Everyone’s favorite award show (that no one ever complains about or makes fun of) is finally here. The ESPYS air Wednesday night live from Los Angeles, with this year’s program hosted by recently retired NASCAR driver Danica Patrick.
She has pretty medium-sized shoes to fill after Peyton Manning’s aw-dad sense of humor prevailed last year, but between the Olympics, World Cup, a wild March Madness tournament and the usual domestic pro sports topics, Patrick — and the award show — should have plenty of material to cover.
Patrick suggested to USA Today that she’d err on the side of silly, which means we could be in for another year of dad jokes followed by teardrop-laden tales of courage and perseverance in sport.
Fans vote on 35 awards ranging from best male athlete to best Olympic moment. ESPN also awards the Jimmy V Award for Determination, which will go to Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, and the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, which this year will go to the Larry Nassar abuse survivors.
Coaches from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the site of a Valentine’s Day massacre that killed 17 teachers and students, will be posthumously honored with the “Best Coach” award.
Get the popcorn and red wine ready. Here’s what you need to know, along with a prediction of who should win in each major category, and who will win.
When: Wednesday, 8 p.m. Eastern.
Where: Microsoft Theater, Los Angeles.
How to watch/stream: Broadcast live on ABC, streamed on the ESPN app.
Best male athlete
Nominees: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros; James Harden, Houston Rockets; Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals; Tom Brady, New England Patriots.
Ovechkin should win after he transformed his game and led the Capitals to a Stanley Cup championship. Harden will win after averaging 30.4 points per game. It’s a shame he couldn’t lead his team out of the Western Conference.
Best female athlete
Nominees: Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx; Mikaela Shiffrin, downhill skiing; Chloe Kim, snowboarding; Julie Ertz; Chicago Red Stars/U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team.
Kim should and will win after stealing the conversation from the PyeongChang Olympics for a solid week following her dramatic win on the halfpipe. Kim was dominant and physical on a snowboard in a way few female athletes have been before.
Best Olympic moment
Nominees: Shaun White, snowboarding; Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall, cross-country skiing; U.S. Men’s Curling; USA Women’s Hockey.
Diggins and Randall should win for their cross-country ski team sprint gold medal. It was the first Olympic gold medal in cross-country skiing, considered one of the Games’ most physically grueling sports, in American history.
The American women’s hockey team will win. The sport had a larger audience and a more recognizable ending. Plus, who could forget the “Oops, I did it again” move?
Best championship performance
Nominees: George Springer, Houston Astros, in the World Series; Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors, in the NBA Finals; Donte DiVincenzo, Villanova men’s basketball, in the national championship game.
Springer should win for his clutch gene in the World Series. He batted .379 with 11 hits, five of them home runs, in the seven-game series. Durant will win after being named NBA Finals MVP for the second straight year. His championship performance was impressive, but Golden State was so clearly the better team. It’s hard to fully understand how much of a difference Durant’s 28.8 points per game really made.
Best breakthrough athlete
Nominees: Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints; Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers; Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz; Sloane Stephens, tennis.
Notice the award does not use the term “rookie.” Even so, Mitchell should and will win. Simmons’ potential was a known quantity among fans and NBA executives. Mitchell, who now looks like one of the league’s next worldwide stars, was a revelation.
Nominees: Houston Astros def. Los Angeles Dodgers, World Series Game 5; Georgia Bulldogs def. Oklahoma Sooners, Rose Bowl; USA Women’s Hockey def. Canada, Winter Olympics.
None of these should win. How the College Football Playoff championship between Georgia and Alabama didn’t make it on here is beyond reason. Still, the Rose Bowl will win. In a toss-up category like this, the sport with the most passionate fan base — in this case, college football — comes out on top at the ballot box.
Nominees: Minnesota Vikings def. New Orleans Saints in NFC championship game; Notre Dame def. Mississippi State to win NCAA women’s tournament; Vegas Golden Knights def. Winnipeg Jets to advance to Stanley Cup Finals; No. 16 seed UMBC upsets No. 1 seed Virginia.
UMBC should and will win. The Retrievers played perhaps the most polished college basketball game of the tournament and made history in the process. They didn’t just beat Virginia. They walloped Virginia. By 20.
Nominees: Houston Astros; Philadelphia Eagles; USA Women’s Hockey; Notre Dame women’s basketball; Villanova men’s basketball; Golden State Warriors; Washington Capitals.
If you’re looking for a complete team, Villanova should win. The Wildcats had a .900 winning percentage, and after a dicey start in the national championship game, ran Michigan out of the gym. The Philadelphia Eagles will win. There’s too much magic left in “Philly Special.” Plus, the “complete team” argument could apply to the Eagles. When Carson Wentz went down injured, Nick Foles filled in under center more than admirably.
Best college athlete
Nominees: Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma football; Jalen Brunson, Villanova men’s basketball; Katie Ledecky, Stanford swimming; A’ja Wilson, South Carolina women’s basketball.
Ledecky should win. She’s proved all over the world that she is better at swimming than anybody is at anything else. She is a dominant athlete in a way athletes have rarely been dominant before. Mayfield will win because college football is king, and voters will interpret this question as another way of asking “Who won the Heisman Trophy?”
There are 16 nominees. Here are the ones that deserve consideration:
- Philly Special: Eagles fool Patriots with fourth-down TD toss to Foles.
- Alabama wins national title on 41-yard OT TD pass from Tua Tagovailoa to Devonta Smith.
- Gareth Bale scores go-ahead bicycle kick goal in Champions League final.
Bale’s bicycle kick should win. Consider the difficulty level of scoring a goal while doing a backflip against the second-best soccer club in Europe and then consider the stakes: it sealed the match for Real Madrid in a sporting event the rest of the world prioritizes over the Super Bowl. Philly Special will win because football is king and it is among the gutsiest play calls in Super Bowl history.
Best NFL player
Nominees: Tom Brady, New England Patriots; Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams; Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers; Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams.
Seeing as Brady is the only one on this list with a Super Bowl ring (actually, he’s got five) and the only one to ever play for a Super Bowl (well, Brown played in Super Bowl XLV, but only caught one pass for three yards), Brady should win and will win. The GOAT is the GOAT for a reason.
Best MLB player
Nominees: Aaron Judge, New York Yankees; Jose Altuve, Houston Astros; Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels; Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals.
Trout should win and should win overwhelmingly. The Angels outfielder is having a Ted Williams-esque season, batting .310 with 84 walks. He practically reaches base every other plate appearance, and he is hands down the best defender among the nominees. Judge will win because home runs are cool and the Yankee slugger hits a lot of them. Just saying, Trout homered, too, in the All-Star Game on Tuesday night.
Best NHL player
Nominees: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals; Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins; Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers; Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights.
Ovechkin should win. He’s got the Cup. He’s got the Conn Smythe Trophy. He led the NHL in goals all while changing his game to focus more on defense and puck possession. And, if we want to play process of elimination, he beat Crosby and Fleury this year on the way to the Cup. Crosby will win because life isn’t fair and there are a lot of Ovechkin haters out there. Also, Crosby is pretty good at hockey and has beaten Ovechkin in the playoffs three times.
Best NBA player
Nominees: James Harden, Houston Rockets; LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers/Los Angeles Lakers; Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans; Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks.
Are we really gonna do this? LeBron James should win and will win. Why? Because he’s head and shoulders better than everyone else on this list.
Best WNBA player
Nominees: Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx; Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks; Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx; Skylar Diggins-Smith, Dallas Wings.
Sylvia Fowles should and will win. She’s averaging 16.7 points per game and 11.9 rebounds. No one else on the list comes close to matching that kind of production.
Best male Olympian
Nominees: Shaun White, snowboarding; Red Gerard, snowboarding; David Wise, halfpipe skiing; John Shuster, curling.
Gerard should win after his victory in slopestyle in PyeongChang was the first American gold medal of the Games. White will win on the back of name recognition, but another gold medal showing in PyeongChang certainly doesn’t hurt.
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