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Russell, US women’s soccer team honored at The ESPYS

The ESPYS celebrate sporting's best

Bill Russell accepts the Arthur Ashe award for courage at the ESPY Awards on Wednesday, July 10, 2019, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

By BETH HARRIS AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The U.S. women’s national soccer team celebrated its Women’s World Cup victory on both coasts Wednesday, honored with a ticker-tape parade in New York City before jetting to the West Coast and collecting trophies at The ESPYS in the evening.
Alex Morgan won female athlete of the year and shared the best team award with her soccer mates.
“Sorry, but this is probably the second-best trophy we won this week,” Morgan said jokingly, hoisting her individual trophy.
As she got up from the front row, Megan Rapinoe’s black tuxedo jacket opened and exposed her left breast, which was caught by cameras showing the in-house feed of the show. It wasn’t immediately known whether it went out over the live national telecast.
“I’ve dropped the F-bomb on every stage the last four days, so we’ll just spare you that,” Rapinoe told the audience.
Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks won male athlete of the year at the show honoring the past year’s top athletes and moments in sports.
“This is all about hard work. When you believe in your dreams this can happen,” Antetokounmpo said. “Hopefully, if I keep working hard there’s more to come.”
Comedian Tracy Morgan presided over the show at Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles.
Alex Morgan thanked ESPN for its recent deal to carry NWSL games.
“When the World Cup is behind us, it is the professional league that we need to continually lift up and grow,” she said. “Investment in women and girls should not only occur on the playing fields but in more storytelling of badass, amazing women who continue to show that we are more than just athletes.”
Sandra Bullock announced the best team award, saying, “All those in favor of equal pay say aye.”
The U.S. women’s team is suing to receive pay equal to their male counterparts.
“Keep fighting for equality,” Billie Jean King told the team from the stage earlier in the show.
Carli Lloyd informed the crowd the team had its hair and makeup done during the flight from New York.
“We look pretty fabulous, I think,” she said.
Lloyd added, “It’s been an incredible journey. Here’s to the next World Cup.”
Other athletes acknowledged the Women’s World Cup victory from the stage, including Drew Brees, winner for best record-breaking performance.
“It’s going to be in history forever,” new New Orleans Pelicans player Lonzo Ball said on the red carpet. “I don’t even watch soccer and I watched it. That means a lot.”
Zion Williamson, the No. 1 pick in last month’s NBA draft, earned best college athlete honors for his one-and-done season at Duke.
“Wish I could have stayed a second year, but I had other things to do,” a smiling Williamson said.
The best moment award was shared by a trio of recent retirees: Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn, NFL player Rob Gronkowski and NBA player Dwyane Wade.
UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi collected two trophies: best play and best viral sports moment for her floor exercise routine that earned a perfect score of 10.
Ohashi accepted her best play trophy by giving her remarks in rhyme.
Antetokounmpo was a double winner, too, adding best NBA player honors.
The St. Louis Blues earned best comeback for going from worst team in the NHL early in the season to the Stanley Cup championship. Center Ryan O’Reilly removed his tooth to thank the crowd.
Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes won best NFL player; Milwaukee Brewers slugger Christian Yelich earned best MLB player; and Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals won best NHL player.
Special honorees were:
— Bill Russell, Arthur Ashe Award for Courage. The 85-year-old basketball Hall of Famer was saluted for his dedication to fighting for social justice and ensuring opportunity for all young people. Introduced by Kobe Bryant, Russell acknowledged a standing ovation from an upper level box but didn’t speak.
— Former Marine Sgt. Kirstie Ennis, Pat Tillman Award for Service. While on duty in Afghanistan, Ennis was in a crash that resulted in traumatic injuries and ultimately led to an above-knee amputation of her left leg. She is trying to become the first woman above-the-knee amputee to summit all seven of the world’s highest peaks.
— Rob Mendez, Jimmy V Award for Perseverance. The high school football coach was born without arms or legs due to a rare disorder. Mendez taught himself football fundamentals using video games. He is head coach of the junior varsity team at Prospect High in Saratoga, California. They went 8-2 in his first season and reached the league title game.
“I also want to thank the game of football for all that it’s given me, for allowing me to be part of a team,” Mendez said from motorized chair. “Look at me and see how much passion I put into coaching and how far it’s gotten me. I made it this far and who says I can’t go further?”
— Jim Calhoun, best coach. The three-time national champion coach at UConn now guides Division III University of St. Joseph.
___
AP freelance writer Jolene Latimer contributed to this report.

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