The 2023 ESPY Awards celebrated the best players, teams and moments in the world of sports. The annual award show—created and hosted by sports platform ESPN—also honors athletes outside their respective sport of choice, who impact the world by using their influence and continued perseverance through insurmountable odds to succeed.
Just in case you missed this year's event, EBONY has you covered. We've curated some of our favorite moments and speeches from the 2023 ESPY Awards. Here are 5 of the best.
Damar Hamlin Presents the Pat Tillman Service Award to the Buffalo Bills Medical Staff
NFL star Damar Hamlin is truly a living miracle. When the Buffalo Bills took on the Cincinnati Bengals on January 2, 2022, no one anticipated that Hamiln, a sixth-round pick in the 2021 NFL draft, would be fighting for his life after a collision. The Bills' medical staff rushed to the player's aid and restored his heartbeat after suffering cardiac arrest. In a video tribute that was narrated by Hamlin, he said that the medical team “kept him alive.” After the video played, Hamlin was overcome with emotion and was embraced by the medical team on stage. Bills head athletic trainer Nate Breske shared that the moment was really about Hamilin’s perseverance.
"Damar, first and foremost, thank you for staying alive, brother," Breske said.
LeBron James Honored for Best Record-Breaking Performance
Of all the accolades that LeBron James has earned in his illustrious career, he somehow found a way to add one more. The four-time NBA champion was honored with the ESPY award for 'Best Record-Breaking Performance' after passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record. His wife Savannah, and children Bronny, Bryce and Zhuri presented him with the award with a hilarious monologue declaring him as "the GOAT."
To put an end to speculation that he would retire, James also shared that he will not be hanging up his sneakers anytime soon. "I don't care how many more points I score or what I can or cannot do on the floor," he said in his acceptance speech. "The real question for me is, can I play without cheating this game? The day I can't give the game everything on the floor is the day I'll be done. Lucky for you guys, that day is not today."
Lil Wayne Opens The ESPYs With A Sports-Themed "A Milli" Freestyle
Hip Hop legend Lil Wayne is a huge sports fan, so it was fitting that he was selected to open the show. Coming out to his classic track “A Milli,” Wayne freestyled a sports-themed verse while donning some black and yellow Marc Jacobs x Dr. Martens boots. The crowd stood on their feet as the rapper gave nods to Angel Reese, Damar Hamlin, Deion Sanders, Victor Wembanyama and his beloved Green Bay Packers. In addition to his electric performance, the "Carter III" emcee introduced Sue Bird, one of the greatest basketball players ever, who retired from the WNBA last year. She then presented the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian to Jrue and Lauren Holiday.
Angel Reese Promises Another National Championship For LSU
The “Bayou Barbie” Angel Reese continued her winning streak by taking home the 'Breakout Athlete of the Year' award. In her acceptance speech, Reese spoke about her deep connection to LSU. "Last year I transferred from the University of Maryland to play at LSU, and I just joined a family," she said. "So I just want to say thank you, and another natty is coming, period. I want to thank LSU, my family, my teammates, my coaches, [and head coach] Kim Mulkey. Everybody that helped me."
She also honored her mother, who "put me and my brother through college. I graduate next year."
Carmelo Anthony Receives Well-Deserved Flowers From His Brothers
The band reunited one last time!
NBA legend Carmelo Anthony announced his retirement earlier this year, and was honored for his enormous impact on the game by LeBron James, Chris Paul, and Dwayne Wade. The four pro-basketball icons first appeared on stage together at the 2016 ESPYs to use their platforms to spotlight injustices that plague Black communities. Wade advised the audience, “Stay connected, stay vigilant and more importantly, stay Melo.”
Anthony expressed his gratitude for the tribute. “This was unexpected but incredible,” he said. "I thank you all so much for believing in me. I’m reminded tonight just how blessed I’ve been to follow my dreams as a kid. Like CP said, 'From the projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn to hoods of Baltimore,' my dream of playing in the NBA."