The 2013 ESPY Awards promises to be a great mix of excitement, fun, intrigue and unexpected results.
With so many award races wide open and possessing the possibility to go to any of the nominees, it’s definitely worth your while to tune in on Wednesday evening to catch all the action.
Let’s take a look at where you can catch the broadcast, followed by my rankings of the toughest categories to predict.
I’ll then try to make sense of the madness by projecting a winner for each one, so keep on reading to find out who may end up taking home some hardware.
When: Wednesday, July 17, at 9 p.m. ET
Where: Nokia Theatre, Los Angeles, Calif.
Host: Jon Hamm
Where to Vote: ESPYs 2013
Toughest Award Rankings
3. Best Breakthrough Athlete
Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M Football
Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers
Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
This is a difficult category, as each of the five players on it are deserving of recognition for bursting onto the scene and making an instant impact.
Kaepernick and Wilson took the NFL by storm, leading their respective clubs to the playoffs in their first years as starters.
While Wilson ultimately fell short in the NFC Divisional Round matchup, Kaepernick guided his 49ers all the way to the Super Bowl before getting ousted by the Ravens.
Trout was one of the best players in baseball during his rookie season and has continued his success in 2013. He’s a bona fide superstar and will not be slowing down anytime soon.
Puig is relatively new on the scene, but he has had one of the most incredible first few weeks of a career in the history of the game. As of the All-Star break, the Cuban sensation is batting .391 with eight home runs in just 151 at bats.
However, I’m giving the Breakthrough Athlete award to Johnny Manziel, as the Aggies quarterback did the impossible and became the first freshman signal-caller to win the Heisman Trophy.
During his first season in College Station, Johnny Football burst onto the scene with incredible stats and led his squad to an impressive win over the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide—a team that went on to win the national championship.
Don’t be surprised if Manziel adds yet another piece of hardware to his rapidly expanding mantel on Wednesday.
Prediction: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M Football
2. Best Comeback
Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees
It’s clear that sports medicine and surgery has made major strides over the past few years, as a number of high-profile athletes went down with major injuries and came back better than ever this past season.
Peyton Manning missed all of the 2012 campaign with a neck injury and defected from the Indianapolis Colts to the Denver Broncos, but the quarterback didn’t miss a beat upon his return.
The veteran superstar led his new club to the best record in football and the No. 1 seed in the AFC, but Manning and the Broncos failed to advance past the divisional round come the postseason.
Posey needed season-ending surgery in 2011 but returned in 2012 to win the NL MVP award and guide his Giants to their second World Series title in three years.
Rivera went down early in the 2012 season while shagging fly balls but vowed to return for another run in 2013. So far he has lived up to his promise and has 30 saves, a 1.83 ERA and a promise to see the mound in the All-Star Game on Tuesday night.
Adrian Peterson deserves the most credit, though, as the Vikings running back absolutely dominated in 2012.
AP helped guide his downtrodden franchise—which won three games in 2011—to 10 wins and an extremely unlikely playoff appearance.
Despite facing stacked boxes on a weekly basis, All Day rushed for 2,097 yards and 12 touchdowns. It was a valiant effort and ended up just shy of Eric Dickerson’s single-season market of 2,105.
He won the NFL MVP for his incredible display of talent and heart and is clearly deserving of the “Best Comeback” ESPY for the same reasons.
Prediction: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
1. Best Male Athlete
Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
LeBron James, Miami Heat
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
Michael Phelps, Olympic Swimming
It’s been an incredible year for male athletes, and picking a winner in this category is certainly going to be the tallest task on the ESPY voters’ slate.
Who will win Best Male Athlete?
Miguel Cabrera made history by becoming the first Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski accomplished the incredible feat back in 1967.
However, baseball is now skewing toward advanced stats and many in that camp felt that Mike Trout had a better season than the Tigers slugger, so that will eliminate him from contention here.
Peterson is taking home a trophy for his comeback season and will be honored already during the broadcast, plus his Vikings failed to do anything in the postseason and were promptly eliminated by two touchdowns against the rival Green Bay Packers.
The competition is going to come down to Michael Phelps and LeBron James, as both made history and were undeniably crowned as champions in their respective sports.
Phelps became the most decorated Olympian in the long and prestigious history of the Games, but he didn’t dominate the way he did back in Beijing in 2008. He only captured four gold medals and had to settle for silver in the 200-meter butterfly and 4x100-meter freestyle relay.
James was better than ever in his second championship performance, leading his Heat past the San Antonio Spurs in seven grueling contests, including a legendary Game 6 performance.
He’s now primed to compete with Michael Jordan for the title of greatest of all time, and it should be interesting to watch him compete for a championship each year for the next decade.
Prediction: LeBron James, Miami Heat