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ESPY Awards 2014: Honoring the very best in sports

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The Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Awards, or just simply the ESPY Awards, honored its very best to professional, amateur, and collegiate athletes on ESPN Wednesday night. Live from the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles, it was a star-studded night with two worlds joining in from entertainment and sports. The rapper Drake hosted the event with a massive amount of airtime that should have been reserved for the honorees.

When Drake wasn’t at the podium, or in his many pre-recorded sketches, throughout the two and a half hour telecast, highlights from the year in sports were shown during the opening. Only a select number of categories were presented on air. Three special awards were given that were truly unforgettable.

Oscar-winning actor Jeff Bridges presented the inaugural Pat Tillman Award for Service to Paralympian Josh Sweeney. He scored the winning goal for Team USA in sled hockey at the Winter Paralympics in Sochi. Sweeney lost both his legs while serving in the Marine Corps. While stationed in Afghanistan he stepped on an IED (improvised explosive device).

In 1993 Jimmy Valvano received the first Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the inaugural ESPY Awards. Shortly after he received his ESPY, he passed away from cancer that same year. Now there’s the Jimmy V Perseverance Award in his honor based on cancer research. This year’s recipient is Stuart Scott of ESPN’s “SportsCenter.” Since 2007 he has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, yet Scott is truly living proof of perseverance.

Without question the highlight of the entire evening was the presentation of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award to Michael Sam of the St. Louis Rams. His story was about growing up in a strict Jehovah Witness family with seven other siblings in an extremely dangerous environment in Texas. Most of his brothers and sisters are now either in prison, dead, or missing.

Football was his only way out of poverty, drugs, and crime. During his college years he harbored a secret that was recently revealed during a “truth or dare” locker room moment. Michael came out as a gay athlete. In an unprecedented move he officially came out right before the NFL draft. It was in the seventh round, and as the 250th athlete out of 255, Michael was drafted by the St. Louis Rams. His acceptance speech was one of the most emotional ever given.

During the Best Moment category it was the U.S. Men's National Team at the FIFA World Cup -- USA defeats Ghana who won. Captain Clint Dempsey and other team mates came up on stage to accept the award. Dempsey gave his heart-warming acceptance speech. The crowd chanted USA USA USA to show their appreciation.

A complete list of winners follows, including all categories not presented during the live telecast.

Best Male Athlete

Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

Best Female Athlete

Ronda Rousey, UFC

Best Moment

USA defeats Ghana, World Cup soccer

Best Team

Seattle Seahawks

Best Comeback Athlete

Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

Best Breakthrough Athlete

Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks

Best Championship Performance

Kawhi Leonard, NBA Finals MVP

Best Game

Auburn vs Alabama, Iron Bowl

Best Upset

Mercer over Duke, Men’s NCAA Basketball

Best NFL Player

Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

Best NBA Player

Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

Best MLB Player

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

Best NHL Player

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

Best Driver

Ryan Hunter-Reay, IndyCar

Best Coach/Manager

Geno Auriemma, UConn Women’s Basketball

Best Fighter

Floyd Mayweather, Boxing

Best Bowler

Pete Weber

Best Jockey

Victor Espinoza

Best MLS Player

Tim Cahill, New York Red Bulls

Best Male U.S. Olympian

Sage Kotsenburg, Snowboarding

Best Female U.S. Olympian

Jamie Anderson, Snowboarding

Best International Athlete

Cristiano Ronaldo, Soccer

Best WNBA Player

Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx

Best Male Golfer

Bubba Watson

Best Female Golfer

Michelle Wie

Best Male Tennis Player

Rafael Nadal

Best Female Tennis Player

Maria Sharapova

Best Male College Athlete

Doug McDermott, Creighton Basketball

Best Female College Athlete

Breanna Stewart, UConn Basketball

Best Male Athlete with a Disability

Declan Farmer, Sled Hockey

Best Female Athlete with a Disability

Jamie Whitmore, Cyclist

Best Male Action Sports Athlete

Nyjah Huston, Skateboarding

Best Female Action Sports Athlete

Jamie Anderson, Snowboarding

Best Play

Chris Davis, Auburn Field Goal Return

Pat Tillman Award for Service

Josh Sweeney, Sled Hockey

Jimmy V Perseverance Award

Stuart Scott, SportsCenter Anchor

Arthur Ashe Courage Award

Michael Sam, St. Louis Rams

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