LeBron James won best male athlete at this year’s ESPYs, rounding out a fantastic season that saw the Cleveland Cavaliers win their first NBA championship.
The 2016 ESPYs saw athletes and celebrities hit the red carpet in Los Angeles as they prepared to celebrate another fantastic year of sports. WWE wrestler John Cena delivered a hilarious monologue that saw him make fun of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Kevin Durant’s move to the Golden State Warriors, and the St. Louis Rams moving back to Los Angeles.
James and the awards
After losing in the 2014 and 2015 NBA Finals, LeBron submitted a performance for the ages against the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals. His Cleveland Cavaliers rallied from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Warriors. Game 7 of the NBA Finals received an ESPY award for Best Game, while the city of Cleveland winning its first sports championship since 1964 received the Best Moment award.
James was not the only basketball player winning awards that night. UConn athlete and current WNBA player Breanna Stewart won the female athlete of the year award for leading the Connecticut Huskies to their fourth straight NCAA title. Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors won the award for record-breaking performance as the Warriors broke the old NBA record with 73 regular-season wins.
Other awards went to TNT journalist Craig Sager for his perseverance against cancer and UFC fighter Holly Holm for upsetting Ronda Rousey. A full list of the awards can be found on ESPN.
A somber note on gun violence
But while there was plenty to celebrate, the show began on a serious note. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony called for an end to violence and police brutality in the aftermath of incidents such as the Orlando nightclub massacre and the recent shooting of police officers in Dallas.
As Entertainment Weekly reported, Carmelo Anthony stated, “The system is broken. The problems are not new, the violence is not new, and the racial divide is definitely not new. But the urgency to create change is at an all-time high.”
LeBron James followed by discussing what athletes can do to foster change and observed that “we all have to do better.” The four athletes, who are close friends, talked about what they could do to help build a better tomorrow. They cited Jesse Owens, Jim Brown, and Muhammed Ali as past examples of athletes who helped bring about social change and equality.
Afterward, the mother of Zaevion Dobson, Zenobia Dawson, gave a powerful speech against violence and in favor of gun restrictions that left audience members in tears. Dobson was a 15-year-old star football player who was killed protecting others in a gang-related shooting when a man fired into a crowd. He posthumously received the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the ceremony, which had been controversially awarded to Caitlyn Jenner last year.
As she remembered her son, Dawson asked people “to think tonight about why he died or what you can do tomorrow to prevent the next innocent young man or woman from being lost as well.”
Honoring the Departed
While athletes at the ESPYs talked about their ability to shape the future, the awards ceremony also took the time to remember the past.
Singer Andra Day honored important sports figures who had passed away in the past year, most notably legendary boxer Muhammed Ali and Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summit. Other important departed athletes include NBA great Moses Malone and racer Dave Mirra.
In addition to the tribute to all the departed athletes, the ESPYs held a special tribute for Ali. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a longtime friend of Ali, paid tribute to Ali at the podium before rapper Chance played a piano ballad in Ali’s memory.
[Photo by Chris Pizzello/AP Images]