Breaking Down the 2012 ESPY Awards: Who Should Win and Why

By 07.09.12

There are some difficult decisions to make this year concerning who is most deserving of the hardware. The ballot is chockfull of ballers and champions.

Let’s dive in. I’ll tell you I’d select, and you can tell me how stupid my logic is in the comments. It’ll be great fun.

Best Male Athlete
Novak Djokovic, Tennis
LeBron James, NBA
Aaron Rodgers, NFL
Justin Verlander, MLB

Reggie’s Choice: LeBron James. With his dominating championship performance, the Miami Heat superstar issued a moratorium on all ignorant comments regarding his greatness. No player has ever faced pressure like the pressure he faced this year. No player has performed better in the face of pressure.

Best Female Athlete
Brittney Griner, Baylor Basketball
Maria Sharapova, Tennis
Lindsey Vonn, Alpine Skier
Abby Wambach, Soccer

Reggie’s Choice: Brittney Griner. This one is a no-brainer. She’s the female equivalent of Wilt Chamberlain and led her Baylor Bears to an undefeated season. What more does a girl gotta do?

Best Championship Performance
David Freese, World Series
LeBron James, NBA Playoffs
Eli Manning, Super Bowl
Tony Stewart, Sprint Cup
Jonathan Quick, Stanley Cup

Reggie’s Choice: LeBron James. I’m sorry, but you can’t be the athlete of the year based on the strength of a team championship and not win this one as well. James’ playoff performance, particularly in the NBA Finals, was transcendent. I can see Jonathan Quick getting the nod, though, based on the Los Angeles Kings’ remarkable run as a No. 8 seed. People just love Cinderella stories.

Best Breakthrough Athlete
Anthony Davis, Kentucky Basketball
Robert Griffin III, Baylor Football
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
Jeremy Lin, New York Knicks
Alex Morgan, Soccer

Reggie’s Choice: Anthony Davis. Among these candidates, no player had a more profound impact over the course of an entire season than Davis. He was named college player of the year and led his team to a NCAA championship as a freshman. More than that, he changed the complexion of the game with his very presence on the court. We brow to his greatness.

Best Record-Breaking Performance
Drew Brees, Passing Yards Record
Coach K, Wins Milestone
Mariano Rivera, Saves Milestone
Lexi Thompson, Youngest Winner

Reggie’s Choice: Drew Brees. This one was tough. I’m particularly nonplussed by all of the candidates. Records achieved by longevity aren’t as sexy as single-season greatness. Still, Brees’ record-breaking performance is perhaps more indicative of the pass-happy NFL more than his personal skill.

Best Upset
Iowa State over Oklahoma State, NCAA Football
L.A. Kings, Stanley Cup win
Lehigh over Duke, NCAA Tournament
Norfolk State over Missouri, NCAA Tournament

Reggie’s Choice: Norfolk State over Missouri. The upset of the year, simple as that. Yes, Duke losing was more gratifying, but this one was more shocking.

Best Game
Missouri at Kansas, College Basketball
Rangers – Cardinals, World Series Game 6
49ers vs. Saints, NFL Playoffs

Reggie’s Choice: Rangers-Cardinals, World Series Game 6. This one wins because of importance. If Nelson Cruz plays David Freese’s fly ball more aggressively, the Rangers are World Series champions. Instead, he opened the door to even more heroics on baseball’s biggest stage.

Best Moment
Derek Jeter, 3,000th Hit
Tebow to Thomas, Sudden Death TD
Bubba Watson, Masters Win
MLB Season Ends, Drama On Final Night

Reggie’s Choice: Tebow to Thomas, Sudden Death TD. I admit it. I’m a Tim Tebow fan. When he threw his overtime bullet to eliminate the Pittsburgh Steelers, I thought Twitter was going to break. It was the biggest moment of the biggest story arc of the year. The last night of the baseball season was probably better, but that was over a whole night.

Best Coach/Manager
John Calipari, Kentucky Basketball
Tom Coughlin, NY Giants
Kim Mulkey, Baylor Women's Basketball
Patrick Murphy, Alabama Softball
Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat
Darryl Sutter, L.A. Kings

Reggie’s Choice: Darryl Sutter, Los Angeles Kings. Piloting the least-likely NHL team to a Stanley Cup surely deserves some love, right? No better time than now to make Sutter a household name. I’m personally rooting for Spoelstra, just for the indignant outrage it would cause.

Best Comeback Athlete
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Johan Santana, New York Mets
Maria Sharapova, Tennis
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

Reggie’s Choice: Sidney Crosby. Like it or not, he’s the face of hockey. There was a time when it looked like his career might be over, which would have been a tragic end to a storybook career.

Best International Athelete
Novak Djokovic, Tennis
Lionel Messi, Soccer
Cristiano Ronaldo, Soccer
Yani Tseng, Golfer

Reggie’s Choice: Lionel Messi. The greatest player in the world’s most popular game and potentially the best ever. One of the most obvious choices on the ballot.

Best NFL Player
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens

Reggie’s Choice: Calvin Johnson. You can look far and wide, but no football player can do what Megatron does. He’s not the most valuable of the lot, but definitely the most electric. 

Best MLB Player
Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers
Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

Reggie’s Choice: Josh Hamilton. He simply does it all and playing every day gives him a slight edge over Justin Verlander.

Best Team of the Year
Alabama football
Baylor women's basketball
Kentucky men's basketball
Los Angeles Kings
Miami Heat
New York Giants
St. Louis Cardinals

Reggie’s Choice: Baylor women’s basketball. You can’t do better than going undefeated and winning a national championship. I’d really love to see them win, but don’t think they will. Look for the Heat to get even more love here.

Here are the rest of my selections, based entirely on personal bias.

Best NHL Player
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

Best Driver
Dario Franchitti, IndyCar
Tony Stewart, NASCAR
Sebastian Vettel, F1
Del Worsham, NHRA

Best NBA Player
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
LeBron James, Miami Heat
Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs
Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics

Best WNBA Player
Seimone Augustus, Minnesota Lynx
Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever
Tina Charles, Connecticut Sun
Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta Dream
Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury

Best Fighter
Jon 'Bones' Jones, MMA
Floyd Mayweather Jr., Boxing
Anderson Silva, MMA
Andre Ward, Boxing

Best Male Golfer
Luke Donald
Bill Haas
Rory McIlroy
Webb Simpson
Bubba Watson

Best Female Golfer
Cristie Kerr
Yani Tseng
So Yeon Ryu

Best Male Tennis Player
Novak Djokovic
Roger Federer
Rafael Nadal

Best Female Tennis Player
Victoria Azarenka
Petra Kvitova
Maria Sharapova
Samantha Stosur

Best Male College Athlete
Jack Connolly, Minnesota-Duluth Hockey
Anthony Davis, Kentucky Basketball
Robert Griffin III, Baylor Football
Andrew Luck, Stanford Football
Mike Zunino, Florida Baseball

Best Female College Athlete
Brittney Griner, Baylor Basketball
Alex Jupiter, USC Volleyball
Caitlin Leverenz, Cal Swimming
Teresa Noyola, Stanford Soccer
Jackie Traina, Alabama Softball

Best Male Action Sports Athlete
Travis Rice
Kelly Slater
Ryan Villopoto
Shaun White

Best Female Action Sports Athlete
Jamie Anderson
Kelly Clark
Carissa Moore
Kaya Turski

Best Jockey
Javier Castellano
Ramon Dominguez
Mario Gutierrez
John Velazquez

Best Male Athlete with a Disability
Baxter Humby
Raymond Martin
Kyle Maynard
Oz Sanchez
Tyler Walker

Best Female Athlete with a Disability
Jessica Long
Chelsea McClammer
Tatyana McFadden
Alana Nichols
Melissa Stockwell

Best Bowler
Jason Belmonte
Mike Fagan
Sean Rash

Best MLS Player
David Beckham, Los Angeles Galaxy
Brad Davis, Houston Dynamo
Dwayne De Rosario, DC United
Chris Wondolowski, San Jose Earthquakes

Best Track & Field Athlete
Walter Dix
Carmelita Jeter
Jason Richardson
Christian Taylor

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