2012 ESPY Awards: Pat Summitt, Eric LeGrand, Biggest Winners of 2012 ESPYs

Alex SimsCorrespondent IIIJuly 12, 2012

2012 ESPY Awards: Pat Summitt, Eric LeGrand, Biggest Winners of 2012 ESPYs

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    Each year, ESPN hosts the ESPYs, an award show honoring the most outstanding individual athletes, coaches and teams of the previous year.

    Many of these awards are given to athletes who are the most talented and influential figures in sports.

    But some awards are earned by the athletes and coaches who, without a doubt, have changed the sports landscape and impacted many lives with their inspirational performances.

    Here are the biggest winners of the 2012 ESPY awards.

Pat Summitt: Arthur Ashe Courage Award

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    This one is an absolute no-doubter.

    Summitt is the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history with well over 1,000 wins all-time during her tenure at the University of Tennessee.

    UT was a virtual unknown in women's college basketball when Summitt took over in 1974.

    She not only put the Volunteers' women's program on top of the college basketball world during her tenure, but she played a major role in the emergence of women's college basketball as a mainstream sport.

    Last summer, Summitt was diagnosed with early onset dementia, or Alzheimer's disease.

    Many of the winners of the ESPY awards earned that distinction based on their in-game performance. 

    But Summitt transcended the world of sports and earned the Arthur Ashe Courage Award because she overcame one of the most terrifying and unfortunate conditions known to man.

    Her strength was displayed not only in her abilities as a coach, but through her mental fortitude as a human being, and there truly isn't a figure in the sport community more deserving of an award on a night like this than Tennessee's Pat Summitt.

    She will be remembered as one of the greatest coaches and leaders of all time, and this award is just one small display of her many remarkable accomplishments through out her long and successful career.

    It isn't often sport journalists are able to recognize people like Summitt, but she has undoubtedly made an impact on more lives than almost any other person in the history of sports.

Eric LeGrand: Jimmy V Award

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    The story of Eric LeGrand is one of the most inspirational and moving in sports today.

    In 2010, LeGrand suffered a horrific on-field spinal cord injury in which he was paralyzed from the neck down.

    Since then, he has battled courageously to regain movement in his body.

    One of the most powerful moments in sports in the past decade—if not longer—was LeGrand leading Rutgers back out onto the field in 2011, just one year after his injury.

    In 2012, when former Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano moved on to the NFL to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, LeGrand was signed to a contract by Tampa Bay.

    At the 2012 ESPYs, he received the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance.  

    In his acceptance speech (Via ESPN.com), he showed exactly why he earned the award for perseverance: 

    "My dream is to get back on my feet and walk again," he told the audience after a standing ovation. "You can best believe that I'll never give up."

    Being the kind of person he his, perhaps one day, LeGrand will have awards named after him.

LeBron James and the Miami Heat

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    LeBron James may be the best athlete of this generation.

    On July 12, he was honored for just that with three ESPY awards.

    "King James" was named Male Athlete of the Year, NBA Player of the Year and was honored for the best Championship Performance of the Year as he led the Miami Heat to the 2012 NBA title.

    His three ESPYs led all athletes.

    During the incredible postseason run made by the Heat, James played 42.7 minutes per game while scoring 30.3 points and compiling 9.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game to earn his first ring.

    What made his run so remarkable was the intense scrutiny he was under from the NBA media and fans.

    Granted, he brought much of this upon himself when he guaranteed "not five, not six, not seven..." titles when he made his decision to "take his talents to South Beach," but he finally delivered in his second year in Miami.

    There isn't a better player in the NBA right now than LeBron, so these three awards are very deserved to say the least.

Brittney Griner and Baylor

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    Brittney Griner was far and away the best female basketball player in the NCAA last season.

    For that, she was given the Female College Athlete of the Year award.

    During the season she led Baylor to a perfect 40-0 season in which she averaged 23.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 5.2 blocks per game.  

    For that unbelievable performance, she was named the Female Athlete of the Year.

    In her acceptance speech, she gave a shout-out to Title IX, which ultimately created a wealth of opportunities for female athletes in college.

    "Just excited. I wouldn't be here without Title IX," Griner told ESPN backstage. "Everything is just coming together and it feels good to be here."

    The undefeated national title run by Baylor women's basketball team capped off an excellent year for the university's athletic program.

    While Griner was tearing through the women's game, the men on the hardcourt in Waco were having a pretty nice year themselves as they ended 30-8 and advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, only to be knocked out by eventual national champion Kentucky.

    Also during the year, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III won the Heisman Trophy and led the Bears to one of their best seasons in recent history, which earned him the distinction of the Best Male College Athlete. 

    Griner and Griffin's three ESPY awards were just the icing on the cake for Baylor in 2012.

Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings

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    The Los Angeles Kings likely made the most improbable championship run in sports this year.

    They went from the No. 8 seed and having the worst record of all 16 teams to make the NHL playoffs to drinking out of the Stanley Cup.

    In each series, the Kings jumped out to a 3-0 lead, even in the Cup finals against the New Jersey Devils, and finished an unbelievable 16-4 in the playoffs.

    It was all thanks to 26-year-old goalie Jonathan Quick.

    The Milford, Connecticut native sparked the fire that fueled L.A. to the Stanley Cup victory by allowing only 1.41 points per game.

    His save percentage was a smoldering .946 and he had three shutouts after recording only 10 all season long.

    For his efforts, he was named NHL Player of the Year, and the Kings were given the award for the Biggest Upset for their improbable run.