Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors and Aaron Rodgers were among the elite athletes with Bay Area connections honored Wednesday night at the 25th ESPYs.
Durant, who captured his first NBA title with the Golden State Warriors this past season, as well as his first MVP trophy, was honored with a 2017 ESPY for best championship performance, ESPN reported.
Durant’s dominance in the NBA Finals also helped his Warriors win the ESPY for best team. At the celebrity-studded ceremony at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, Durant was joined on stage by Stephen Curry and center Zaza Pachulia to accept the team award.
The Warriors’ 129-120 victory over Cleveland in Game 5 of the NBA Finals completed a 16-1 run through the playoffs and brought them their second NBA title in three seasons, ESPN said.
“Right now we look like the most perfectly constructed 3-on-3 team,” joked two-time MVP Curry. “But we have 12 other guys who obviously helped us achieve this award.
“It was an unbelievable year,” Curry added. “A lot of noise and hype around us in the beginning of the season, but we tried to keep our head down and focus on the process, and nine months later, we got another ‘chip.’”
Durant’s much-debated decision to joint the Warriors last summer, signing as a free agent after spending nine seasons with the Oklahoma Thunder, made him the target for some light-hearted jabs by the awards show host Peyton Manning.
During his opening monologue, Manning mentioned the gold medal-winning U.S. women’s gymnastics team, which dazzled at the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro. Manning quipped as Durant sat stone-faced: “Our gymnastics team was so dominant that Kevin Durant told me that he wants to play for them next year.”
Manning also poked fun at a similarly stone-faced Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who beat out Durant for best male athlete.
As it happens, one member of that women’s gymnastics team, Simon Biles, took home the ESPY for best female athlete. She was competing against tennis star Serena Williams and Olympic swimmer and Stanford University student Katie Ledecky.
“Ever since Rio it has been an amazing year,” said Biles, only one of four women, and the first American, to win four golds in a single Olympics. She added, “The best part of all has been meeting all the young people who live up to all the athletes in this room.”
Aaron Rodgers accepts the award for best play at the ESPYS. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
As for Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback beat out NFL MVP Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons and Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady of the New England Patriots to win the ESPY for NFL’s best player. He also came out on top of the Oakland Raiders’ Khalil Mack and Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott.
The honor, of course, outraged some Patriots and Cowboys fans and prompted memes inspired by the recent Academy Awards debacle in which Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty wrongly announced “La La Land,” not “Moonlight,” as the winner for best picture.
— WSB-TV (@wsbtv) July 12, 2017
On the other hand, the Chico-reared Rodgers, who starred as a quarterback for Cal’s Golden Bears. is also known as a remarkably talented athlete who pulls out some pretty stunning, come-from-behind plays.
His 35-yard pass to Jared Cook in the fourth quarter of the Packers’ 34-31 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional championship in January won the ESPY for best play.