Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant among big winners at 25th ESPYS – ESPN

 In Sports
From the jokes by host Peyton Manning to the stories of inspiration by sports fans such as Jarrius Robertson, there were plenty of smiles — and even some tears — at the 25th ESPYS on Wednesday night in Los Angeles.

Many of the world’s best athletes packed into Microsoft Theater for the annual awards show, and by night’s end, some familiar names took center stage.

One of them was Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook, who was named best male athlete, adding to the NBA MVP trophy he won in New York a few weeks ago.

Westbrook topped fellow nominees Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs, Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps.

“I’m just humbled to be on this stage in a room full of great athletes,” Westbrook said. “I’m just humbled and very thankful.”

Westbrook, who averaged a triple-double and broke Oscar Robertson’s record for most triple-doubles in a season with 42, captivated the sports world with his ferocious season in the wake of Kevin Durant’s departure from the Thunder.

He led the league in scoring (31.6), was third in assists (10.4) and was 10th in rebounds (10.7) per game.

He also ranked first in PER at 30.7 and carried the Thunder to the sixth seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

Westbrook was also nominated for best record-breaking performance and best NBA player.

Best championship performance

Durant captured his first NBA title and Finals MVP trophy last season, and his dominant run through the Finals earned him the 2017 ESPY for best championship performance.

Durant led the Golden State Warriors to a title by averaging 35.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists with a .556 field goal percentage in the team’s five-game victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. He capped the series with 39 points, seven rebounds and five assists in Golden State’s title-clinching 129-120 win in Game 5.

Durant was just the third player since 1969 to win Finals MVP in his first season with a team. His 35.2 points-per-game average was easily the most in history by a player who shot 50 percent from the floor, 40 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the free throw line in an NBA Finals.

Durant joined the Warriors in one of the most debated moves in recent NBA history, signing as a free agent last summer after spending nine seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder, who held a 3-1 series lead over the Warriors in the 2015 Western Conference finals before eventually losing.

Manning took a light-hearted jab at Durant’s move during his opening monologue, mentioning the gold-medal-winning U.S. women’s gymnastics team and joking, “Our gymnastics team was so dominant that Kevin Durant told me that he wants to play for them next year.”

Durant sat stone-faced as Manning continued, “And I gotta tell you, I don’t think you’d start for that team, Kevin.”

Best team

Durant’s dominance in the Finals also helped his Warriors win the ESPY for best team.

Durant, two-time MVP Stephen Curry and center Zaza Pachulia took the stage to accept the award.

“Right now we look like the most perfectly constructed 3-on-3 team,” Curry said jokingly. “But we have 12 other guys who obviously helped us achieve this award.

“It was an unbelievable year. 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 ‘ship.”

Golden State’s Game 5 victory in the Finals completed a 16-1 run through the playoffs. The team’s only postseason loss came in Game 4 in Cleveland.

The Warriors captured their second title in three seasons.

Best moment

The Cubs’ thrilling seven-game World Series victory over the Cleveland Indians, which ended a 108-year title drought, took the ESPY for best moment.

Longtime Cubs fan Bill Murray accepted the award on the team’s behalf, popping open a couple of bottles of champagne while on stage with former Cubs player David Ross and actor and fellow Cubs fan Nick Offerman.

Longtime fan Bill Murray accepted the Cubs’ Best Moment ESPY, then doused former catcher David Ross and actor and fellow Chicago fan Nick Offerman with champagne on the Microsoft Theater stage. Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images

“This was truly the best moment of all time — ever,” Offerman deadpanned.

“108 years of waiting is hardly a moment,” Murray said before naming a long list of former Cubs players from throughout the title drought.

The Cubs’ Game 7 victory came with plenty of drama, including an extra-inning rain delay and a dramatic eighth inning in which the Indians tied the score after trailing 6-3.

Manager Joe Maddon’s team halted the longest stretch without a title in baseball, while also becoming the first club to overcome a 3-1 Series deficit.

Best female athlete

American gymnast Simone Biles’ record-tying four gold medals at the Rio Olympics propelled her to stardom and earned her the ESPY for best female athlete.

Biles beat out swimmer Katie Ledecky, WNBA star Candace Parker and tennis star Serena Williams for the honor.

“Ever since Rio it has been an amazing year,” Biles said, “and the best part of all has been meeting all the young people who live up to all the athletes in this room.”

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