Hollywood and the sports world played together nicely for ESPN’s 2014 ESPYS award ceremony. The mixture of stars, stand-up comedy and speeches at the annual telecast at L.A.’s Nokia Theatre created a light yet sometimes highly emotional atmosphere during Wednesday night festivities.
Rapper and one-time “Saturday Night Live” host Drake hosted the live broadcast and took jabs at several of the champions being honored in his opening monologue.
Before the night’s events, Drake warned that he would not hold back any punches with his jokes, but did not intend any of them to be mean-spirited.
“I definitely think that hip-hop is a little more malicious than what any host is going for,” Drake said of how his music career would influence him as a host. “I think we’re not trying to end people’s careers or make people feel bad in any way. So our night, like I said, is about being funny and about giving these guys a great time and celebrating sports.”
He playfully recreated memorable scenes from the NBA finals, teaming up with former Indiana Pacer (newly signed with the Charlotte Hornets) Lance Stephenson, who gained fame for blowing in LeBron James’ ear during a matchup, for the “Lance Cam.”
Drake even included supposed rival and rapper Chris Brown in one of his pre-taped sketches with Clippers’ Blake Griffin.
Drake also performed a trio of parody songs, which included a guest performance from crooner Brian McKnight. Drake did not leave the former Clippers owner Donald Sterling controversy out of his humor either. During the parody, the rapper performed to a remixed video of Sterling during his CNN interview and turned “Sterling Never Loved Us” into a hash tag that immediately went viral on social media.
Despite Drake’s antics, the focus remained on sports accomplishments. NBA player Kevin Durant and UFC champion Ronda Rousey received the night’s top honors — male and female athlete of the year, respectively.
The night’s most tearful speeches were delivered by the NFL’s first openly gay drafted player Michael Sam, recipient of the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage, and Jimmy V Perseverance Award winner and ESPN SportsCenter anchor Stuart Scott, who has been battling cancer for the past seven years.
The honorees all came from the sports world, but many people in showbiz noted the overlap of the industries.
Drake touched on the growing convergence of Hollywood and the sports world during a conference call for the ESPYS last Friday. Referencing one of his rap songs, he said, “deep down we want to be them and they want to be us as far as musicians and athletes go… We inspire each other, and I think that’s what really ties music and sports together.”
Jamie Anderson, who took home the female actions sports athlete and female Olympian awards, also spoke to Variety about the relationship and the ESPYS.
“The entertainers and actors are people we see on TV and in the movies,” Anderson said. “It’s that one day of the year that they come and hang out with us and enter into our world. It really shows how closely Hollywood and the sports world are tied to one another.”
Some weighed in on the possible sports events that could be made into B.O. hits. Actor Shemar Moore said he would like to see a movie on this summer’s World Cup, especially the final game against Argentina and Germany.
“I know Americans don’t love soccer all the time because we want points and dunks and touchdown dances, but to see the countries come together and the drama of it all is so much fun,” Moore told Variety.
Actor Anthony Anderson’s choice of movie focused on an even lesser known sporting event in the U.S. – Canadian curling.
“I like to see dudes with a broom on ice screaming at a flat bowling ball,” Anderson told Variety. “I want to know what that’s all about.”
COMPLETE LIST OF ESPYS 2014 WINNERS:
Best Breakthrough Athlete: Richard Sherman
Best Moment: U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team
Best Game: Iron Bowl
Best Record-Breaking Performance: Peyton Manning
Best Play: Chris Davis
Best Female Athlete: Ronda Rousey
Best Male Athlete: Kevin Durant
Best Team: Seattle Seahawks
Best Upset: Mercer
Best Female Action Sports Athlete: Jamie Anderson
Best Male Action Sports Athlete: Nyjah Huston
Best Female Athlete with a Disability: Jamie Whitmore
Best Male Athlete with a Disability: Declan Farmer
Best Female College Athlete: Breanna Stewart
Best Male College Athlete: Doug McDermott
Best Coach/Manager: Gregg Popovich
Best MLS Player: Tim Cahill
Best NBA Player: Kevin Durant
Best NFL Player: Peyton Manning
Best NHL Player: Sidney Crosby
Best MLB Player: Miguel Cabrera
Best WNBA Player: Maya Moore
Best Female US Olympian: Jamie Anderson
Best Male US Olympian: Sage Kotsenburg
Championship Performance: Kawhi Leonard
Best Bowler: Pete Weber
Best Female Tennis Player: Maria Sharapova
Best Male Tennis Player: Rafael Nadal
Best Comeback Athlete: Russell Westbrook
Best Female Golfer: Michelle Wie
Best Male Golfer: Bubba Watson
Best International Athlete: Cristiano Ronaldo
Best Fighter: Floyd Mayweather
Best Driver: Ryan Hunter-Reay
Best Jockey: Victor Espinoza
Jimmy V Perseverance Award: Stuart Scott
Arthur Ashe Courage Award: Michael Sam
Pat Tillman Award For Service: Josh Sweeney