Warriors star Curry hosts ESPYS, wins 2 awards

The Golden State Warriors were front-and-center at Wednesday night’s ESPYS, with star Stephen Curry hosting and taking home multiple awards.

Curry won the ESPY for Best NBA Player and for Best Record-Breaking Performance. That award was for passing Ray Allen for most 3-pointers made in NBA history this past season.

Curry joked after accepting the record-breaking performance statue from actor Simu Liu and athlete Lindsey Vonn: “The only reason I wanted to host is I thought I’d be able to present myself with the award.”

“Definitely a great honor,” Curry added. “In the same way I looked up to my dad, Reggie Miller, Ray Allen, the guys who came before me, all records are meant to be broken, so I know there’s a lot of young kids that are out there that are working hard. I can’t wait to be in the arena when you break this record.”

Curry’s teammate, Klay Thompson, won the award for Best Comeback. He made his triumphant return to action Jan. 9 after being sidelined for more than two years while rehabbing a pair of career-altering injuries.

“It’s just an incredible honor,” Thompson said.

The was the 29th year of the ESPYS, an event that helps raise awareness and funds for the V Foundation for Cancer Research. That charity was founded by ESPN and the late basketball coach Jim Valvano at the first ESPYS in 1993.

Jimmy V Award for Perseverance

Iconic ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale, 82, was the recipient of this year’s award.

Last August, he announced he had undergone multiple surgeries to remove melanoma. In October, he announced he had been diagnosed with lymphoma. His chemotherapy treatment for lymphoma forced Vitale to step back from ESPN’s college basketball coverage.

Vitale has documented his cancer journey on social media and in March appeared at the SEC tournament, where he was recognized for his contributions to the sport, the league and his fight against cancer.

Vitale announced in April that he is cancer-free.

“I sit here and tell you that, obviously, it’s been a tough eight months,” said Vitale, who thanked his wife, Lorraine, and his family. “If you know someone who is battling cancer, extend a message, send prayers. Those messages picked me up at the darkest moment. I hear Jimmy’s (Valvano) words in my head ‘Don’t give up, don’t give up.’ … We are not going to stop chasing the dream. Jimmy’s dream was to beat cancer, and we must do it.”

Best Athlete, Women’s Sports

Swimming star Katie Ledecky took home the award, winning over gymnast Sunisa Lee, Chicago Sky star Candace Parker and Oksana Masters, a cross-country skiier, cycler and biathlete.

At the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, Ledecky won two golds to increase her career individual gold medal count to six. At the FINA world championships this summer, she won four golds to become the most decorated female swimmer at the event with 22 career world medals.

In accepting her award, Ledecky thanked her parents and her brother. She also implored young athletes and young adults to “find something you love, something you’re good at, that can be a positive for good in our world.” She added: “I think there are so many heroes not only in sports, but all around us — look for those people as role models and go for the gold.”

Arthur Ashe Award for Courage

Vitali Klitschko, the Hall of Fame boxer and mayor of Kyiv, was honored with the award.

The mayor of Ukraine’s capital since 2014, the former heavyweight champion is a longtime outspoken critic of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, Vitali, along with his younger brother and fellow Hall of Famer, Wladimir, has served as one of the faces of the resistance. The Klitschkos took up arms in a territorial defense battalion in Kyiv; star boxers Vasiliy Lomachenko and Oleksandr Usyk followed suit in other parts of Ukraine.

Best Breakthrough Athlete

Eileen Gu, one of the breakout stars of the 2022 Winter Olympics, was fittingly awarded the ESPY. The standout California-born freestyle skier, who represented China in the Games, won two gold medals (big air, halfpipe) and one silver (slopestyle) while competing in her mother’s hometown of Beijing.

Juggling an exhausting schedule and facing enormous expectations, the 18-year-old Gu would go on to become the first freeski athlete to medal in three events in a single Olympics.

“This is insane!” a surprised Gu exclaimed after winning. In her speech, Gu thanked her mom — who “shows me what it means to be a strong, empowered woman” — and grandmother, along with the “many pioneering women athletes” who came before her, many of whom were in the same room.

Gu also gave a shoutout to “the girls who come after me” and who will push the sport of freestyle skiing forward.

Other nominees in the category included Trinity Rodman of the Washington Spirit, Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor and Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant. Gu also took home the ESPY for best athlete in women’s action sports.

Best Championship Performance

Los Angeles Rams star receiver and Super Bowl MVP Cooper Kupp won the ESPY for doing exactly what he had done all season long: Delivering when it mattered most. He hauled in the game-winning 1-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matthew Stafford with 1:25 remaining to give the Rams their second Super Bowl championship and first title in Los Angeles since 1951.

Kupp, who also won the NFL’s receiving triple crown, finished with eight catches for 92 yards and two scores against the Bengals, his MVP effort coming in the Rams’ own SoFi Stadium.

Kupp thanked his wife, Anna, and their two sons — who are staying with their grandparents and to whom Kupp promised “extra dessert” this evening. He called the ESPY “a team award” and gave a shoutout to Rams defensive tackle and three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, who was also in attendance.

“Just to be in this room with so many people playing at the peak of their professions, this is truly an honor,” Kupp said in concluding his speech.

Also turning in championship performances this year were nominees UFC bantamweight Julianna Pena, Formula One driver Max Verstappen and Cale Maker of the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche.

Best Play

Megan Rapinoe added another ESPY to a decorated career that as of this month also includes a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Competing in her second Olympics with Team USA in Tokyo last summer, Rapinoe scored directly off a corner kick — known as an “Olimpico” — in the Americans’ bronze-medal match against Australia, one of her two goals in the game. It wasn’t even the first time she pulled off the rare feat – she also did it at the London Olympics in 2012.

In accepting her award, Rapinoe drew attention to WNBA star Brittney Griner, whom the U.S. considers “wrongly detained” by Russia.

“I think honestly what we’ve witnessed tonight is the importance of sport and how much we can bring and how much we can get done in the world with our collective power,” Rapinoe said. “Every time we say her name, it puts pressure on everyone — puts pressure on the administration, puts pressure on Russia. The most striking thing is that BG isn’t here. BG deserves to be free. … We can support her more and let her know that we love her so much.”

Rapinoe’s goal had competition from Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker (NFL record 66-yard field goal), Ja Morant’s poster dunk on Malik Beasley in the playoffs, and high school guard Hansel Enmanuel’s electrifying windmill dunk.

Other notable winners announced:

Pat Tillman Award for Service: Gretchen Evans

Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals

Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year: Denver Broncos

Best MMA Fighter: Charles Oliveira

Best MLB Player: Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels

Best NBA Player: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

Best College Athlete, Men’s Sports: Bryce Young, Alabama football

Best College Athlete, Women’s Sports: Jocelyn Alo, Oklahoma softball

Best Game: Kansas City Chiefs defeat the Buffalo Bills in OT

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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