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The 16th Annual ESPY Awards

Cory A. Haywood | 7/23/2009, 5 p.m.

What does it mean to be great? Can it be defined by those who have never reached that pinnacle?
Can greatness be bought or borrowed from those who are lucky enough to have it? Is it gained through hard-work or maybe by the faith that good can be transformed into something of unusual excellence? Perhaps greatness is not achieved, but is a birthright to those who are meant to inspire people around the world to be the best that they can be. Imagine sitting inside a grand theater surrounded by greatness in its purest form, engulfed in the magnificence of extraordinary athleticism, perseverance, will-power, and determination. For those sports fans that were in attendance at this year's ESPY (Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly) awards, imagination became a special reality.

This year's ESPY'S held at the Nokia Theater was once again home to the best-of-the-best in athletic competition. Big names in Hollywood like two-time ESPY host Samuel L. Jackson and Oscar winner Forest Whitiker were in attendance. The show was hosted by none other then pop sensation and self-proclaimed sports junkie Justin Timberlake. Timberlake brought "sexy back" to the Oscar's of athletic superiority with humorous charm and charisma. Timberlake playfully mocked the audience members when he lowered his nose to one of International soccer superstar David Beckham's shoes and proclaimed, "Smells like $250 million to me!" (Beckham has a $250 million contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy.) He even poked fun at himself in the spirit of laughter (refering to his infamous Super Bowl performance with Janet Jackson), saying "I wanted to be the only guy at a football game to get to second base."

"If I made the decisions, I'd ask Justin to be our entertainment every week," Monday Night football host Stuart Scott told reporters during the show. "After what he's putting down tonight...Justin can come hang out with us on the set anytime."

Even the athletes he teased seemed impressed. "It's all in good fun," said Cowboy's receiver Terrell Owens, whose emotional (to say the least), news conference after his team's season-ending playoff loss to the Giants was spoofed by Timberlake during the show. "He's had some funny dialogue; his interaction with the crowd is good. He's an entertainer, and he did a great job."

There were many categories primed for award hopefuls ranging from Male Athlete of the Year - Tiger Woods, Golf; to Best Fighter - Floyd Mayweather, Boxing. The NBA Champion Boston Celtics who had a magnificent season and a dominating playoff performance in which they solidified their postion as Public Enemy Number One in Los Angeles, won their first ESPY for Best Team. However, L.A. did not come out of the ESPY'S empty handed as poster boy Kobe Braynt won the award for NBA Player of the Year, complementing the MVP honor he recieved last season. Candace Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks was a recipient of both the Female Athlete of the Year and Female College Athlete of the Year awards.

Though all were significant, one award took center stage and carried heavy-weight for both the fans and celebrities present. The Arthur Ashe Courage Award is presented annually to individuals that exhibit courage in the face of adversity and whose contributions transcend sports. This year it was presented to 1968 Olympic medalists, John Carlos and Tommie Smith. In the '68 Olympic Games at Mexico City, Smith won a gold medal for the 200 meters in a world record time, 19.83 sec. Carlos, Smith's teammate and competitor in the race earned a bronze medal. Both men gave a Black Power salute on the victory stand in a symbolic gesture against the oppressive treatment that African Americans suffered then and still today.