The 2014 ESPY Awards might not have been the biggest night in sports, but the event possibly boasted the highest volume of star power.
The worlds of sports and entertainment once again collided in Los Angeles for one of ESPN's biggest events of the summer. Drake, the show's host, was given the pressure of leading the way and providing a steady hand for the night's festivities.
Drake hit a nice balance between comedy and uneasiness with the opener. He had some good jokes and wasn't afraid to lay into some of the athletes inside the Nokia Theatre.
The highlight was arguably the "Lance Cam," which entailed Drake blowing in the ear of Lance Stephenson, much as the former Indiana Pacers guard did to LeBron James in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Drake and Stephenson then together and blew into the ears of Paul George:
The production crew had a little fun with Shabazz Napier, cutting away to the Miami Heat's first-round pick when Drake began talking about LeBron James' return to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Napier's social media activity regarding LeBron has come under the microscope of late.
ESPN.com's Royce Young summed up the cutaway best:
That cut to Shabazz Napier was COLD.— Royce Young (@royceyoung) July 17, 2014
Shortly after the monologue, the focus was on Drake once again, this time in a pre-taped sketch with Blake Griffin in which they tried to determine whose name would be first in a potential blockbuster movie. You can see the full skit below:
The most entertaining part of the video was each star impersonating one another, as seen here:
Of course, the ESPY Awards are about celebrating the top stars in sports. You can see the list of award winners below.
|Male Athlete||Kevin Durant||Jockey||Victor Espinoza|
|Female Athlete||Ronda Rousey||MLS Player||Tim Cahill|
|Moment||USMNT vs. Ghana||Male U.S. Olympian||Sage Kotsenburg|
|Team||Seattle Seahawks||Female U.S. Olympian||Jamie Anderson|
|Comeback Athlete||Russell Westbrook||International Athlete||Cristiano Ronaldo|
|Breakthrough Athlete||Richard Sherman||WNBA Player||Maya Moore|
|Championship Performance||Kawhi Leonard||Male Golfer||Bubba Watson|
|Game||Auburn vs. Alabama||Female Golfer||Michelle Wie|
|Upset||Mercer over Duke||Male Tennis Player||Rafael Nadal|
|NFL Player||Peyton Manning||Female Tennis Player||Maria Sharapova|
|NBA Player||Kevin Durant||Male College Athlete||Doug McDermott|
|MLB Player||Miguel Cabrera||Female College Athlete||Breanna Stewart|
|NHL Player||Sidney Crosby||Male Athlete with a Disability||Declan Farmer|
|Driver||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Female Athlete with a Disability||Jamie Whitmore|
|Coach/Manager||Gregg Popovich||Male Action Sports Athlete||Nyjah Huston|
|Fighter||Floyd Mayweather||Female Action Sports Athlete||Jamie Anderson|
|Bowler||Pete Weber||Play||Chris Davis in Iron Bowl|
|Pat Tillman Award||Josh Sweeney||Record-Breaking Performance||Peyton Manning|
|Arthur Ashe Award||Michael Sam||Jimmy V Award||Stuart Scott|
Ronda Rousey took home the award for Best Female Athlete in a decision that can have few dissenters, mostly because she'll lock you in an armbar if you thought somebody else should've won. In all seriousness, Rousey is one of the most dominant athletes in sports, full stop. She was a deserving winner.
On the male side, Kevin Durant added another award to his already full trophy case. The Oklahoma City Thunder star had the best individual season in basketball last year, so it made sense that he walked away with Best Male Athlete.
Though he couldn't match some of those in attendance in terms of star power, Michael Sam was a true highlight of the night with his acceptance speech after he won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
He spoke from the heart, recalling his story and the difficulties after he announced he was gay. Sam closed with some advice to those who might be having trouble feeling accepted. You can see two of the more powerful statements below, per the ESPY Awards Twitter account:
“I am here tonight to say the lessons I’ve learned about love and respect and being true to yourself will never leave me.” - @MichaelSamNFL— ESPYS 2014 (@ESPYS) July 17, 2014
Sam's speech was met with near universal praise on social media.
Kathryn Lucchesi, who's a multimedia director for the Missouri football team, tweeted out how proud she was of the former Tigers star:
Michael Sam's speech was simply amazing. Incredible. I am so, so proud of him for getting up on stage and sharing his heart. #mizzoufamily— Kathryn Lucchesi (@KatLucchesi) July 17, 2014
Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star and Baseball Prospectus' Joe Hamrahi both commented that the moment stood in contrast to most of the fluff and fun from the show:
Michael Sam with a powerful, authentic moment interrupting a manufactured TV show. Incredibly well done.— Sam Mellinger (@mellinger) July 17, 2014
I was about to turn off the ESPYs but glad I didn't. That acceptance speech by Michael Sam just made a difficult day a lot better.— Joe Hamrahi (@JHamrahi) July 17, 2014
Jim Valvano's speech from the 1993 ESPY Awards has taken on an almost mythic quality in the event's history. Over time, perhaps Sam's speech can take on the same kind of importance.
And just when everybody was coming down from that, ESPN SportsCenter anchor Stuart Scott was given the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance. Scott delivered an emotional, heartfelt speech about his ongoing battle with cancer that resonated throughout the crowd. It was cut straight from the Valvano cloth in that Scott was equal parts introspective and defiant.
At the end of his speech, he shared an onstage embrace with his daughter:
ESPN anchor Doug Kezirian tweeted out that the speech had broken even the normally stoic Gregg Popovich:
Another ESPN anchor, John Buccigross, saluted his SportsCenter colleague:
The 2012 Jimmy V Award winner, Eric LeGrand, also offered kind words for Scott:
Sam and Scott were undoubtedly the highlights of the night. Their respective speeches were incredibly moving and powerful.
When the 2014 ESPY Awards are discussed down the line, those two will dominate the discussion.