ESPY Awards 2013: Most Intriguing Categories at This Year's Event

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistJuly 17, 2013

In most instances, the ESPY Awards come and go without much fanfare. However, this year's event will feature a few interesting battles when it airs Wednesday night at 9 p.m. ET. 

There are plenty of categories featuring a single player in each who is a virtual lock to win. Miguel Cabrera is likely to be named the best baseball player, while LeBron James will almost certainly win the award for the top player in the NBA. 

Considering both are nominated for the Best Male Athlete Award, it should be assumed that they are the top competitors in their respective sport.

However, it will be interesting to see who is declared the winner in a few of the other categories. Here are the most intriguing competitions at the 2013 ESPYs.


Best Breakthrough Athlete

Contenders: Colin Kaepernick, Johnny Manziel, Yasiel Puig, Mike Trout and Russell Wilson

Not only have these players put together impressive debuts, but all of them are among the most popular in their sport.

Yasiel Puig is pretty much the odd man out, as he has only played for six weeks, although his production in that time has been nothing short of amazing.

Still, he is overmatched in this incredible field.

Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson were impressive as dual-threat quarterbacks and will be battling in the NFC West for many years to come. Mike Trout would have likely been MVP in any other year, but Miguel Cabrera's Triple Crown tipped the scales in his favor. 

However, it is hard for any of them to match Johnny Manziel, who became the first freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy.

It is likely we have not seen the last of any of these men, but the way in which each of them burst onto the scene was totally captivating, and it will be hard to choose one above the rest.


Best Comeback

Contenders: Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson, Buster Posey, Mariano Rivera

Although the Comeback Player of the Year is an official award in the NFL, it is usually overlooked in favor of some of the more prestigious honors. However, the race this past season was one of the most debated in years.

Peyton Manning missed the entire 2011 season before returning as one of the elite quarterbacks in pro football, leading the Denver Broncos to a 13-3 regular-season record.

On the other hand, Adrian Peterson was just as impressive, rushing for over 2,000 yards after tearing his ACL and MCL a mere year and a half ago.

Although Manning won the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year award, either one could win the ESPY.

Of course, that does not mean that Buster Posey should be counted out, either. After missing almost three quarters of the 2011 season, he won the 2012 NL MVP award and led the San Francisco Giants to a World Series title.

Mariano Rivera is still in the midst of his final season after tearing his ACL 24 games into the 2012 campaign and is unlikely to win, but the other three contenders should be incredibly close.


Best International Athlete

Contenders: Usain Bolt, Novak Djokovic, Juan Manuel Marquez, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo

This award will be compelling in a couple of ways, not only showing which athlete is the best of this group, but also which sport the voters respect the most.

Americans are not known for their admiration of soccer, especially in comparison to the rest of the world, which could hurt the two in this category. However, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are household names and clearly represent the top two in their sport.

Then again, those fans are likely to split the votes.

Usain Bolt was amazing at the London Olympics last summer and won three more gold medals to make it six in his career. The question is whether he has been forgotten a year later, which is common for Olympic athletes.

Novak Djokovic has to deal with the fact that he only won a single Grand Slam title in the last calendar year, which is usually all that casual fans watch.

Juan Manuel Marquez experienced what was perhaps the highlight of his boxing career when he knocked Manny Pacquiao out cold in the sixth round of their bout back in December. However, Pacquiao is past his prime and seems to be more focused on his political status in recent years. Everyone is already looking ahead to the superfight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, as the Marquez/Pacquiao fight now feels like a distant memory.

All of these athletes have pros and cons, and it will be fascinating to see who wins the ESPY for Best International Athlete.

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    Iconic Sports Illustrated Writer Deford Dies at Age 78

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    Iconic Sports Illustrated Writer Deford Dies at Age 78

    Tyler Conway
    via Bleacher Report