ESPY Awards: Top Athletes Talk Upcoming Olympics, Reveal Their Own Sports Heroes on Red Carpet
"It's going to be such a dream to actually be on the squad and play in the stadiums and fight for a gold medal," says U.S. National Women's Soccer Team player Christen Press of heading to Rio.
Stephen Curry, Robin Thicke, Ciara and new husband Russell Wilson and Gabrielle Union were just some of the stars who walked the ESPYs red carpet on Wednesday night outside the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles.
Though the awards show, which aired on ABC, honors the past year in sports, many athletes were quick to share their excitement about the upcoming Summer Olympics in Rio.
This was especially true for Christen Press of the U.S. National Women's Soccer Team, since she'll be playing in this year's Games.
"I'm so excited to go to the Olympics," she told The Hollywood Reporter. "Four years ago I was an alternate on the team — sort of an outsider looking in — so I think it's going to be such a dream to actually be on the squad and play in the stadiums and fight for a gold medal."
Retired Olympic gymnast Nastia Liukin has high hopes for this year's USA Women's Gymnastics Team, calling them "the best athletes possible."
"I think it's going to be amazing and that they're gonna come home from the Olympics with the gold for sure," Liukin told THR.
Looking ahead to the night's festivities, she shared her favorite part of the annual awards show: "Obviously being an athlete, it's so inspirational not only to see who wins best female athlete or best male athlete, but the stories," Liukin told THR. "I think that's probably what I'm most excited about — the inspirational stories."
There were definitely plenty throughout the evening, too: from the mother and brothers of Zaevion Dobson — the 15-year-old football player from Knoxville, Tenn., who was killed in December when he shielded three girls from a spray of bullets — accepting the Arthur Ashe Award on his behalf to Justin Timberlake honoring Kobe Bryant, Abby Wambach and Peyton Manning with the Icon Award.
"I think that's a great word [iconic] to describe Abby," Press told THR. "Our team misses her dearly because the presence that she has just when she walks into a room is irreplaceable."
Wambach herself called Bryant and Manning her heroes, a sentiment shared by many of the athletes present.
Cameron Payne of the Oklahoma City Thunder even said Bryant has been his favorite player "since [I was] probably 6 years old."
LeBron James also was popular not only among those talking on the red carpet, but throughout the award show as well.
Payne said he was rooting for James to win the ESPY for best male athlete, despite the close vote with other contenders including Curry.
"You gotta give it to LeBron," said Payne. "He just won a championship, brought it back to his hometown, so it's definitely LeBron's for the taking."
In the end, that was definitely the case. James not only won best male athlete, but also best championship performance and best NBA player, in addition to the three awards taken home by his team, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
James also joined fellow NBA stars Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Dwayne Wade in a call for action against gun violence during the show's opening.
"Tonight we're honoring Muhammad Ali, the G.O.A.T. [Greatest of All Time]," he said. "But 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."
Caitlyn Jenner and Vice President Joe Biden also were present for the ESPYs, though the two, among others, didn't walk the red carpet.