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07/11/24 11:59:00

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07/11 23:57 CDT Serena Williams hosts an ESPY awards show celebrating landmark year for women's sports Serena Williams hosts an ESPY awards show celebrating landmark year for women's sports By BETH HARRIS AP Sports Writer LOS ANGELES (AP) --- Led by host Serena Williams, The ESPYS celebrated a landmark year for women's sports, with Simone Biles, A'ja Wilson, Caitlin Clark, Dawn Staley and JuJu Watkins among the honorees on Thursday night. Staley, coach of the national champion South Carolina women's basketball team, received the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance. Her friend, Tennessee standout Nicki McCray-Penson, died of breast cancer and Staley's sister was diagnosed with leukemia. "I must confess I feel a little undeserving of this recognition. Past recipients of the Jimmy V Perseverance Award have faced incredible challenges and proven themselves as true warriors," Staley said. "I have merely been a spectator to such immense courage and resilience." Staley's Gamecocks won the best team award. Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces won as best women's sports athlete and as best WNBA player. "It's crazy to think that a young girl that didn't even want to play basketball is now up in the running for even one ESPY," she said in videotaped remarks. The best men's sports athlete was Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. He also claimed best NFL player. "I been around this kid for a few years now and to watch him grow as a football player, as a teammate, as a leader has been phenomenal," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, accepting on Mahomes' behalf, "but more than that to watch him grow as a father and a husband has been the best part." Biles earned best comeback athlete weeks before she competes at the Paris Olympics. The most decorated gymnast in history withdrew from the team competition at the Tokyo Games to prioritize her mental health. Clark of the Indiana Fever also earned two trophies, for record-breaking performance in becoming the NCAA's all-time career scoring leader, and as best college athlete, for her Iowa basketball career. "I'm a little bit busy in Indianapolis," Clark said via videotape. "It was a special year in women's athletics." Watkins won best breakthrough athlete, taking the first award after the show began 30 minutes late because of President Joe Biden's news conference. The Southern California basketball star had a standout freshman season, leading the Trojans to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in decades. "This is crazy," Watkins said. "I want to thank all the great, powerful women who came before me that made this possible." Williams joked during her monologue at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood and later sang after Ciara opened the show with a musical performance. Williams' older sister, Venus, came out and joked that she had actually been asked to host and the siblings got into a mock argument. "You may be wondering why I'm doing this," noted fashion fiend Serena said. "Any opportunity to wear 16 outfits in three hours, I'm going to take it." The ABC telecast returned from a commercial break in the final minutes and began repeating the presentations of two earlier awards. Williams' goodbye also was cut off, as were the final credits. ABC said a technical glitch in the feed affected the live show in the East and Central time zones. It was to be corrected for tape-delayed viewing in the West. Prince Harry received the Pat Tillman Award for Service, and he mentioned the late Army Ranger's mother who had criticized ESPN for honoring the royal. With wife Meghan joining in a standing ovation, the Duke of Sussex accepted the trophy from three service veterans who were injured during their tours of duty. Harry served in the British military for 10 years, including two tours in Afghanistan as a helicopter pilot. He created the Invictus Games in 2014, which serves as a multi-sport, paralympic-style games for wounded or injured servicemen and veterans. "This award belongs to them, not to me," Harry said. Tillman's mother, Mary Tillman, had criticized ESPN's choice of Harry, saying there are recipients working in the veteran community who would have been more fitting. Harry thanked Tillman's widow, Marie, for her attendance and also acknowledged Mary Tillman. "Her advocacy for Pat's legacy is deeply personal and one that I respect," he said. "The bond between a mother and son is eternal and transcends even the greatest losses." Retired NFL safety Steve Gleason was honored with the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage. He was diagnosed with ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, in 2011. His nonprofit, Team Gleason, helps people with ALS live purposeful lives by providing programming and support services. Gleason received a standing ovation when he took the stage in a motorized chair and was kissed by former New Orleans Saints teammate Drew Brees. Gleason's voice was heard through special technology. His young son, Rivers, stood next to his father and held the trophy. "For me, this honor represents some encouragement and triumph for the families currently living with ALS, all the people living with disabilities or other illnesses," he said. "I suppose if you have never experienced fear, isolation or suffering, you can roll your sanctified ass right out of here." Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Dodgers was best MLB player; Connor McDavid of the Stanley Cup runner-up Edmonton Oilers was best NHL player; and Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks was best NBA player. Cooper Flagg, a senior guard-forward from Montverde (Florida) Academy, and track and field athlete Sadie Engelhardt of Ventura (California) High won the Gatorade National Players of the Year. The three-hour show on ABC was delayed when Biden's nationally televised news conference started late and ran 30 minutes into the show's timeslot. ___ AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports
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