ESPY 2013 Winners: Ranking the Most Deserving Athletes Who Took Home Hardware

Brian Mazique@@UniqueMaziqueCorrespondent IIIJuly 19, 2013

ESPY 2013 Winners: Ranking the Most Deserving Athletes Who Took Home Hardware

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    The ESPYs ceremony was classy, funny and star-studded. You know a gala is big-time when you're more surprised when winners are absent than you are when they are present.

    The show again did a great job of maintaining legitimacy while still incorporating fan participation. That's not an easy line to walk, but ESPN accomplished the goal in its 20th year.

    LeBron James shined the brightest of all the traditional athletes at the ceremony. He won three individual ESPYs and shared one with his Miami Heat teammates for Best Team.

    While James got the most hardware, inspirational stories from the likes of Arthur Ashe Courage Award winner Robin Roberts, pediatric brain cancer survivor Jack Hoffman, and the father-son duo of Dick and Rick Hoyt were the most memorable.

    The athletes, the fashion and the humor carry some appeal, but Roberts, Hoffman and the Hoyts left the most indelible impression.

    Including King James, here are the most deserving athletes who were honored with awards at the 2013 ESPYs. 

5. Johnny Manziel

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    Johnny Football has gotten some bad press over the last few months, but that shouldn't diminish what he did on the football field in 2012.

    He became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy and was the biggest key in Texas A&M handing Alabama its only loss of the season.

    The former distinction earned him Best Collegiate Athlete, but he also deserved Best Breakthrough Athlete more than Colin Kaepernick. After all, Kaepernick lost in the Super Bowl. In the grand scheme of things, he didn't have as big of an impact on the sport as Manziel did.

    Perhaps the other side of fame cost Manziel a few votes in that race.

4. Michael Phelps

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    Michael Phelps has had more dominant performances in the Olympics in his swimming career than he did in 2012. He only won two individual gold medals in the London Olympics as opposed to the five he won in 2008 in Beijing and four in Athens in 2004.

    Nevertheless, it is hard to argue with Phelps taking home top U.S. Male Olympic Athlete and Best Record-Breaking Performance. Phelps did win four gold and two silver medals in London to equal 22 medals in his Olympic career.

    That makes him the most decorated Olympian of all time. It's hard to top that record-breaking performance. 

3. Adrian Peterson

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    Adrian Peterson's remarkable 2012 season deserves significant recognition and the awards keep rolling in for him. Simply rushing for 1,200 yards after tearing his ACL would have probably still won him Best Comeback. 

    The fact that Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards—just nine shy of Eric Dickerson's all-time record—made it academic.

    Such a strong regular season made Peterson the favorite for the best NFL player, though Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning could have feasibly edged him out. 

    All things considered, no one can reasonably complain about either of AD's ESPYs. 

2. Serena Williams

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    Serena Williams wasn't in attendance at the ESPYs. She is playing in the Swedish Open and probably still stewing from losing to Sabine Lisicki in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon.

    There hasn't been much failure on the court for Serena over the last year, though. She won Wimbledon in 2012, won an Olympic gold medal in London and clearly re-asserted herself as the best female tennis player in the world.

    No female athlete was as dominant in any sport, so Williams winning Best Female Athlete and Best Female Tennis player was a lock. 

1. LeBron James

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    LeBron James did just about everything possible in 2012 and the first half of 2013. He won the NBA MVP twice, NBA Finals MVP twice, an Olympic gold medal and a great deal of fan approval he lost with The Decision.

    King James is truly king of the sports world. He deserved all three individual ESPYs, and it is difficult to dispute the Miami Heat winning as Best Team.

    James was also a key contributor in the Heat winning Game 6 of the NBA Finals, which won the ESPY for Best Game. Has any teenage phenom in the history of sports ever lived up to the hype as much as James?