The ESPYS rightfully take the time each year to put the spotlight on those things that transcend sports.
While it's great that Kevin Durant took home the Male Athlete of the Year Award, to the detest of many who would have rather seen Peyton Manning get the hardware, more important were those awards that reward the courageous who walk among us and merely use sports as a stepping stone toward something greater.
Drake and Blake Griffin proved fun, but the real moments that should live on were those bestowed with the honor to share their trials and tribulations with the world. Let's take a look at those moments after compiling every award winner from the event.
2014 ESPY Winners
|Best Team||Seattle Seahawks|
|Best Female Athlete||Ronda Rousey|
|Best Male Athlete||Kevin Durant|
|Best Play||Chris Davis' FG Return|
|Best Driver||Ryan Hunter-Reay|
|Best NFL Player||Peyton Manning|
|Best Female U.S. Olympic Athlete||Jamie Anderson|
|Best Male U.S. Olympic Athlete||Sage Kostenburg|
|Best Game||Alabama vs. Auburn, Iron Bowl|
|Best Female Action Sports Athlete||Jamie Anderson|
|Best Male Action Sports Athlete||Nyjah Huston|
|Best Moment||USA defeats Ghana in World Cup|
|Best Comeback Athlete||Russell Westbrook|
|Best Upset||Mercer over Duke, NCAA tournament|
|Best Breakthrough Athlete||Richard Sherman|
|Best Championship Performance||Kawhi Leonard|
|Best Male College Athlete||Doug McDermott|
|Best Female College Athlete||Breanna Stewart|
|Best NBA Player||Kevin Durant|
|Best WNBA Player||Maya Moore|
|Best Coach/Manager||Geno Auriemma|
|Best MLB Player||Miguel Cabrera|
|Best NHL Player||Sidney Crosby|
|Best Male Athlete with a Disability||Declan Farmer|
|Best Female Athlete with a Disability||Jamie Whitmore|
|Best Jockey||Victor Espinoza|
|Best Fighter||Floyd Mayweather|
|Best Male Golfer||Bubba Watson|
|Best Female Golfer||Michelle Wie|
|Best Male Tennis Player||Rafael Nadal|
|Best Female Tennis Player||Maria Sharapova|
|Best Bowler||Pete Weber|
|Best MLS Player||Tim Cahill|
Michael Sam Honored with Arthur Ashe Courage Award
Casual and hardcore fans alike surely know the story of Michael Sam now, the No. 249 overall pick in the 2014 draft by the St. Louis Rams who, more importantly, is the first openly gay player in the NFL.
It was a breathtaking moment in itself to watch Sam as he was drafted, but the courage it took to stand up on Wednesday night and deliver an emphatic, from-the-heart speech in front of millions truly put things into perspective.
The official ESPYs Twitter account captured the moment, and it's one sports fans should appreciate for its ground-breaking nature:
It doesn't matter that Sam has yet to officially make the Rams roster. Even if he falls out of the league entirely like any other late draft pick who has failed to measure up on the field and carve out a niche, Sam's bravery is something that will be looked back upon as a turning point.
The response to his speech Thursday, of course, was resounding. Baseball Prospectus' Joe Hamrahi put it best:
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
Sam didn't just make what was a rather awkward event better; he helped further the sporting world's culture in a positive manner. If that's not a top moment from the night, nothing is.
Josh Sweeney Wins Inaugural Tillman Award
Created by ESPN and the Pat Tillman Foundation to honor the former NFL safety and those who reflect his values with a connection to sports, one would be hard-pressed to find a better qualifier than Josh Sweeney.
Sweeney, 26, stepped on an IED in Afghanistan in 2009 and lost both legs. He was issued the Purple Heart and proceeded to bounce back through sports and scored the lone goal in the Sochi Paralympic gold-medal sledge hockey game against Russia in a hostile environment.
Like Sam, Sweeney's moment was moving:
“I’m extremely honored to be up here and grateful just to be able to receive this award," per Nick Zaccardi of NBC Sports. “I’ve had amazing support these last four years.”
Sweeney's amazing story, pushed globally via sports, should serve as an inspiration for all. The new award, which is already legendary in stature and sure to grow, is in great hands.
Stuart Scott Honored with Jimmy V Award
Perhaps the most riveting moment of the night, and there were many, was when the event dialed in on the plight of SportsCenter anchor Stuart Scott, he of "cooler than the other side of the pillow" fame:
Scott's speech was chilling, to say the least. At the end, he called his daughter up to the stage to cap off the emotional event, one that affected even the most stone-faced of men in the room, as ESPN anchor Doug Kezirian notes:
There have been plenty of memorable speeches in years past at the ESPYs, but if Scott didn't surpass all of them while outlining perseverance and downright human will, he sure came close.
Many things will be remembered from Wednesday, but chief among them is Scott's chronicling his very public battle with cancer and the takeaways we can glean from his message.