AP Photo/Mark Terrill
The sports calendar is particularly light the day after the MLB All-Star Game, so ESPN decided to look back at the past year of accomplishments, moments and championships Wednesday.
It did so with the 2023 ESPYs at Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, which is ESPN’s annual awards show that recognizes the best team, best female athlete, best male athlete, best championship performance and much more across the entire sports spectrum.
While there was no official host for this year’s ceremony, Lil Wayne started things off with a performance.
H.E.R. also performed a tribute to the 30th anniversary of the V Foundation and Jim Valvano’s famous speech, while the United States Women’s National Soccer Team, Chicago White Sox pitcher Liam Hendriks and the Buffalo Bills training staff received special accolades.
Here is a look at the 2023 winners. The full list of nominees and winners can be found here.
2023 ESPYs Winners
- Best Team: Kansas City Chiefs
- Best Athlete, Women’s Sports: Mikaela Shiffrin, Skiing
- Best Athlete, Men’s Sports: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
- Best Breakthrough Athlete: Angel Reese, LSU
- Best Record-Breaking Performance: LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
- Best Championship Performance: Lionel Messi, Argentina men’s soccer
- Best Comeback Athlete: Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets
- Best Play: Justin Jefferson’s catch vs. Buffalo Bills
- Best NFL Player: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
- Best NBA Player: Nikola Jokić, Denver Nuggets
- Best WNBA Player: A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces
- Best UFC Fighter: Jon Jones
- Best Boxer: Claressa Shields
- Best College Athlete, Men’s Sports: Caleb Williams, USC
- Best College Athlete, Women’s Sports: Caitlin Clark, Iowa
- Best Athlete with a Disability: Zach Miller, Snowboarding
- Best MLB Player: Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels
- Best NHL Player: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
- Best Driver: Max Verstappen, F1
- Best Soccer Player: Lionel Messi, Argentina/PSG
- Best Golfer: Scottie Scheffler
- Best Tennis Player: Novak Djokovic
Special Accolade Winners
- Arthur Ashe Award for Courage: U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team
- Jimmy V Award for Perseverance: Liam Hendriks, Chicago White Sox
- Pat Tillman Award for Service: Buffalo Bills training staff
- Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award: Jrue and Lauren Holiday
Top Moments and Reaction
There may not have been a formal host, but the ESPYs wasted little time capturing the audience’s attention.
Lil Wayne started it off with a performance before Pat McAfee took the stage for the opening monologue. McAfee gave Damar Hamlin—who was in attendance—a shoutout, highlighted some of the champions who were there and unleashed some jokes:
Pat McAfee @PatMcAfeeShow
Sports are a BEAUTIFUL thing pic.twitter.com/qV799F49hV
Pat McAfee @PatMcAfeeShow
Damar Hamlin is an ABSOLUTE DAWG..
That tweet is still up Skip 😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/l0DWmlC5j4
Randall Barnes @AuthorRandallB
Y’all are lying if you’re saying Pat McAfee isn’t killing this monologue. I’m impressed! #ESPYS
The ESPYs are about more than just excellence on the field, and some of the most notable moments of the evening happened when attention turned beyond the wins, losses and top plays.
WNBA legend Sue Bird introduced Jrue (Milwaukee Bucks) and Lauren Holiday (retired U.S. Women’s National Team) as the winners of the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award. The Holidays have given out $3 million in grants to support Black and Brown small businesses and nonprofits while also hosting events and providing their time.
“Our purpose here is to love each other.”
From Jrue supporting his wife Lauren when she had a brain tumor while pregnant, to them donating millions of dollars to Black and Brown businesses in 2020, the Holidays have always been a team ❤️ @ESPYS pic.twitter.com/L8kGIWnZrl
Jen Lada @JenLada
Wiping tears away watching Jrue & Lauren Holiday honored for their humanitarian work. They are just incredible & the best of us. #ESPYS
JC- The Former World Champion @JoshOnAir
Jrue and Lauren Holiday are everything that is right in this world. 🙏🏼#ESPYS
The United States Women’s National Soccer Team, which will be going for a historic three-peat of World Cup titles this summer, was given the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage in recognition of its fight for equal pay. U.S. Soccer reached an agreement in 2022 to provide equal pay to members of its men’s and women’s national teams.
Elsewhere, Hendriks was given the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance, which honored the resiliency he demonstrated when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He returned to the mound in May and received a standing ovation. He also used his platform to help raise $100,000 for cancer research.
Adam Silverstein @SilversteinAdam
Apropos that USWNT is getting awarded for courage standing up for equality as USMNT simultaneously loses in the Gold cup semifinal.
That ESPYs piece for the @USWNT was something special… just like the women who earned the award. Wow.
Sarah Lungaro, MD @lungareaux
Chicago White Sox @whitesox
Cancer is not something you fight alone.
We’re so proud of you, Liam Hendriks! 💚 pic.twitter.com/3NeSU6PqkP
Kevin Agustin @_kevinagustin
Beautiful speech by Liam Hendriks ❤️❤️ #ESPYS
In addition to the USWNT and Hendriks, the Pat Tillman Award for Service went to the Bills training staff for their efforts in the immediate aftermath of Hamlin’s collapse during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Hamlin went into cardiac arrest and needed to be revived on the field.
Hamlin introduced the staff in an emotional scene.
Damar Hamlin was brought to tears when presenting the Pat Tillman Award for Service to the training staff of the Buffalo Bills ❤️ 💙 pic.twitter.com/IThNKmREyC
Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter
Jerrod Baker @JerrodBaker1
The standing ovation given to Damar Hamlin is nothing short of remarkable. He survived and fought back from a life-threatening injury to walking proudly across the stage. Simply incredible! #ESPYS
Justin Jackson @justinjax017
Have been crying at the presentation of the Pat Tillman award since Damar walked on stage. God Bless that staff and everyone involved in the saving of that man.
Great work by them and great will and spirit within Damar Hamlin! ❤️💙
Dr. Nicki Washington @dr_nickiw
Home in time to see Damar Hamlin present the Buffalo Bills training staff with the Pat Tillman Award for Service and…my God…how is there a dry eye in the house? #ESPYS
Ajay Cybulski @AjayCybulski
#Bills Head Athletic Trainer Nate Breske to Damar Hamlin at the ESPYS:
“Thank you for staying alive brotha.”
The perseverance that both the training staff and Damar Hamlin showed is truly remarkable.
Learn CPR. It saves lives.#BillsMafia
In terms of the most notable individual awards, Mikaela Shiffrin and Patrick Mahomes took home the best athletes in women’s and men’s sports. Shiffrin set the record for the most World Cup victories with 87, while Mahomes led the Kansas City Chiefs to the Super Bowl title as the 2022 NFL MVP.
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Skier Mikaela Shiffrin wins the ESPY for Best Athlete in Women’s Sports.
She won her 5th FIS Alpine Ski World Cup title this season, and broke the record for the most World Cup victories with her 87th career win in March. pic.twitter.com/h0RHAyttDM
Kansas City Chiefs @Chiefs
Mackenzie Webb @kenziewebbsport
MAHOMES WITH ANOTHER AWARD- WINNING BEST MALE ATHLETE!! pic.twitter.com/hvXjZ9Etdo
Unsurprisingly, Lionel Messi won the best championship moment for his performance in the World Cup, while LeBron James joined his fellow member of sports royalty as the winner of the best record-breaking performance for setting the NBA’s all-time scoring record.
Savannah James, who is LeBron’s wife, introduced him alongside their children while calling him the GOAT.
There was a moment during LeBron’s speech where it seemed like he might announce his retirement as he reflected on his career, but he said he isn’t ready to walk away just yet.
Brian Mahoney @briancmahoney
Wasn’t sure which way LeBron was going there for a minute. But, we’ll see him in 2023-24.
“Lucky for you guys, that day is not today.”
Go off, Bron 😂 pic.twitter.com/4X1Fqs0PqX
Zhuri had to keep Savannah James in check 😅 pic.twitter.com/RZPGl9UAtm
Sean Highkin @highkin
Glad LeBron cleared up that he’s not retiring for all the people who thought he was being serious after the Denver series.
Basketball remained in the spotlight with Angel Reese winning best breakthrough athlete and ending her speech by saying, “Another natty is coming, period.”
That title may be coming, but her LSU Tigers were not victorious in the night’s final award.
That is because the Chiefs were recognized as the best team thanks to their Super Bowl title, which was their second in four years.