ESPY Awards 2021: List of Nominees and Predictions for Event's Top Categories

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IJuly 10, 2021

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates winning the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)
Jason Behnken/Associated Press

Who could forget the top sports moments that took place over the past year? 

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won their second Super Bowl title in franchise history, led by their new quarterback, future Hall of Famer Tom Brady. The Los Angeles Dodgers ended a 32-year World Series championship drought. Naomi Osaka took over the women's tennis world by winning a pair of Grand Slam titles. And those are only a few of the memorable events that have taken place in the past 12 months.

Those achievements and more will be recognized at the 2021 ESPYs, which are set to take place Saturday night. The awards show will air live on ABC at 8 p.m. ET, and it takes place at The Rooftop at Pier 17 in New York City.

Here's a look at the nominees for several top categories, along with predictions for the winner of each.


Nominees, Predictions for Top Awards

Picks in bold

Best Athlete, Men's Sports

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


Best Athlete, Women's Sports

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


Best Breakthrough Athlete

LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets
Crystal Dangerfield, Minnesota Lynx
Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers
Chase Young, Washington Football Team


Best Team

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

Full list of nominees available at ESPN.com


There are a lot of incredible athletes and impressive teams on those lists. But the Buccaneers have an opportunity to come away as the big winners at the 2021 ESPYs.

Brady may have been 43 heading into the 2020 season, but he again showed no signs of slowing down. And he proved that he didn't need the New England Patriots to have success and go on yet another Super Bowl championship run.

Not only did Brady play well in his first season in Tampa Bay, but it was one of his best years in recent memory. He threw 40 touchdown passes, his second-most in a season behind only the 50 he tossed during his record-breaking 2007 campaign.

But the Bucs needed more than just Brady to make a Super Bowl run. They were 7-5 entering their Week 13 bye as they were battling to make it to the playoffs as an NFC Wild Card.

Tampa Bay then never lost a game the rest of the season. It ended the regular season with four straight wins, notched three consecutive road victories to open the postseason and capped it off with a dominant 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.

"You get this far and you wanna get the job done and we did it," Brady said at the time, per Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press. "We just believed. I'm so proud of the guys."

Brady won the fifth Super Bowl MVP Award of his career. However, he's never won the ESPY for Best Athlete in Men's Sports, despite being nominated three previous times.

This should be the year that Brady receives the honor. While the other three men nominated for the award have also had stellar performances in their respective sports, Brady continues to defy time with his exceptional play, and this past year proved he could do so while in a new environment.

The Buccaneers are one of seven teams nominated for Best Team. And there are several others that are strong choices for the award, including the Dodgers, who came out of an unorthodox, shortened MLB season as the World Series champions.

But Tampa Bay overcame adversity and went on an improbable playoff run. It beat the Washington Football Team, New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers, all on the road, in a difficult gauntlet of postseason opponents.

The last time that the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl (at the end of the 2002 season), they were nominated for the Best Team ESPY in 2003. However, they didn't win the award, which went to the World Series champion Los Angeles Angels.

This time, the ESPY should go to Tampa Bay, which also has the distinction of being the first team to win a Super Bowl in its home stadium.