The dividing line between music fans and sports fans was all but erased at the 31st annual ESPY Awards, which were presented at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on Wednesday (July 12). Lil Wayne opened the show performing his 2008 hit “A Milli.” H.E.R. performed her latest single, the elegant power ballad “The Journey,” as a tribute to the 30th anniversary of basketball coach Jimmy Valvano’s inspirational speech at the first ESPYS in 1993 when he was terminally ill with cancer.
Several other music stars were also on board for the three-hour show, which was telecast on ABC. Quavo and Lil Dicky were among the presenters. Common narrated a segment paying tribute to Liam Hendriks, who battled back from Stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Angel Reese, who won best breakthrough athlete for leading the Louisiana State University women’s basketball team to the college title this past spring, has become a pop-culture star. Reese recently made a cameo in Latto’s “Put It On Da Floor Again” music video, in which featured act Cardi B raps, “I been ballin’ so damn hard could’ve went to LSU.”
This is the second year in a row that a woman has won in the gender-neutral best breakthrough athlete category. Skier Eileen Gu won last year. This is the first time in the history of the ESPYS that women have won back-to-back awards in this category.
Reese competed in the category with Iowa basketball star Caitlin Clark, her NCAA finals foe. But Clark also won an award this year – best college athlete, women’s sports.
Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs won two awards – best athlete, men’s sports and best NFL player. The Chiefs also won as best team. Argentina soccer superstar Lionel Messi also won two awards – best championship performance and best soccer player.
ESPN sports analyst Pat McAfee gave an opening monologue, though there was no formal host, due to the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike.
The show, which was co-produced by ESPN and Full Day Productions, was a lot like a music awards show in a couple of respects. Even with a generous three-hour time slot, it ran over by about 10 minutes. And only eight competitive awards were announced on the show. The other 14 competitive awards didn’t rate so much as a mention (but we have them here for you).
Here’s the full list of winners, including special awards and sports humanitarian awards.
Best Athlete, Men’s Sports
Nikola Jokić, Denver Nuggets
Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
WINNER: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Lionel Messi, Argentina
Best Athlete, Women’s Sports
WINNER: Mikaela Shiffrin, Ski
Sophia Smith, Portland Thorns
Iga Świątek, Tennis
A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces
Best Breakthrough Athlete
Caitlin Clark, Iowa Women’s Basketball
Brock Purdy, San Francisco 49ers
WINNER: Angel Reese, LSU Women’s Basketball
Julio Rodríguez, Seattle Mariners
Best Record-Breaking Performance
–Novak Djokovic wins his 23rd Grand Slam title, breaking a tie with Rafael Nadal for the most major singles trophies in the history of men’s tennis.
–WINNER: LeBron James surpasses Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for NBA career scoring record.
–Mikaela Shiffrin breaks the record for the most World Cup victories with her 87th win.
–Max Verstappen wins the Mexican Grand Prix, breaking the record for most wins in a season.
Best Championship Performance
–Leon Edwards, UFC – defeats Kamaru Usman by fifth-round KO to win UFC welterweight title, handing Usman his first UFC loss.
–Nikola Jokić, Denver Nuggets – 2023 NBA Finals MVP.
–WINNER: Lionel Messi, Argentina – 2022 World Cup Final – scored two goals and scored in the penalty shootout to win Man of the Match. He won the Golden Ball as FIFA’s best player of the tournament.
–Rose Zhang, LPGA – defeated Jennifer Kupcho in a two-hole sudden death playoff, becoming the first woman in 72 years to win her first professional start.
Best Comeback Athlete
–Jon Jones, UFC – Jones’ first fight in the UFC since 2020. He was last seen in action against Dominick Reyes, where he defended his light-heavyweight championship at UFC 247.
–WINNER: Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets – Murray missed the entirety of last season due to a torn ACL in his left knee. He suffered the injury on April 12, 2021, and didn’t play in the 18 months since then.
–Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut Sun – 2022 WNBA Comeback Player of the Year. Thomas missed all but six games last season while recovering from a torn Achilles tendon. The eight-year veteran started all 36 of Connecticut’s games in 2022, and was an All-Star earlier this season.
–Justin Verlander, Current New York Mets / Houston Astros – 2022 NL Comeback Player of the Year, after being limited to only six innings in 2020 and missing the entire ’21 season due to Tommy John surgery, the Astros’ ace returned this season to go 18-4 with a 1.75 ERA.
Michael Block Hole-in-One! GOLF
WINNER: Justin Jefferson with the Catch of the Century NFL
Ally Lemos with the perfect corner to tie the National Championship game NCAA
Trinity Thomas Perfect 10 Tying the All-Time NCAA Record NCAA
Denver Nuggets, NBA
Georgia Bulldogs, NCAA Football
WINNER: Kansas City Chiefs, NFL
Las Vegas Aces, WNBA
Louisiana State Tigers, NCAA Women’s Basketball
Oklahoma Sooners, NCAA Softball
Vegas Golden Knights, NHL
Best College Athlete, Men’s Sports
Zach Edey, Purdue Men’s Basketball
Duncan McGuire, Creighton Soccer
Brennan O’Neill, Duke Lacrosse
WINNER: Caleb Williams, USC Football
Best College Athlete, Women’s Sports
Jordy Bahl, Oklahoma Softball
WINNER: Caitlin Clark, Iowa Women’s Basketball
Izzy Scane, Northwestern Lacrosse
Trinity Thomas, Florida Gators Gymnastics
Best Athlete With a Disability
Erica McKee, Sled Hockey Team
WINNER: Zach Miller, Snowboarding
Aaron Pike, Wheelchair Racing & Cross-Country Skiing
Susannah Scaroni, Wheelchair Racing
Best NFL Player
Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers
Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles
Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings
WINNER: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Best MLB Player
Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals
Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
WINNER: Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels
Justin Verlander, Houston Astros
Best NHL Player
Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights
WINNER: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
David Pastrňák, Boston Bruins
Linus Ullmark, Boston Bruins
Best NBA Player
Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
WINNER: Nikola Jokić, Denver Nuggets
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
Best WNBA Player
Skylar Diggins-Smith, Phoenix Mercury
Candace Parker, Chicago Sky (Current Las Vegas Aces)
Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm (Current New York Liberty)
WINNER: A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces
Brittany Force, NHRA
Kyle Larson, NASCAR
Josef Newgarden, IndyCar
WINNER: Max Verstappen, F1
Best UFC Fighter
WINNER: Jon Jones
WINNER: Claressa Shields
Best Soccer Player
Aitana Bonmatí, Spain/Barcelona
Erling Haaland, Norway/Manchester City
WINNER: Lionel Messi, Argentina/PSG
Sophia Smith, USWNT/Portland Thorns
WINNER: Scottie Scheffler
Best Tennis Player
WINNER: Novak Djokovic
Pat Tillman Award for Service: Buffalo Bills’ training staff for helping Damar Hamlin recover from a devastating injury
Arthur Ashe Award for Courage: The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team for successfully fighting for pay parity.
Jimmy V Award for Perseverance: Chicago White Sox pitcher and cancer survivorLiam Hendriks for battling back from a diagnosis of Stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Sports Humanitarian Awards
Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award:Jrue Holiday (Milwaukee Bucks) & 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 Honoree: Dr. Richard Lapchick