When rapper Drake got onto the stage to host this year’s ESPYS awards, it was hard to tell that it would be one of the best ceremonies aired thus far on ESPN. Things got off to a slow yet benign start with Drake poking fun at athletes LeBron James, Johnny Manziel and Russell Westbrook, among others, but Aubrey’s Donald Sterling joke—met with slightly embarrassed reactions all around—quickly showed that there’s plenty of room for awkwardness during the show. And it was awkward. It was funny. It was extremely touching (yes, tears were shed). Herein, we remember the broadcast’s most awesome moments, from sportscaster Stuart Scott’s amazing acceptance speech, to .
The NBA factor
Russell Westbrook wins Best Comeback Athlete award
Kevin Durant wins Best Male Athlete
With LeBron James’ stock taking a hit after the Miami Heat lost to the Spurs in the most recent championships, Kevin Durant was primed and ready to take this award. Actor Taye Diggs and racecar driver Danica Patrick presented him with the award, but not without Diggs first vowing to mess up would-be suitors of his new girlfriend, Amanza Smith Brown. Things got weird. To top things off, Kevin Durant comically soared over the duo and the microphone as he thanked his mom (obviously), his team and his “favourite” basketball player, fellow ESPYS award winner Russell Westbrook.
The most emotional moments
Stuart Scott’s amazing acceptance speech
After ESPN sportscaster Stuart Scott, who has been battling a rare form of cancer since 2007, nailed his speech, there was hardly a dry eye in the house. Scott took home the Jimmy V Perseverance Award for his positive outlook and dedication to his craft. After a touching spotlight sequence, Scott extolled the virtues of living well in the face of adversity. Fittingly, he accepted the award from Kiefer Sutherland, the star of 24, Scott’s favourite television show. When Scott’s speech came to a close, he hugged his youngest daughter amid a standing ovation. Keep the fight up.
Michael Sam wins the Arthur Ashe Courage Award
Another man’s fight is also far from over. Michael Sam, who recently became the first openly gay player in the NFL, was awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. He has become the target of endless vitriol and bigotry since coming out publicly last August, and faced the prospect of never being drafted into the professional football league due to his orientation, despite being voted the MVP defensive end of his Missouri college team. However, during the NFL Draft, he broke barriers when he became the NFL’s 249th pick. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson presented to Sam the much-deserved award. During his acceptance speech, Sam was overcome with emotion several times, but still managed to thank his supporters.
Josh Sweeney wins the Pat Tillman Award For Service
Actor Jeff Bridges had the privilege of presenting U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team player Josh Sweeney with the Pat Tillman Award For Service, the first given out to honour veterans. Sweeney led the San Antonio Rampage sled hockey team to their first-ever National Championships, and scored the game-winning goal in this year’s United States’ Paralympic sled hockey bout against Russia in Sochi. The former Marine Sergeant lost both of his legs in 2009 when he stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan, but refused to allow the injury to end his support for America.
The best of the rest
Richard Sherman wins Best Breakthrough Player
Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel presented Richard Sherman with the award for his performance as a cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks. He has helped lead the a stellar fourth season for the franchise, who went on to become the Super Bowl XLVIII champions. Damian Lillard was also nominated for the award, but did not win.
The Seattle Seahawks also win Best Team
Julius “Dr. J” Erving and the New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony announced that the Seattle Seahawks were the winners of this year’s Best Team. This ESPY award marks a first for the franchise. Star quarterback Russell Wilson came up onto the stage to accept the award with the rest of his team.
Peyton Manning takes Best NFL Player
The first thing Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino did when he came up on stage was remind the audience of the many records he broke during his time in the NFL. He quickly changed his tune, announcing that Best NFL Player would go to Peyton Manning, a player who had beaten most of them. The NBA’s Kevin Durant joined him on stage to remark on Manning’s record-breaking performance over the last year, which included scoring more than 50 points in back-to-back games. Manning won an ESPY years ago for best college athlete.
The U.S. National Soccer Team wins Best Moment
Russell Wilson joined actress Jessica Alba to present the U.S. National Soccer Team with the ESPY for best moment in honour of their massive victory over Ghana during the World Cup. John Brooks scored an unforgettable goal for Team USA with four minutes on the clock, beating the team who has eliminated the U.S. from the World Cup not once, but twice. With Flint Dempsey and crew on the stage, it marks a watershed moment for soccer (or football, if you prefer) in the United States, where the sport is growing in popularity. It beat out Kevin Durant’s tearful MVP acceptance speech.
Chris Davis wins Best Play
American footballer Victor Cruz and The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons announced that the award for Best Play would go to Chris Davis, the Auburn quarterback whose 109-yard dash Kick Six play won the Iron Bowl against his team’s rivals, Alabama. Davis began by thanking God and his teammates. Classy guy.
Ronda Rousey wins Best Female Athlete
The UFC’s women’s bantamweight champion, Ronda Rousey, claimed the UFC’s first-ever ESPY award. Colin Kaepernick helped present the award, nervously avoiding making eye contact with co-presenter and model Chrissy Teigen’s prominent cleavage. Unfortunately, the UFC’s new Best Female Athlete couldn’t be there to accept it in person due to a recent surgery.
Funny (and awkward) moments
The Lance Cam
Drake started off with his admittedly hilarious Lance Cam gag, which poked fun at Lance Stephenson, the NBA player caught blowing into LeBron James’ ear. The amusement was multiplied when the Double Lance Cam made its debut, and Drake was joined by Stephenson himself blowing into Paul George of the Indiana Pacers’ ear.
Drake gets friendzoned by Skylar Diggins
“Lordy, Lordy, Michael Jordy!” is what Drake excitedly exclaimed when WNBA superstar Skylar Diggins agreed to give him a kiss on camera. The skit started with Drake upset that his crush wouldn’t be there, and chose to read an awful (and perhaps overly graphic) poem entitled “Can I Digg-In?” She sneaks up behind him and agrees to the kiss to put an end to his nonsense. Of course, things don’t turn out as planned for Drake and he gets a peck on the forehead, forever sealing him in the dreaded friendzone.
Blake and Drake trade places
Drake showed off his versatility by playing Blake Griffin in a faux Grantland interview, while Griffin, dressed as Drake, mocked his musical talents in a recording booth. Highlights of the skit included Drake-as-Blake claiming that his appearance comes from “laying in Cheetos for 10 days.” They traded ribs until the skit was over, at which point Griffin took over hosting duties as Drake appeared tied up and gagged on-screen behind him.
Floyd Mayweather announces Auburn vs. Alabama wins Best Game
Before presenting the award for Best Game—which went to the aforementioned Auburn vs. Alabama, in case you were wondering—Floyd Mayweather refused to come out unless he was introduced in a particular way by Drake. That included trumpeters and Drake reading Mayweather’s high-falutin title (“six-time ESPYS winner, highest paid athlete in the world”) before finally mentioning co-presenter Maria Sharapova “from tennis or whatever.”
Drake’s really, really awful songs
To ramp up the awkwardness were three tasteless songs by Drake. The first, “Honourable Mention,” celebrated athletes who came in second place, including the likes of Kevin Durant (“real talent doesn’t always win championships, like real music doesn’t always win Grammys”) and LeBron James. His second song, “Side Pieces,” referred to athletes’ mistresses and featured a surprise visit by R&B singer Brian McKnight. However, things got silently awkward with Drake’s performance of “Sterling Never Loved Us,” which featured remixed quotes from Sterling’s interviews on the topic of racism. It quickly became apparent that he sang three songs too many.
See you at the 2015 ESPY Awards! To see more images from the rest of the broadcast, head over to our gallery.