This sports year has been filled with some pretty emotional moments, but nothing was more memorable than the courage, love, and faith shown at last night’s 2015 ESPY Awards.
Hosted by comedian Joel McHale, the show honored sports’ biggest and brightest stars. LeBron James, Stephen Curry, the USA women’s soccer team, and MMA fighter Ronda Rousey took home awards, but there were other winners that shined bright on and off their respected playing fields.
Here are some of the show’s biggest and most emotional moments:
First, there was Mo’ne Davis, who won the “Best Breakthrough Athlete” award. The 14-year-old led her team to victory in the 2014 Little League World Series, in which she was also the first African-American girl to play. While accepting her award, the teen thanked her parents and sent love to all of her fans.
Basketball star and army veteran Danielle Green’s story is an American tale. After playing five years as a point guard at Notre Dame, she went on to serve her country in Iraq. During her tour, Green lost her arm from the elbow down in an explosion from a rocket-propelled grenade. Returning home, she received a Purple Heart and displayed elegance by accepting the Pat Tillman Award last night. Green challenged many in her acceptance speech to find their purpose in life.
For The Win reports: “If my story leaves you with one thing tonight, I hope it leaves you with a challenge,” she shared. “Ask yourself: What’s my purpose? What’s my passion? What do I want my legacy to be? How can I live as a full human being?” She added, “We can all find ways to support the people around us. We can all find a purpose on this Earth larger than yourself.”
After getting her Masters in counseling, the 38-year-old is now assisting military veterans. #BlackGirlMagic.
One of the most talked about moments of the evening was Caitlyn Jenner‘s speech for the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. Caitlyn — formally Bruce — touched on how sports were a driving force for her courage and urged other athletes to use their platform to inspire. Jenner has become voice in the transgender community since announcing her transition with Diane Sawyer in May. She will also share more of her story on the docuseries I Am Cait, set to premiere on E! on July 26.
Jenner showed love to her Kardashian-Jenner clique, her mother, and pressed the need for everyone to be themselves, no matter the scrutiny they face.
“Trans people deserve something vital: They deserve your respect,” Jenner said. “If you want to call me names, make jokes, doubt my intentions, go ahead, because the reality is, I can take it. But for the thousands of kids out there, coming to terms with being true to who they are, they shouldn’t have to take it. It’s about what happens from here,” Jenner concluded. “It’s not just about one person. It’s about thousands of people. It’s not just about me. It’s about all of us accepting one another.”
Jenner’s speech became a trending topic, but there was also another moment than drove everyone to tears…
Devon Still accepted the Jimmy V Perseverance Award on behalf of his 4-year-old daughter, Leah. After being diagnosed with cancer last year, Leah’s journey and strength won over America’s hearts. The Bengals player began his speech by discussing how Leah’s diagnosis turned their world upside down. No matter the troubles and pain chemo and radiation brought his daughter, she stayed strong — #LeahStrong that is — inspiring Devon not to turn to vices like drinking.
“You know, on TV I look like a hero. I look like I’m saving the day, but honestly y’all are the real heroes,” Still said. “For every child out there that’s battling cancer … y’all are the real heroes. I am here today to let y’all know, as long as I have this platform I’m going to continue to fight for you.”
Leah was unable to attend the show, but thanked everyone in an adorable video message. “Sorry I couldn’t be there everybody, but thank you for supporting me while I beat out cancer,” said Leah. “Hey LeBron, hey daddy.”
Check out Devon’s touching speech below.
See the night’s biggest winners here.