases so the three-run homer would count.

The ensuing attention they received has been enjoyable, Tucholsky said, but she admitted, "Tearing your ACL is not fun."

Winners in all but the Jimmy V, Arthur Ashe and comeback categories were determined by online fan voting for the fifth consecutive year.

© 2008 The Associated Press