Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, Matthew McConaughey & More Memorable Moments from 2020 ESPYS
By Zach Seemayer
Jason Kempin, Roy Rochlin/Getty Images, Dia Dipasupil/FilmMagic
This year's ESPY Awards might have been remote, but it still brought the tears. While the lavish event looked a little different due to being shot remotely, that didn't make it any less emotional when it came to the powerful speeches and heartfelt tributes featuring celebrities like Matthew McConaughey and Halle Berry.
From an opening segment addressing and honoring the Black Lives Matter movement led by hosts Russell Wilson, Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe to a number of emotional speeches from the night's honorees, here's a look at the best and most impactful moments from Sunday's powerful ESPY Awards.
Russell Wilson Prays His Kids Don’t Have to Face Systemic Racism
Wilson, Bird and Rapinoe made it clear from the opening moments that this year's show wasn't going to shy away from addressing current events or getting political. The trio of hosts led a passionate plea for progress and encouraged all people, from all walks of life, to get involved in the fight for equality.
"Our country's work is not anywhere close to done. We need justice. We need true leadership. We need a change. We need it now," Wilson shared. "I pray for a world where I don't have to fear for my children due to systemic racism from hundreds years of oppression. The only thing that needs to die is racism. Black lives matter."
Tom Brady joined in the ESPYS' tribute to high school and college athletes who, due to the coronavirus outbreak, weren't able to play during their senior year.
"If you are lucky enough to have a long career you have your fair share of memorable seasons. But that last year at Michigan, that final run representing my school, that will always stand apart for me," Brady shared. "High school and college seniors across the country were robbed of that rite of passage this year and we are robbed of the chance to cheer them through it. To all the seniors out there, we see you, we feel for you and we appreciate you."
Robin Roberts also joined in, penning an open letter to the graduating class an encouraging them to "never stop chasing what you lost."
"Use your loss to make an even bigger impact than you ever thought possible wherever your life ends up," Roberts shared. "Senior year may be gone, but your chance to write your story is just beginning."
Sabrina Ionesca -- considered to be one of the greatest female college basketball players in the world -- opened up to Bird and reflected on her incredible college basketball career, and the frustration of not being able to finish out her senior year because of the coronavirus shutdowns.
"Receiving that news wasn't easy and I didn't want to believe it," Ionesca recalled. "Then I realized I wasn't going to put on a uniform anymore and be able to play and finish out the year how I had planned."
She also reflected at her time at the University of Oregon, playing for the Oregon Ducks sharing, "I loved my time at Oregon. Especially to see the evolution of women's basketball there, from my freshman year, where we averaged 1,000 people a game, to my senior year where we averaged 11,000. It's something I will never forget."
In one of the night's funniest moments, J.K. Simmons was cast as Tiger King subject Rick Kirkham for a parody documentary about Tom Brady's career. Donning Kirkham's signature black cowboy hat, Simmons is spot on in this hilarious Tiger King-inspired spoof.
Kim Clavel Fights COVID-19
Kim Clavel was on the verge of a boxing breakthrough, but when the coronavirus pandemic struck, she put one career aside for another.
Boxer Kim Clavel was honored with the Pat Tillman Award for Service -- presented to her by Halle Berry -- for her efforts to help those in need during the coronavirus pandemic that has swept the world. The boxer -- who went to nursing school before leaning into her boxing career in full -- was about to duke it out in her first main event appearance back in March. However, after 10 weeks of training, the undefeated featherweight got the news that the big fight she's been focusing on had been cancelled due to the pandemic.
"I cried. It was like a little bit of depression for one day, two days. After that I said 'OK, that's enough. I'm healthy. I have two legs, two arms, so, okay, what can I do to help?'" Clavel recalled. Within a day after the cancelled fight was supposed to take place, Clavel was on the front lines of the COVID crisis in Montreal, working at a long-term care facility helping elderly patients.
Nelson Cruz Gets Emotional Over Big Win
Nelson Cruz (@ncboomstick23) got emotional accepting the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award.
The Minnesota Twins slugger was brought to tears when he was awarded this year's Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award for his philanthropic work in the Dominican Republic and the US. Cruz could hardly contain his overwhelming appreciation. "From the bottom of my heart, my family, my foundation, and my hometown thank you," Cruz said.
"Through baseball, I am blessed to be able to help so many people," Cruz said, before he was presented with the honor, while talking about his work with communities in need. "The longer that I can play, the longer I can keep helping the community."
Matthew McConaughey Honors Kevin Love's Courage
"Humbled does not even begin to describe the feeling."@kevinlove delivers a heartfelt speech after winning the 2020 Arthur Ashe Courage Award for his commitment to growing mental health awareness. #ESPYSpic.twitter.com/EjQdm34ZjD
"Courage is the kind of trait that comes with different looks," Oscar-winner Matthew McConaughey said, while introducing the Arthur Ashe Courage Award to Kevin Love. "You often see it on city streets, emergency rooms, in hospitals, but you can also see it quite simply when someone looks themselves in the mirror, accepts that everything is not perfect, and finds the strength to say that out loud to the world."
Love made headlines when he spoke out about struggling with anxiety and panic attacks, and became an outspoken advocate for normalizing mental health. For his efforts to fight the stigma surrounding mental health, Love was honored with the venerated award.
"When I first shared my personal story about mental health I did not expect the incredible response that I received from my peers, from the league, and from sports fans all over the world," Love shared. "I accept this award as both an honor and a challenge. A challenge to not only continue on my path, but to push beyond it and stay vocal even when silence feels safer."
A Call to Action and Activism
"This is the tipping point. There's no going back. There's no inching forward. The time is now."
Stars from the sports and entertainment worlds say it's time to step up and do their part to make this country better. pic.twitter.com/Fttyl8to0v
"I don't know what more we as a sports community need to see than a white police officer kneeling on George Floyd's neck and ripping his life from him," Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad said. "Having to see that for eight minutes and 46 seconds was heart-wrenching."
"If you don't feel like this is your opportunity to speak up and be active and use your platforms, you are missing it. You are missing the point," NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace shared. "You are missing out on the opportunity to be on the right side of history."
"History has shown us the impact that only a few voices can make," NFL star Malcolm Jenkins shared. "Now it is time for all of us -- athletes, coaches, and media -- to do our part to make this country better."
Rapper Snoop Dogg performed a moving tribute to the Lakers legend, who died in a helicopter crash -- along with his 13-year-old daughter and seven other victims -- on Jan. 26. The performance was introduced by Spanish basketballer and former teammate, Pau Gasol, who discussed how the athlete's legend lived on in, particularly in Los Angeles.
"Kobe Bryant spent 20 years with the Lakers dedicated to becoming the best player in the world, but what he enjoyed the most was being a husband to Vanessa and a father to Natalia, Gianna, Bianka and Capri,” Gasol said. "We all remember his smile and happiness so vividly whenever he spoke about his family. He may be known as one of the greatest athletes of all time, but he was also one of the best girl dads of all time."
The tribute showed clips from throughout Bryant’s life and career, while Snoop Dogg sang about the athlete. The sweet montage honored Bryant's role as a father, friend and humanitarian.
As ESPN announced last week, this year's ESPYS would "highlight inspiring stories of service, perseverance, and courage in the face of this unprecedented health crisis," and include "a powerful segment from various athletes addressing the Black Lives Matter movement" -- both of which the show pulled off with class and style.
Check out the video below for some amazing EPSY Awards moments from the past.