It’s that time of year again, where the ESPYs (short for Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Award), recognizes major sports achievements and unforgettable moments of the past year take over the Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE in downtown Los Angeles (or your hi-def TV, which may have been more comfortable), where we get to honor winners who have won an award with another award.
The 2014 ESPYs marked the shows 22nd telecast and recognizes sport-specific achievements, such as “Best MLB Player” and “Best WNBA Player,” and best-in-sport winners, such as “Best Team” or “Best Female Athlete” where teams across playing fields compete against one another.
The ESPYs, the red carpet festivities, the after-parties and the bump-ins throughout the hotel hallways and early morning coffee lines the entire week leading up to the event, is a robust gathering of some of the top celebrities from the sports and entertainment world, all under one roof. Everyone is a someone here, the politically correct guards we’ve been accustomed to have been severely lowered, as are the plunging necklines of all the glitzy dresses.
So in the words of the ESPYs, here’s to saluting the leading performers and performances and some of the best moments caught both on and off the camera. And you thought this was that only day in the whole year where there was a lull in the sport’s world…
The Body Issue Release Party held at Lure Nightclub in Hollywood featuring life-size dynamic/rotating nude images of athletes who posed in the sixth annual edition, meant to celebrate the many different body types. Note, this was also next to the bar, so you couldn’t help but stare at all of Prince Fielder while waiting for your complimentary Grey Goose Le Lemon cocktail.
Hanging on the red carpet in the blazing sun and explaining to Olympic Gold Medalist Ted Ligety what a “sock bun” was, and there was in fact an athletic sock strategically positioned in my hair. His perfectly tousled hair only took him a few minutes before he was out the door and hitting the red carpet. “I can kinda go like this (running his hands through his hair) and kinda mess with it and then it goes where it wants,” the Utah native explains.
Drake – even at the ESPYs, he started from the bottom and now he’s here. The first few minutes were awkward and uncomfortable and heavily scripted. And then this happened and in the words of Lloyd Christmas, he totally redeemed himself.
Josh Sweeney accepting the inaugural Pat Tillman award. Can we say goosebumps and perhaps once of the most deserving honors of the night?
Speaking of goosebumps, the genuine respect and love for Michael Sam felt by everyone is just an unreal part of football that has never really existed until a few months ago.
Bro code – while quite a few of the elites brought their wifeys (or side pieces) to the event, many of the guys strolled the red carpet together and kept it “guys only” during the show. (I won’t divulge anything after the show.) The best bro-code moment came from Stevie Johnson (San Francisco 49ers wide receiver) and DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings center). When we asked DeMarcus what his gameday superstition was he said: Peanut butter (creamy) and jelly. Getting a side look from Stevie, we asked him what his superstition was. “I don’t have anything, I don’t do those.” We countered by asking, “What’s the weirdest superstition you’ve ever heard of?” His brilliant response: “Peanut Butter…” And the buddies continued to bust each other’s balls for a few minutes before heading into the nicely air-conditioned Nokia Theatre.
Damarcus Beasley of the US Men’s Soccer Team bringing the youngest date (possibly in history) to the ESPYs–his 4-month-old daughter Lia. Proof she was the cutest on the carpet:
Taking a selfie on the red carpet with the Mercer Men’s Basketball team (who won an ESPY for Biggest Upset knocking out the sixth-ranked Blue Devils in the second round of the NCAA tournament earlier this year). Notice how difficult it is to get two blondes under 5’2, a sockbun and six super tall men into one selfie.
The Tim Howard jokes continued to rock our world in full force, as they should. “Tim Howard couldn’t be here tonight,” Drake said. “Too busy getting laid by any woman he chooses.”
Though it only lasted a few moments, hearing “U-S-A” chanted byall the best athletes in the world was definitely memorable.
The LeBron no-show. Anyone that was surprised by this probably doesn’t know much about him (which seems crazy because it’s all the sport’s world really talks about). Of course “LeBron 2.0” still made an appearance by another Drake parody, but the man himself did not.
A few red carpet interviews:
One of my personal favorite moments was chatting with Laila Ali about her electric blue MT Costello floor length dress. Probably the best dress, but definitely the best interview:
Laila: My ritual is to get really focused and remember all my hard work. And I say my prayers and pray for the other girl – pray that I don’t seriously hurt her. Because I’m trying to hurt her but I don’t want any permanent brain damage or things like that, you know? But I want to take her right to the limit–kickin” that ass. Right before anything permanent happens.
Man Cave Daily: Out of your entire career, which ass kicking stands out the most?
Laila: Oh, Jackie Frazier–Joe Frazier’s daughter. The history with my father and her father…and her mouth was just…you know when you already don’t like somebody and their mouth just keeps running? And when you get to fight them professionally and not get in trouble. That is amazing. Just imagine.
MCD: I like your outfit (shorts and a short-sleeve acid wash denim shirt, fully buttoned to top) – what’s the inspiration behind this?
Jessie Williams – Actor “Avery Jackson” on Grey’s Anatomy: The goal was to not stand out at all and just be comfortable. And not sweat myself to death. I mean we are in the baking sun and I remember the first time I came like five years ago, you are sweating, then you go inside in the AC, then you get pneumonia.
MCD: What are you most looking forward to tonight?
JW: The good comedy. It’s always funny to see giants in really tight-small suits, and I’m wondering all the hurdles they went through to get that worked out, it’s a tough hustle out here.
MCD: Describe the ESPYs in three words:
JW: Love, funny, and vicariously because everybody wants to live through somebody.
MCD: How does it feel to be nominated for “Best Fighter?”
Andre Ward – boxer: It’s huge, I’m nominated along with Ronda Rousey, Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, Jon Jones–that’s the best of the best in the MMA and boxing world so I don’t take that lightly.
MCD: If you lost to a woman… a badass woman no doubt, how would that feel deep down in your soul?
AW: I’m OK with it. As long as it’s Ronda Rousey, I wouldn’t wanna lose to any female, but Ronda Rousey…
Note: Ronda Rousey did in fact win the ESPY for “Best Fighter”
MCD: This is at least your second year here at the ESPYs, right?
Tatyana McFadden–Paralympic athlete: This is actually my 4th nomination so hopefully this is the year, I like that we are in a different element, we are not in our sporting gear, it’s not competitive, and it’s just relaxed. It’s just so fun to see everyone out of their element and all dressed up.
Note: The ESPY for Best Female Athlete with a Disability went to Jamie Whitmore (Para-cycling).
MCD: One of my favorite NFL players–Owen Daniels–is now on the Ravens, what do you think about that signing?
Brendon Ayanbadejo – Ravens SuperBowl XLVII champion/retired: I think it’s a good acquisition, because you have Dennis Bennett as a rising star, but now we can see what Owen is gonna teach him. You know they are both receiving threats, so its gonna make Dennis better, it’s gonna make the offense better. Teams with two tight ends can become a matchup nightmare. Because then you have to put in an extra DB in the game, pull a linebacker, then it gives you a chance to run the ball.
MCD: Do you think Tupac is still alive?
Nyjah Huston – Professional skateboarder – ESPY winner for Best Male Action Sports Athlete: My friends and I were having a conversation about that the other day and one of my friends knew a bunch about it and he actually kinda convinced me that it’s very possible, so who knows.
MCD: Who picked out your outfit? Any special rhyme or reason?
NH: I did. I just like it. Pretty normal: my skinny jeans, my DC shoes and leather jacket, button up. Yep.
MCD: What are you most looking forward to in this year’s show?
Ryan Hunter Reay – Indy 500 winner – ESPY winner for Driver of the Year – 2nd consecutive win: Just the whole show, you know. Stuart Scott, his battle with cancer, I’m looking forward to that story. We do a lot for cancer research and all the funds raised fighting cancer, we have a charity as well.
MCD: Do you want to plug that charity?
Beccy Gordon (Ryan’s wife): Yes! RacingForCancer.org. And even better, every dollar we raise, AutoNation matches. We are on our way to $2 million. (Starts whispering) He actually won. We just found that out. I don’t know if we’re allowed to tell you that yet–it’s a rumor that’s trickling down, then everybody’s like no he didn’t. I think he did, I don’t know.
MCD: If you could sit next to Michael Jordan all through the ESPYs or DMX who would you sit next to?
Michael Robinson – Seattle Seahawks fullback: Probably DMX.
MCD: Because he’ll probably shoot the $#!+ with you more?
MR: Um, I’ve never been rich before. I’ve never had shoes named after me. I feel like I could understand a little bit more what DMX is going through and I feel like there’s a little more mystery there, than there is to Jordan.
MCD: Speaking of stretching, what’s your favorite stretch before or after a game?
Antonio Cromartie – Arizona Cardinals cornerback: The hip flexor stretch. I got bad hips.
MCD: You got bad hips?
AC: Yeah I’m old.
MCD: Ha–I was going to say is that because you’re getting old. Some might say you have child-bearing hips?
MCD: This is your first time at the ESPYs–what athlete would you most be starstruck to see tonight?
Alex DeLeon from The Cab: Ugh, Kobe Bryant. I mean to be honest it’s kinda weird–I don’t get star struck around musicians but then the athletes come around and I’m like “oh $#!+ I was you on Madden last night” you know?
MCD: So it’s kind of like an awkward pickup line, huh?
ADL: Ha, yeah.
MCD: So you’re wearing a Rod Streater Raiders jersey to the ESPYs – I kind of dig your style.
ADL: I’m from the Oakland and a huge Raiders fan and he wore this in a game that me and my dad went to and he just gave it to me – I’m a huge fan of his. I think he’s going to have a breakout year so it’s awesome. He supports the band and he’s going to come out to some shows and we’re going to go to his games and its really cool–I think and music and sports really go hand in hand.
MCD: Is this your first time at the ESPYs?
Grigor Dimitrov (tennis player and Maria Sharapova’s boyfriend): Yes it is.
MCD: What are you most excited about?
GD: I didn’t know my way around the red carpet, so that’s been interesting.
MCD: Tell me a little secret about Maria–just something random… don’t get yourself in trouble though…
GD: I’m trying to think.
MCD: Does she get nervous before events like this?
GD:No I don’t think so, I think she just does her thing, I was a little nervous today but it’s a very nice event.
MCD: Did you get any tips from her? Like how to work the red carpet like what to do?
GD:A little bit–just make sure to smile and be nice, she told me.
MCD: Did she help pick your outfit?
GD: No all by myself. But of course she approved of it.
MCD: What athlete are you most looking forward to seeing tonight?
GD: Mayweather–I think he’s presenting with her so yeah that would be a pretty cool dynamic.
MCD: Tell me about the fans in Cleveland right now.
Chris Ogbonnaya – Cleveland Browns fullback: We have hands down the best fans in the NFL–win, lose, rain, snowing, sunshine–if it’s really cold they don’t wear shirts. Our fans are crazy it’s called the dog pound for a reason and it’s up to us to keep up the pandemonium and do our best to try to win every game.
MCD: Obviously your fans have been great but what’s the difference you’re noticing with LeBron and Johnny Football coming to town?
CO: Our fans are always great but you bring two polarizing figures to Cleveland – it’s going to help the city, going to garner a lot of attention for the city and games and with that there’s a little added pressure but with that you gotta understand that you are a professional athlete and you gotta be disciplined.
MCD: Your team is going to be criticized and get more attention to now more than ever–do you think it will make you perform better?
CO: I always felt like the people that are in this position are good because they can thrive under pressure. Personally I like the pressure–I think that it is great anything that brings good attention and is positive for the city and gives us an opportunity to win–I think that’s good.
MCD: I bet you’re excited about Jimmy Graham’s new contract?
Benjamin Watson – New Orleans Saints tight end: [laughing] Yeah, we’re going to take advantage of it and make him take us somewhere nice for dinner.
MCD: What is “nice” for you? What’s the plan for this?
BW: Oh, we’ll probably go on a nice tour of New Orleans restaurants. We would get on his plane – we’re gonna make it hard on him!
MCD: I feel like you should.
BW: Yeah we are but I’m excited for him – he’s worked really hard and he deserves it so I’m glad the Saints and him were able to come together for that. You can expect us to be a very competitive football team this year–we were very competitive last year, we made it to the playoffs, but we fell a little short. We have a lot of talent on the team. It’s going to take hard work from us but with training camp coming up it’s about setting a foundation and then it’s to win games after that.
Goosebump overload: Stuart Scott’s finest moment on TV. Hearing the story of Stuart Scott’s perseverance and clips from his family was a moment that probably won’t ever be topped. But the best part? Watching every one of those in attendance standup to cheer him on because many know first-hand just how accurate and genuine every word of his speech truly was.
Words to live by that I won’t ever forget: “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” And perhaps the best two words uttered during the entire night: “Just Live.”
And can I just say I loved that his 14-year-old daughter walked onto stage barefoot? Brittany take note – she can pull this off at the ESPYs, you still cannot pull this off anywhere, including gas stations.
Jayme Lamm is a freelance sports and travel writer based in Houston and is currently in a full-court press writing her hugely opinionated sports column, The Blonde Side. Follow her travels for sporting events and check her out on Twitter.