The 2021 ESPYS, Hosted by Acclaimed Actor Anthony Mackie, Celebrated the Biggest Achievements, Performances and Moments of the Year in Sports


The 2021 ESPYS, Hosted by Acclaimed Actor Anthony Mackie, Celebrated the Biggest Achievements, Performances and Moments of the Year in Sports

LaMelo Ball, Naomi Osaka, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers Among the Night’s Big Winners;

On Saturday evening, some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment descended on The Rooftop at Pier 17 at the Seaport in New York City to celebrate the year’s best moments in sports at The 2021 ESPYS Presented by Capital One. The show was hosted by actor Anthony Mackie and aired live on ABC. Mackie, a New Orleans sports fan, joked about hating the Atlanta Falcons so much, he made sure to be on a flight when they were in the Super Bowl. He also welcomed his favorite New Orleans athlete to the show, 14-year old Scripps National Spelling Bee champion and basketball phenom Zaila Avant-garde.

The evening’s first award went to Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith, who was named Best College Athlete, Men’s Sports. Recording artist Kane Brown and Olympic Gold Medalist Chloe Kim  presented Smith with the award. Best Athlete, Women’s Sports went to tennis superstar Naomi Osaka. NBA Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball was awarded Best Breakthrough Athlete, and Gonzaga and UCLA took home the award for Best Game for the Bulldogs’ 93-90 win over the Bruins in a buzzer-beater upset in the NCAA Final Four.

The winner of the Best Play bracket was Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray who launched a game-winning hail mary pass to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to beat the Buffalo Bills. Best Championship Performance went to Olympian Simone Biles for winning her seventh U.S. all-around title at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships, and seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady took home two awards for Best NFL Player and Best Athlete, Men’s Sports.

Each year, The ESPYS recognizes individuals in the world of sports who have demonstrated admirable perseverance, courage and strength in the face of adversity with three marquee awards: the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance, the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage and the Pat Tillman Award for Service. Award-winning actor and single Taye Diggs presented the Pat Tillman Award for Service to Manchester United and England forward Marcus Rashford for his advocacy work on homelessness and child hunger. Later in the show, Tim Tebow presented the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance to Chris Nikic, the first person with Down syndrome to have completed an Ironman triathlon. Good Morning America Anchor Robin Roberts gave an emotional speech to present the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage to WNBA superstar and activist Maya Moore, who departed from the sport at the peak of her career to rededicate her life to criminal justice reform.

The ESPYS help to raise awareness and funds for the V Foundation for Cancer Research, the charity founded by ESPN and the late basketball coach Jim Valvano at the first ESPYS back in 1993. ESPN and the V Foundation have vowed to continue to raise awareness and funds for cancer research until there is victory over cancer.

The evening’s final award for Best Team was presented by New York Jets Legend Joe Namath to Super Bowl winners the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

After the show, ESPN’s The Undefeated hosted a 30 min Live Post ESPYS, which aired on the ESPN App, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook featuring recap of the evening, digging deeper into winners, recipients, and highlights from moments from the night. 


Best Athlete, Women’s Sports: Naomi Osaka, Tennis

Best Athlete, Men’s Sports: Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Best Breakthrough Athlete: LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets

Best Game: NCAA Men’s Final Four: Gonzaga (93) vs. UCLA (90)

Best College Athlete, Women’s Sports: Paige Bueckers, University of Connecticut Basketball 

Best College Athlete, Men’s Sports: DeVonta Smith, Alabama Football

Best Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, NFL 

Best Record-Breaking Performance: Russell Westbrook, Washington Wizards – breaks Oscar Robertson’s 47year-old triple-double record with 182

Best Play: Kyler Murray Launches Hail Mary to DeAndre Hopkins (11/15/2020)

Best Championship Performance: Simone Biles

Best Championship Moment: Los Angeles Dodgers win the World Series

Best Coach: Tara VanDerveer

Best International Athlete, Men’s Soccer: Cristiano Ronaldo, Juventus/Portugal National Team

Best International Athlete, Women’s Soccer: Sam Mewis, Manchester City/USA National Team

Best NFL Player: Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Best MLB Player: Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels

Best NHL Player: Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

Best Driver: Lewis Hamilton, F1

Best NBA Player: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

Best WNBA Player: Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm

Best Boxer: Tyson Fury

Best MMA Fighter: Khabib Nurmagomedov

Best Athlete, Men’s Golf: Phil Mickelson

Best Athlete, Women’s Golf: Sei Young Kim

Best Athlete, Men’s Tennis: Novak Djokovic

Best Athlete, Women’s Tennis: Naomi Osaka

Best Athlete, Men’s Action Sports: Gabriel Medina, Surf (BRA) 

Best Athlete, Women’s Action Sports: Chloe Kim, Snowboard (USA)

Best Jockey: Joel Rosario

Best Athlete with a Disability, Men’s Sports: Chris Nikic, Triathlon

Best Athlete with a Disability, Women’s Sports: Becca Murray, Wheelchair Basketball

Best Bowler: Tom Daugherty

Best MLS Player: Diego Rossi, Los Angeles FC

Best NWSL Player: Julie Ertz, Chicago Red Stars

Best WWE Moment: Sasha Banks & Bianca Belair make history as the first Black women to main event WrestleMania.


Jimmy V Award for Perseverance: Chris Nikic

Arthur Ashe Award for Courage: Maya Moore

Pat Tillman Award for Service: Marcus Rashford

More information on The 2021 ESPYS can be found in the official press kit.

About the V Foundation for Cancer Research

The V Foundation for Cancer Research was founded in 1993 by ESPN and the late Jim Valvano, legendary North Carolina State University basketball coach and ESPN commentator. The V Foundation has funded more than $260 million in cancer research grants nationwide. Event proceeds benefit cancer research funded by the V Foundation. The Foundation awards game-changing grants through a competitive process strictly supervised by a Scientific Advisory Committee. For more information on the V Foundation, please visit


Isabelle Lopez

Based in New York City, Isabelle Lopez is a Communications Associate Director for ESPN Films and Original Content. Her projects include the critically-acclaimed 30 for 30 documentary series and The ESPYS, among others.
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