A certain list of awards will always get extra recognition at ESPN’s ESPY Awards, and the 2014 version of the event was no different.
Kevin Durant took home the title of best male athlete, while Ronda Rousey was named the best female athlete. The Seattle Seahawks were named the best team instead of the history-setting San Antonio Spurs, and Auburn’s Chris Davis was given the award for best play for his dramatic touchdown return off a missed field goal to beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl.
However, there were some awards that didn’t get as much coverage during the event. With that in mind, here is a closer look at three under-the-radar results from ESPN’s ceremony.
Best Comeback Athlete: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Russell Westbrook was named the best comeback athlete, and the NBA was quick to congratulate one of its own:
There was so much focus in the NBA on Derrick Rose’s fragile knees this past season that Westbrook’s return from injury was overshadowed a bit. Still, this award was a testament to the Oklahoma City Thunder star’s work ethic and determination, which helped him thrive on the court this year.
In 46 games, Westbrook posted nightly averages of 21.8 points, 6.9 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 1.9 steals, but he was even better in the postseason. There, he averaged 26.7 points, 8.1 assists, 7.3 rebounds and 2.2 steals a game.
Westbrook helped lead the Thunder to the Western Conference Finals, and if it hadn’t been for an injury to Serge Ibaka, they could have won the entire title.
The point guard would likely much rather have won the Larry O’Brien Trophy than an ESPY, but he certainly deserves the recognition after overcoming a long road back from injury.
Best NBA Player: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Wednesday was just Oklahoma City’s day.
Durant was named the best NBA player over the likes of Blake Griffin, LeBron James and Joakim Noah. It is somewhat strange that this is an under-the-radar award, but it was one that didn’t have any presenters or television time during the broadcast.
Durant also won best male athlete over the likes of the record-setting Peyton Manning among others and was recognized on stage for that. ESPN Stats & Info provided some clues as to why Durant was so successful on ESPY night:
Durant won the NBA MVP Award, so the argument can be made that this wasn’t a huge surprise. Still, any time someone not named James wins a “best player” award and basketball is involved, it is sure to turn some heads.
It was also somewhat notable that Noah was a candidate, considering how he is very rarely included in the best-player-in-the-world type of discussion. He was a first-team All-NBA player and demonstrated admirable leadership in Rose’s absence, though.
Durant was certainly gracious in victory after his being named the best male athlete, according to Beth Harris of the Associated Press, via The Oklahoman:
Everybody helped me out along the way. My beautiful mom watching at home who couldn’t be here. My favorite teammate, Russell Westbrook.
Best Male College Athlete: Doug McDermott, Creighton Basketball
Doug McDermott was named the best male college athlete over Johnny Gaudreau of Boston College hockey, David Taylor of Penn State wrestling, Lyle Thompson of Albany lacrosse and Jameis Winston of Florida State football.
There are some unknowns on there for sure, but it was notable that a basketball player from Creighton knocked off the reigning Heisman Trophy winner in this category. McDermott’s new team, the Chicago Bulls, congratulated him:
If you take a step back, it’s not difficult to see why McDermott was given this recognition. He dominated at the college level and led the nation with 26.7 points a night. He finished his career with more than 3,000 points and 1,000 rebounds and earned first-team All-American honors three straight years.
The question now becomes whether he can parlay this ESPY into a successful rookie season.
McDermott will ideally provide an offensive spark for the Bulls, who struggled on that end of the floor last year but excelled on defense. If he can drill three-pointers as a rookie next to Rose and Noah, it will help space the floor for the rest of the team and open up driving lanes for the ball-handlers.
It may also help lead Chicago deep into the wide-open Eastern Conference playoffs.
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