Sporting superstars across the globe will gather tonight in hopes of taking home the trophy that unites them all: an ESPY Award. The 25th annual ESPY Awards will celebrate the greatest sports moments of the past year, from the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro to the thrilling Stanley Cup and NBA Finals last month and everything in between. Check out our breakdown of the evening’s top award categories, including our predictions for who will be standing in the winner’s circle by the night’s end.
Best Male Athlete
Vying for the title of Best Male Athlete are Sidney Crosby of the Stanley Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, NBA star Russell Westbrook and Olympic golden boy Michael Phelps. We’ve got to hand it to Crosby and Bryant for their stellar performances which led their teams to become champions, as well as Westbrook, who was named league MVP at the inaugural NBA Awards last month. However, due to Phelps’ tremendous resumé as the most decorated Olympian ever, we’ll venture to say he’s got this one in the bag.
Best Female Athlete
Mommy-to-be Serena Williams may be sidelined for the rest of this tennis season due to her pregnancy, but that’s not stopping her from being the front-runner for Best Female Athlete. With a win here, she’d become the first lady to claim this category three times, and undoubtedly deserves it after picking up her 23rd Major title at this year’s Australian Open while, unbeknownst to the world, expecting. However, Serena will have to edge fresh-faced gymnastics standout Simone Biles, Olympic record-setting swimmer Katie Ledecky and Candace Parker of the WNBA for the hardware.
Best Breakthrough Athlete
Gymnastics darling Laurie Hernandez certainly has both the talent and charm to earn the votes for Best Breakthrough Athlete. However, MLB standout Aaron Judge is also in hot pursuit of the prize, and his unbelievable stats are leading the way. The Yankee outfielder has already notched 30 homers this season, making him not only one of the best rookies the Bronx Bombers have ever seen, but the entire league as well. Other nominees include soccer star Christian Pulisic, NBA standout Giannis Antetokounmpo and Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott.
Best Championship Performance
Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that Tom Brady’s clutch performance in his fifth Super Bowl victory cemented his status as one of football’s greatest legends. The Patriots QB is most likely to take home this ESPY, though he could upstaged by Kevin Durant for his performance in the NBA Finals. Other nominees include Shay Knighten of the University of Oklahoma for the Women’s College World Series and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson for the CFB National Championship.
Best Record-Breaking Performance
Always one of the most impressive categories, the ESPY for Best Record-Breaking Performance is once again chock-full of jaw-dropping moments. Nominees include Diana Taurasi for becoming the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer, Russell Westbrook for most triple-doubles in a season, Bill Belichick for earning the most Super Bowl wins of any head coach, and Michael Phelps for beating his own record of most Olympic gold medals (22 of his 27 are gold). Given the fact that he’s won this very award following the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics, our money’s on the superstar swimmer to claim it once more.
Three nominees, three earth-shattering upsets. First up is the college football National Championship where the Clemson Tigers avenged their loss to Alabama the previous year, staging a comeback to win 35-31 in the final seconds. Next up is Denis Istomin’s takedown of Novak Djokovic in the second round of the Australian Open, the tournament Djokovic has dominated and won a record six times. Finally, the UConn women’s basketball team were handed their first loss in over two years after a record-breaking 111 consecutive wins, all thanks to an overtime buzzer beater from a scrappy Mississippi State team in the NCAA Final Four. Any team that can beat the Huskies (especially any team other than Stanford, Tennessee, or Notre Dame) deserves all the credit, so hand this ESPY over to the Bulldogs of Mississippi State.
A historic championship drought finally brought to an end after 108 years. A comeback for the ages that went down to the wire. A storied rivalry seemingly past its prime revived in stunning fashion to cement the legacy of the victor. This category is truly one of the toughest to call, pitting the Cubs’ dramatic World Series win in Game 7 against Super Bowl 51 and the Australian Open men’s final featuring Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. All three match-ups will go down in the history books as some of the best championship games in all of sports, but if there is one with the slightly bigger edge for the ESPY, we’d hand it to the Super Bowl.
Best Comeback Athlete
Of the four nominated athletes—Texas Rangers pitcher Matt Bush, WNBA star Candace Parker, Green Bay Packer Jordy Nelson and tennis champ Roger Federer—there is something truly special about Federer’s comeback. The Swiss legend had faced the biggest setback of his career following the 2016 Australian Open, when he endured knee surgery that would keep him from playing the French Open, Rio Olympics and U.S. Open. After six months away from the tour, vintage Federer was back and proved age is just a number by winning his 18th Major title in Australia at 35 years old. And the fact that he did so by beating longtime rival Rafael Nadal after trailing him in the fifth set is merely the cherry on top of this sweet comeback story. Add this ESPY to his overflowing trophy case.
Historically speaking, luck is on the Golden State Warriors side for this award, as more professional basketball teams have claimed this category than any other sport. Their one-sided victory over the Cavs in the NBA Finals certainly improved their chances of winning Best Team, however plenty of other great champion squads are up for the prize, including the New England Patriots, Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Penguins, South Carolina Gamecocks Women’s Basketball team and the U.S. Women’s Olympic Gymnastics team.
The 25th annual ESPY Awards air tonight on ABC at 8 p.m. EST. Football great Peyton Manning hosts.