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ESPY Awards recognize Michael Sam with Arthur Ashe Courage Award

Thursday, July 17, 2014 | 10:52 a.m. CDT; updated 6:04 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2014

LOS ANGELES —Former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam accepted the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPY Awards on Wednesday night.

The St. Louis Rams draftee announced earlier this year that he is gay. He will be trying to make the Rams' roster when training camp opens. If he does, Sam would be the NFL's first openly gay player.

Sam teared up throughout his speech and his voice faltered at times.

"Great things can happen when you have the courage to be yourself," he told the audience.

He thanked Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel for serving as a mentor to him. He thanked the entire Mizzou family and said, "you will always be home."

Hall of Famer Jim Brown hugged Sam on his way to the stage.

The Ashe award is named for the late tennis player who died in 1993 after contracting HIV from a blood transfusion.

Other awards

Kevin Durant won two ESPY Awards, including male athlete of the year, and mixed martial arts star Ronda Rousey earned female athlete honors, becoming the first UFC fighter to claim a trophy in the biggest category at the show honoring the year's best performances Wednesday night.

Durant also won best NBA player, ending LeBron James' two-year reign in both categories.

"Everybody helped me out along the way," the Oklahoma City Thunder star said. "My beautiful mom watching at home who couldn't be here. My favorite teammate, Russell Westbrook."

Durant beat out fellow male athlete nominees Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers, Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos and boxer Floyd Mayweather during the show hosted by rapper Drake at the Nokia Theatre.

Rousey, the first female UFC champion, won over WNBA star Maya Moore, Olympic champion skier Mikaela Shiffrin and Breanna Stewart of college basketball national champion Connecticut.

The winners in most categories were determined by fan voting.

Rousey didn't attend, with presenter Chrissy Teigen saying the fighter had surgery a day earlier.

Manning didn't go home empty-handed. He collected two trophies: best NFL player and record-breaking performance. Manning won his fifth MVP award last season, when he set single-season records by passing for 55 touchdowns and more than 5,500 yards.

The Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks won best team. Their All-Pro cornerback, Richard Sherman, won breakthrough athlete.

The best game was the Iron Bowl matchup between No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Auburn, with the Tigers winning 34-28 on the final play to spoil the Tide's BCS hopes.

Led by goalie Tim Howard, the U.S. men's soccer team won best moment for its run to the round of 16 in the World Cup.

Soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal won best international athlete.

Drake zinged Howard and Sherman in his opening monologue. The rapper joked about banned Clippers owner Donald Sterling, saying, "We're a few hundred yards from Staples Center, which is as close as Donald Sterling is allowed to get."

Clippers star Blake Griffin laughed until the camera caught him and he acted serious, drawing laughs. Griffin and Drake teamed up for a funny pre-taped bit in which they pretended to be each other while spewing insults, with rapper Chris Brown joining in. Brown, who has been in and out of jail, jokingly introduced himself as "America's sweetheart."

James wasn't on hand, but Drake noted the superstar's recent decision to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers after winning two NBA titles in Miami.

"You know what 40 million gets you in Miami? A really nice house," Drake said. "You know what 40 million gets you in Cleveland? Cleveland, you get the whole thing."

Drake mixed in song, too. He crooned "Honorable Mention," a tune he said was dedicated to the runner-ups, including Triple Crown loser California Chrome and NASCAR driver Danica Patrick.

Lil' Wayne cracked up as Drake sang "Side Pieces," full of references to the on-the-road cheating that goes on in sports. Drake noted a lot of men in the audience wanted the song to be over.

Drake revisited Sterling with a rap accompanied by video of the Clippers owner saying he isn't a racist. The screen displayed the hashtag #Sterlingneverlovedus.

Later, Drake teamed up with WNBA star Skylar Diggins for a sketch. She went in to kiss Drake, who has acknowledged his affection for her, but the smooch landed on his forehead and not his lips.

Gregg Popovich won best coach-manager for guiding the San Antonio Spurs to the NBA championship. Spurs player Kawhi Leonard earned the championship performance award to go with his MVP award from the NBA Finals.

Westbrook won best comeback athlete, having overcome his latest knee surgery to help the Thunder reach the Western Conference finals.

Stewart won best female college athlete, while Creighton basketball star Doug McDermott won male college athlete.

Olympic snowboarders Jamie Anderson and Sage Kotsenburg won best female and male Olympian. Kotsenburg won the first gold medal of the Sochi Games in men's snowboard slopestyle.

The Jimmy V Award for Perseverance was given to ESPN "SportsCenter" anchor Stuart Scott, who is fighting a recurrence of cancer first diagnosed seven years ago.

The Pat Tillman Award for Service was given for the first time to Josh Sweeney, a retired Marine who lost both his legs after an explosion in Afghanistan. He scored the lone goal for the U.S. sled hockey team that beat the Russians for gold earlier this year at the Paralympics in Sochi.


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