ESPYs 2021: Nominees for Top Awards and Predicting the Winners

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJuly 10, 2021

FILE - Japan's Naomi Osaka holds the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup after defeating United States Jennifer Brady in the women's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, in this Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021, file photo. Naomi Osaka was going to be at the center of attention during the Tokyo Olympics no matter what. She is a tennis superstar who owns four Grand Slam titles and is the highest-earning female athlete in the world.(AP Photo/Mark Dadswell, FIle)
Mark Dadswell/Associated Press

The past year has provided some memorable sporting moments. From Tom Brady winning his seventh Super Bowl to the Los Angeles Dodgers breaking a title drought of over 30 years, history was made over the last 12 months.

This year's ESPY Awards will celebrate this on Saturday night. Fans will be welcomed back to the ESPY's, which will be broadcast from The Rooftop at Pier 17 at the Seaport in New York City. Acclaimed actor and producer Anthony Mackie will host.

Mackie believes the event, like the past year, will be one to remember.

"I think after this past year and everything we went through, 'The ESPYs' are probably gonna be larger than any other year," Mackie said on Good Morning America (h/t Sandy Kenyon of ABC 7 Chicago). "Because when all else fails, when everything is put away, and we were locked inside, sports kind of kept everybody together."

Three of the biggest awards have already been decided.

The Arthur Ashe Award for Courage will be given to WNBA star and Olympic gold medalist Maya Moore, who is being recognized for her work and commitment to criminal justice reform. Chris Nikic will be recognized with the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance for being the first person with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman triathlon. The Pat Tillman Award for Service will be awarded to professional boxer Kim Clavel, who resumed her nursing career amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other major awards will be decided by fan voting. There's no telling exactly which way they will go, but we'll make our predictions below. The ESPYs are scheduled to kick off at 8 p.m. ET on ABC and the ESPN App.


Major Awards, Nominees and Picks

Picks in bold

Best Athlete, Women's Sports

Simone Biles, Gymnastics

Amanda Nunes, UFC

Naomi Osaka, Tennis

Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm


Best Athlete, Men's Sports

Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Lewis Hamilton, F1

Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers


Best Breakthrough Athlete

LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets

Crystal Dangerfield, Minnesota Lynx

Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers

Chase Young, Washington Football Team


Best Game

NCAA men's basketball Final Four: Gonzaga vs. UCLA

NCAA women's basketball championship: Stanford vs. Arizona

NFL Week 14: Baltimore Ravens vs. Cleveland Browns

NHL playoffs: Winnipeg Jets vs. Edmonton Oilers


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


Best Play

Arizona Cardinals: Kyler Murray Hail Mary to DeAndre Hopkins

Gymnastics: Simone Biles becomes first woman to land Yurchenko double pike vault

Marshall Men's Soccer: Jamil Roberts' overtime goal to win championship

Seattle Seahawks: DK Metcalf chases down Budda Baker in Week 7

Full list of nominees available at ESPN.com


The NFL reigns supreme in the sporting world, so it shouldn't be a surprise to see both Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers recognized on Saturday night. Both accomplished amazing feats during the 2020-21 season.

Brady now owns seven Lombardi Trophies—an accomplishment that may never be matched—and he was named Super Bowl MVP at 43 years old. The Buccaneers, meanwhile, came together with several new faces during a virtual offseason and jelled in time to win it all.

Tennis star Naomi Osaka deserves recognition for her play on the court—two Grand Slam victories—and for her activism regarding social justice and mental health. Simone Biles, meanwhile, provided perhaps the sporting moment of the year with her Yurchenko double pike vault

The best game is a tough one, as all four of the nominees were drama-drenched adventures. However, the NCAA Women's basketball championship game between the Arizona Wildcats and the Stanford Cardinals was one for the books. Not only was it a nail-biter—with a 54-53 final score—but it led to Stanford's first title since 1992.

As for the breakthrough athlete, it's hard to pick against Los Angles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert. Again, the NFL sits atop the sports world, and Herbert's run to win Offensive Rookie of the Year was an unexpected one.

Of course, all of this year's nominees are worthy of recognition, and each of them deserves their fair share of celebration. Hopefully, that's what Saturday night's event will be all about.