Press release from ESPN, June 21, 2017:
- In Best Male Athlete, 2009 winner Michael Phelps is joined by three newcomers to the category – Sidney Crosby, Russell Westbrook, and Kris Bryant. Westbrook has history working in his favor, given that the award has gone to an NBA player every year since 2011.
- Gymnast Simone Biles and swimmer Katie Ledecky are both nominated for a second-straight year in the Best Female Athlete category. They are joined by WNBA great Candace Parker and tennis icon Serena Williams, who are gracing the category for a fourth and sixth time, respectively.
- Olympic gold medalist Laurie Hernandez is the first gymnast ever nominated for Best Breakthrough Athlete. She faces stiff competition from NBA rising star Giannis Antetokounmpo, Yankee slugger Aaron Judge, NFL Offensive Rookie of the year Dak Prescott, and USA soccer standout Christian Pulisic.
- Oklahoma softball’s Shay Knighten and Clemson football’s Deshaun Watson are both nominated for Best Championship Performance, the first time since 2005 that multiple college athletes have competed for the honor. They are joined by NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant and Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady.
- Michael Phelps is chasing a third ESPY for Best Record-Breaking Performance, an honor he earned following both the Beijing and London Olympics. He is joined in the category by the NFL head coach with the most Super Bowl rings ever, Bill Belichick, the WNBA all-time scoring leader, Diana Taurasi, and the spoiler of Oscar Robertson’s 55-year triple double record, Russell Westbrook.
- The Pittsburgh Penguins are the only Best Team nominee returning from 2016. They are joined by six other impressive squads, including US women’s gymnastics “Final Five.”
- Defending “Best NBA Player” LeBron James graces the category for the 13th-straight year, a streak he has maintained since 2005. The competitive field of challengers includes Finals MVP Kevin Durant, triple-double machine Russell Westbrook, two-way star Kawhi Leonard, and league-leading distributor James Harden.
- Gymnast Simone Biles, sprinter Allyson Felix, and swimmers Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel gathered a collective haul of 12 gold medals at the Rio Olympics. Now they’re competing against one another for Best Female US Olympic Athlete.