On Wednesday evening, the biggest stars in sports and entertainment gathered at The Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles to celebrate the year’s best moments in sports at The 2023 ESPYS Presented by Capital One.
Airing live on ABC, the show featured performances from Lil Wayne, who opened the show with an electric performance of his hit song “A Milli,” and H.E.R., as well as appearances by Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Hasan Minhaj, Mikaela Shiffrin, Patrick Mahomes, Tiffany Haddish, Travis Kelce, and more.
The ESPYS recognized individuals and groups in the sports world who have demonstrated admirable strength and bravery in the face of adversity with three marquee awards: the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance, the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage, and the Pat Tillman Award for Service. In an emotional moment, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin presented the Pat Tillman Award for Service to the Bills training staff who jumped into action to save his life during a game, exemplifying their incredible dedication and commitment to the team. Head Athletic Trainer Nate Breske accepted the award on behalf of the group, stating, “We’re not used to being in the spotlight – we were just doing our job. But the idea of service is definitely something that is ingrained in our profession and that we take great pride in.”
Later in the evening, comedian Tiffany Haddish presented the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team with the Arthur Ashe Award of Courage in recognition of their hard-fought, years-long battle for equal pay. She recognized the group for fighting for the “simplest, most essential thing that they deserve.” USWNT Alumni Brianna Scurry, Christen Press and Sam Mewis accepted the award, which honored their fight off the field and their ongoing commitment to raising awareness for social injustices across the country. During her speech, Press stated, “We must continue to reimagine the business of women’s sports. This is a time when we must stand in support of civil and human rights on behalf of a more equal, just, and antiracist world – to find ways to support our transgender siblings, to advocate for respect and kindness in the ways that we engage with each other…And to my teammates about to kick off the 2023 World Cup, LFG!”
ESPN’s Chris Berman took the stage to present the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance to Chicago White Sox pitcher Liam Hendriks who battled non-Hodgkin Lymphoma earlier this year before he was declared cancer-free and returned to the field in May. Hendriks had an exceptional return to the mound and then announced a $100,000 donation to cancer research. The V Foundation then announced a new collaboration with the American Cancer Society’s Hockey Fights Cancer initiative. The combined reach of the National Hockey League (NHL), National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA) and V Foundation will increase funding for cancer research across the country and share inspiring survivor stories from within the hockey community.
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the V Foundation and Jimmy Valvano’s iconic 1993 ESPYS speech, five-time Grammy Award-winner H.E.R. took the stage to perform her hit song “The Journey.” The performance was overlaid by moments of praise for Jimmy Valvano and his work to fight cancer and fund research.
WNBA legend Sue Bird presented The Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award to Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday and his wife, former professional soccer player, Lauren Holiday, for their work in underserved communities across the country. In 2020, the Holidays founded the Jrue and Lauren Holiday Social Impact Fund to support Black-owned businesses and communities in the U.S. While accepting the award, Lauren Holiday remarked, “The need to empower others is just as strong as it was three years ago” alluding to the time during the pandemic. The Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award honored three high school and college students for using the power of sports to improve their communities.
Four-time NBA Champion LeBron James was recognized with Best Record Breaking Performance for surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the NBA career scoring record. His wife, Savannah James, along with their children Bronny, Bryce, and Zhuri made a surprise appearance to present the award. LeBron accepted the award and assured fans that he’s not ready to retire yet. He said, “I don’t care how many more points I score or what I can and cannot do on the floor. The real question for me is, ‘Can I play without cheating this game?’ The day I can’t give the game everything on the floor, is the day I’ll be done. Lucky for you guys, that day is not today.”
James returned to the stage alongside fellow NBA legends Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul to celebrate the storied career of their friend and teammate Carmelo Anthony. Wade encouraged Anthony, upon retirement, to “Stay connected, stay vigilant, but most importantly, stay Melo.”
Super Bowl champion Travis Kelce and comedian Heidi Gardner presented the award for Best Comeback to NBA Champion Jamal Murray. This season, Murray overcame a devastating ACL injury that took him out for two seasons to help guide the Denver Nuggets to their first championship win in franchise history. Later on, Best Athlete, Women’s Sports went to Olympic skier Mikaela Shiffrin and Best Athlete, Men’s Sports went to Super Bowl Champion Patrick Mahomes. Justin Jefferson’s unbelievable “Catch of the Century” won Best Play, and Best Breakthrough Athlete then went to LSU women’s basketball phenom Angel Reese.
Actor Lil Rey Howery and former boxer Mike Tyson presented Best Team to the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. When accepting the award, tight end Travis Kelce pushed Patrick Mahomes out of the way of the mic, stating, “You already took one mic away from me, you’re not going to take another!” He then closed the show with his iconic chant “You gotta fight for your right to party!”
The ESPYS raises awareness and funds for Foundation for Cancer Research, the charity founded by ESPN and the late basketball coach Jim Valvano at the first ESPYS back in 1993. ESPN and the V Foundation have vowed to continue to raise awareness and funds for cancer research until there is victory over cancer. For more information, go to V.org.
THE 2023 ESPYS WINNERS
Best Athlete, Men’s Sports: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Best Athlete, Women’s Sports: Mikaela Shiffrin, Ski
Best Breakthrough Athlete: Angel Reese, LSU Women’s Basketball
Best Record-Breaking Performance: LeBron James surpasses Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for NBA career scoring record
Best Championship Performance: Lionel Messi, Argentina – World Cup Final
Best Comeback Athlete: Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets
Best Play: Justin Jefferson with the Catch of the Century
Best Team: Kansas City Chiefs
Best College Athlete, Men’s Sports: Caleb Williams, USC Football
Best College Athlete, Women’s Sports: Caitlin Clark, Iowa Women’s Basketball
Best Athlete with a Disability: Zach Miller, Snowboarding
Best NFL Player: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Best MLB Player: Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels
Best NHL Player: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
Best NBA Player: Nikola Jokić, Denver Nuggets
Best WNBA Player: A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces
Best Driver: Max Verstappen, F1
Best UFC Fighter: Jon Jones
Best Boxer: Claressa Shields
Best Soccer Player: Lionel Messi, Argentina/PSG
Best Golfer: Scottie Scheffler
Best Tennis Player: Novak Djokovic
Jimmy V Award for Perseverance: Liam Hendriks
Arthur Ashe Award for Courage: U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team
Pat Tillman Award for Service: Buffalo Bills Training Staff
SPORTS HUMANITARIAN AWARDS
Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award: Jrue Holiday (Milwaukee Bucks) and Lauren Holiday (retired U.S. Women’s National Team)
Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award: Jordan Adeyemi, Ashley Badis, Rishan Patel
Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year: San Antonio Spurs
Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award Honorees: Dr. Richard Lapchick