ESPYs 2021: Predicting Winners for Top Award Categories

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IJuly 9, 2021

ESPYs 2021: Predicting Winners for Top Award Categories

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    When July 2020 arrived, most of the sports world was still on pause because of the coronavirus pandemic. The NBA and the NHL had yet to enter their bubbles to complete unorthodox seasons. MLB was still figuring out how to plan for a shortened season. The Olympics had been postponed a full year.

    But over the past 12 months, sports returned and provided a sense of normalcy during these unprecedented times. Champions were crowned. Athletes provided entertainment while competing at the highest level. Things slowly but surely got back closer to normal.

    Now it's time to reflect on the past year in sports. The 2021 ESPYs are set to be broadcast live on ABC on Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET, and some of the top athletes and teams will be recognized and honored.

    Here's a look at this year's nominees for several top awards, along with predictions for who will receive those honors.

Best Athlete, Men's Sports

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press


    Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    Lewis Hamilton, F1
    Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
    Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers



    All four men impressed in their respective sports. But with the ESPYs utilizing a fan vote, it's hard to imagine anybody other than Brady winning this award.

    Brady has a strong case. After 20 years with the New England Patriots, the decorated quarterback decided he wanted a fresh start for his age-43 season. He signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ahead of the 2020 campaign and went out and proved that he could be successful outside of Foxborough, Massachusetts.

    In 16 regular-season games, Brady passed for 4,633 yards (his most since 2015) and 40 touchdowns, the second-highest total of his illustrious career. The only time he threw more touchdown passes in a single season was in 2007, when he tossed a record-breaking 50.

    Brady wasn't done there, though. He led the Buccaneers on an impressive playoff run as an NFC wild-card team, notching three consecutive road wins before beating the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium. During the postseason, Brady passed for 1,061 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions.

    After winning his seventh Super Bowl championship, Brady is a deserving recipient for this ESPY.

Best Athlete, Women's Sports

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    Andy Brownbill/Associated Press


    Simone Biles, Gymnastics
    Amanda Nunes, UFC
    Naomi Osaka, Tennis
    Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm



    Osaka is still only 23. Yet over the past year, she doubled her number of Grand Slam titles, dominating the U.S. and Australian Opens en route to her third and fourth career wins at major tournaments. Those showings were so impressive that she will win the vote to take home this ESPY.

    In September, Osaka won the U.S. Open for the second time in her career. She faced some adversity during the tournament, notably dropping the first set of the final against Victoria Azarenka. But Osaka pulled through to win that match in three sets.

    After that victory, Osaka played only three matches before the start of the Australian Open in February. She still showed no rust, dropping only one set in her seven matches while taking down Serena Williams in the semifinals and Jennifer Brady in the final to earn her second career title at the tournament.

    Not only has Osaka impressed on the courts, but she's also been an advocate for racial justice and mental health. Her popularity, combined with her tennis dominance, will lead to her winning this award.

Best Team

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press


    Tampa Bay Buccaneers, NFL
    Stanford Cardinal, NCAA women's basketball
    Baylor Bears, NCAA men's basketball
    Alabama Crimson Tide, NCAA football
    Oklahoma Sooners, NCAA softball
    Seattle Storm, WNBA
    Los Angeles Dodgers, MLB



    There are a lot of strong teams on this list. But with Brady getting voted to win the Best Athlete for Men's Sports, the Buccaneers are sure to garner plenty of support too. So their impressive run to the Super Bowl will earn them the Best Team ESPY too.

    Tampa Bay went 11-5 during the 2020 regular season, yet it was the No. 5 seed in the NFC after finishing behind the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South. However, the Bucs dominated on the road in the postseason, beating the Washington Football Team, the Saints and the Green Bay Packers to reach Super Bowl LV.

    Becoming the first team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium, the Buccaneers routed the defending champion Chiefs. Tampa Bay won 31-9 to cap its season with the second championship in franchise history.

    The Bucs were 7-5 heading into their Week 13 bye. After that, they never lost again, reeling off eight consecutive victories and ending their season by celebrating with the Lombardi Trophy.