The 2018 ESPYS are still two weeks out, but there’s nothing more patriotic to celebrate the Fourth than predictions for a sports award show. It was a tremendous year in sports, marked by historic upsets, thrilling finishes, and memorable moments from all-time great athletes. Here are my predictions for the biggest show in sports.

 

Best Championship Performance

  • George Springer, Houston Astros – MLB World Series
  • Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles – Super Bowl LII
  • Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors – NBA Finals
  • Donte DiVincenzo, Villanova Men’s Basketball – CBB National Championship

Four players, four championship MVPs. Each player listed above was crucial to the success of their respective championship game/series. George Springer came alive in the World Series, tying the all-time World Series record with five homeruns and batting .379 to help the Astros capture their first title. Foles came off the bench after surefire-MVP Carson Wentz went down with injury and threw for nearly 400 yards to give the city of Philadelphia its first Super Bowl. Kevin Durant was once again the best Warrior in their sweep of the Cavs, averaging 28.8 PPG and 7.5 assists. All that said, my best championship performance goes to Donte DiVincenzo, who buried the Wolverines’ hopes with 31 points off the bench on 5-7 shooting from three.

 

Best Breakthrough Athlete

  • Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
  • Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
  • Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz
  • Sloane Stephens, Tennis

I had difficulty deciding between Kamara and Mitchell. Stephens had tremendous success over the past year, capturing her first U.S. and French Opens and ascending to number four in the world rankings, while Simmons produced one of the best rookie seasons ever. But, Simmons was the number-one pick—he was expected to produce like this. Unfortunately, tennis as a sport will not get the same recognition as basketball or football. Kamara was a third-round pick that ended up winning Rookie of The Year, while Mitchell helped lead the Jazz to their second playoff appearance in a row. Nod goes to Kamara.

 

Best Game

  • World Series Game 5: Houston Astros defeat Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Rose Bowl: Georgia Bulldogs defeat Oklahoma Sooners
  • Winter Olympics: USA Women’s Hockey defeats Canada

What a slate of games—each one decided by a single score, these matchups made for instant postseason classics. Game 5 was the second-highest scoring World Series game of all time—the Astros won in extra innings 13-12 in a must-win game with the series headed back to Los Angeles. The gold-medal match gave the United States a storybook ending, halting Canada’s run of four straight gold medals. But the (slight) edge goes to the 2018 Rose Bowl, the first-ever overtime game in the game’s history, the biggest and baddest in the SEC vs. Heisman winner Baker Mayfield.

 

Best Olympic Moment

  • Shaun White captures third gold medal
  • U.S. Cross Country ends four-decade medal drought
  • U.S. Women’s Hockey Team wins gold in OT
  • U.S. Men’s Curling wins first gold medal

Whoever the committee selects in this category will be deserving of the award. Shaun White’s emotional gold medal was not only a great moment in 2018, but an all-time great Olympic moment. The Women’s hockey team won their first gold medal since 1998 and dethroned the Canadians. Also, if you still have any doubts about cross country skiing, watch Jessie Diggins race the last 100 meters because it was nothing short of spectacular. However, the entire nation fell in love with “The Rejects”, the U.S. curling team that won five straight to capture their first gold. If you stayed up until 4 a.m. on February 24th, you witnessed history. For more on the team, check out this link.

 

Best Moment

  • Minnesota Vikings defeat New Orleans Saints in NFC Divisional Round
  • Notre Dame defeats Mississippi State in NCAA Title
  • Las Vegas Golden Knights advance to Stanley Cup Finals
  • No. 16 UMBC upsets No. 1 Virginia

Plenty of big moments here, but nothing was going to top the first-ever win for a 16-seed in the NCAA tournament. The Retrievers didn’t beat the Cavaliers on some miraculous shot—they absolutely dominated the number-one overall seed by 20 points. They proved that it wasn’t just a fluke after putting up a good fight against Kansas State in the second round. It was a historic victory that proves once again that there is no better time in sports than March Madness.

 

Best Male Athlete

  • Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
  • James Harden, Houston Rockets
  • Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
  • Tom Brady, New England Patriots

The past seven winners have been NBA players and a hockey player has never won this award, so my Ovechkin pick appears to be the underdog. The stars may have aligned this season—Harden, Brady, and Altuve all had tremendous seasons, but only Altuve captured a title out of the three. Ovechkin is an all-time great that not only claimed the Stanley Cup that has eluded him his whole career, but the first Stanley Cup for the Capitals as well.

 

Best Female Athlete

  • Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx
  • Mikaela Shiffrin, Ski
  • Chloe Kim, Snowboard 
  • Julie Ertz, Chicago Red Stars/United States Women’s National Soccer Team

Mikaela Shiffrin had more Olympic publicity over the course of the two weeks in Pyeongchang, but I’m taking Kim here—she’s the youngest woman to ever win a gold medal in Olympic snowboarding at age 17. She also has two gold medals at the Winter Youth Olympics and, because of her age, she’ll be a force to reckon with for many more Winter Games.

 

Best Team

  • Houston Astros, MLB
  • Philadelphia Eagles, NFL
  • USA Women’s Ice Hockey
  • Notre Dame Fighting Irish, NCAA Women’s Basketball
  • Villanova Wildcats, NCAA Men’s Basketball
  • Golden State Warriors, NBA
  • Washington Capitals, NHL

The Warriors have been the undisputed best team in the NBA for two seasons now. They just added Boogie Cousins in free agency, which has no bearing on this award, but it further emphasizes their dominance (and in my opinion is a serious concern for the competitive spirit of the sport, but more on that another time). The Warriors are now 8-1 in their last nine Finals games, and with all due respect to the other nominees, this vote shouldn’t be close.

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