The ESPYs are known as an awards show where sports and entertainment collide for a night of fun, celebration, and recognition of outstanding achievements both on and off the playing field. But this year, the “biggest night in sports” became about something much bigger than sports. Dressed in black suits, LeBron James joined friends and fellow athletes Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony at center stage to open the show with an important message and call to action.
“I know tonight, we'll honor Muhammad Ali, the G.O.A.T. To do his legacy any justice, let's use this moment as a call to action to all professional athletes to educate ourselves. Explore these issues. Speak up. Use our influence and renounce all violence. And most importantly go back to our communities. Invest our time, our resources. Help rebuild them. Help strengthen them. Help change them. We all have to do better.” – LeBron James
It was a tough opening act to follow, but the remainder of the show saw LeBron and his Cleveland Cavalier teammates clean up several individual and team awards. LeBron picked up silver statues for Best Male Athlete, Best NBA Player, and Best Championship Performance after leading the Cavs’ unprecedented comeback from a 3-1 finals deficit to bring Cleveland its first NBA title in franchise history and the city’s first championship in 52 years.
Riding the wave of their historic season, the Cavs also won the ESPY for Best Team and LeBron and teammates Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love accepted the award for Best Moment, an honor they attributed to the fans and people of Northeast Ohio.
"This is all for the city of Cleveland, for everyone that's ever grown up in northeast Ohio and the struggles that we've had over the last 52 years, not only in sports, but just in everything. Families losing jobs, communities just, poverty all over Cleveland, and for us to be able to give a sense of hope to everyone who grew up in our town that we play in and the town that we live in ... For everyone in Cleveland, this is for you guys.”