Playbook's 2012 ESPYS predictions
Who had the St. Louis Cardinals winning the World Series?
(If you did, be quiet for a second.)
Or the Los Angeles Kings climbing from the No. 8 seed to Stanley Cup glory?
Or the New York Giants even getting to the Super Bowl, let alone beating the New England Patriots (again)?
And let's not forget how things looked when the Miami Heat trailed the Oklahoma City Thunder ... and Boston Celtics ... and Indiana Pacers before carrying home the Larry O'Brien trophy last month.
In other words, sports are unpredictable. And so are the ESPYS.
But we're giving predicting them a go -- with no inside information, mind you -- in an attempt to look as good on our ESPYS picks as we did on our Oscars ones (they weren't published, but trust us -- we did well).
So without further introduction ...
BEST MALE ATHLETE
Novak Djokovic, Tennis
LeBron James, NBA/Miami Heat
Aaron Rodgers, NFL/Green Bay Packers
Justin Verlander, MLB/Detroit Tigers
Prediction: Each dominated his respective sport at times, but only one dominated -- big time -- and won his most recent shot at a title. His first title, in case you didn't know. That would be James.
BEST FEMALE ATHLETE
Brittney Griner, NCAA/Baylor women's basketball
Maria Sharapova, Tennis
Lindsey Vonn, Skiing
Abby Wambach, USA women's soccer
Prediction: Defending winner Vonn? All-everything Griner? Comeback kid Sharapova? All are great, but Wambach's goal versus Brazil still resonates.
BEST CHAMPIONSHIP PERFORMANCE
David Freese, World Series MVP
LeBron James, NBA Finals MVP
Eli Manning, Super Bowl MVP
Tony Stewart, NASCAR Sprint Cup champion
Jonathan Quick, NHL Conn Smythe Trophy winner
Prediction: So there were some good performances in big moments last year, eh? Freese's was most dramatic and Elite Eli's the most high profile, but we're picking James based on sheer name recognition.
BEST BREAKTHROUGH ATHLETE
Anthony Davis, University of Kentucky basketball
Robert Griffin III, Baylor football
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
Jeremy Lin, New York Knicks
Alex Morgan, USA women's soccer
Prediction: Does anyone know where to find a five-sided coin? No? Ugh. Well let's narrow: Morgan's World Cup breakthrough was a while ago, Lin-sanity would have won this vote in February but since has faded a bit, and Davis gets bumped by the sheer popularity of football. So now we get that trusty normal coin and ... oh, hey! It landed on none other than RGIII's Heisman-winning (and Andrew Luck-upstaging) side.
BEST RECORD-BREAKING PERFORMANCE
Drew Brees breaks Dan Marino's single-season record for passing yards
Coach Mike Krzyzewski passes Bob Knight
Mariano Rivera breaks the saves record
Lexi Thompson becomes youngest LPGA winner
Prediction: Can Brees' big numbers (5,476 yards!) overcome his team's recent infamy? We think yes. But watch out for the Sandman ...
Iowa State over Oklahoma State in football
L.A. Kings win Stanley Cup as 8-seed
Lehigh over Duke (15 over 2), NCAA tournament
Norfolk State over Missouri (15 over 2), NCAA tournament
Prediction: Fifteen-seeds win first-round games at the NCAA tournament (rarely, sure, but it happens). Eight-seeds don't win North American pro sports championships. Well, until now. Thanks to the Kings.
Missouri at Kansas college basketball
Niners-Saints, NFC playoff game
Rangers-Cardinals, World Series Game 6
Prediction: All respect to the Border War and the Fourth Quarter War, but ... the Cardinals rallying to force Game 7 after facing their last strike twice? (In a G.O.B. Bluth voice) Come on!
Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit
Tim Tebow to Demaryius Thomas, sudden-death playoffs
Bubba Watson wins Masters in playoff
Final night of the 2011 MLB season
Prediction: Has Tebow-mania subsided? This category might tell us; after all, that Red Sox-no-Rays final day gave us some of the most intense minutes in American sports history. But there's just something about Tebow ...
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Johan Santana, New York Mets
Maria Sharapova, Tennis
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Prediction: We wouldn't be surprised to see Sid the Kid swipe this one. But you can't deny the magic surrounding the Mets' first no-hitter. (Get it? Magic? Santana? Dated reference? Whatever.)
John Calipari, Kentucky basketball
Tom Coughlin, New York Giants
Kim Mulkey, Baylor women's basketball
Patrick Murphy, Alabama softball
Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat
Darryl Sutter, LA Kings
Prediction: Start polishing those Calipari/vacated jokes ...
BEST NFL PLAYER
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens
Prediction: With those ridiculous fantasy stats (1,327 yards, 17 touchdowns), we're going with Gronk. But will he spike the ESPY? And go dancing afterward?
BEST MLB PLAYER
Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers
Matt Kemp, LA Dodgers
Clayton Kershaw, LA Dodgers
Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
Prediction: Not to discount the other four performances, but is there any way Hamilton (a fantastic first half, a compelling comeback story) doesn't win this?
BEST NHL PLAYER
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
Henrik Lundqvist, NY Rangers
Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
Jonathan Quick, LA Kings
Prediction: Malkin won the league's individual trophies, but Quick minded net for the NHL champions. And hey, Tim Thomas won this prize for doing the same thing a year ago, so ...
Dario Franchitti, IndyCar
Tony Stewart, NASCAR
Sebastian Vettel, Formula 1
Del Worsham, NHRA
Prediction: Wait, no four-time defending winner Jimmie Johnson? Guess that's what happens when you don't win the Sprint Cup crown. But Stewart did. He should win this, too.
BEST NBA PLAYER
Kobe Bryant, LA Lakers
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
LeBron James, Miami Heat
Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs
Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics
Prediction: Jeez, James better watch out -- if he doesn't ration them, he won't have any talents left to take to the stage by night's end! Am I right? (I'll be here all column, folks.)
BEST WNBA PLAYER
Seimone Augustus, Minnesota Lynx
Tamika Catchings, Indiana Fever
Tina Charles, Connecticut Sun
Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta Dream
Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury
Prediction: MVP Catchings, Finals MVP Augustus or two-time defending ESPYS winner Taurasi? Tough call, but we'll go with the league's big award winner, Catchings.
Jon "Bones" Jones, MMA
Floyd Mayweather Jr., Boxing
Anderson Silva, MMA
Andre Ward, Boxing
Prediction: Fun fact: This 5-year-old award only has been given to Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao. But with Silva's recent UFC win coupled with Pacquiao's loss-induced absence, we say this is the year for the MMA breakthrough.
BEST MALE GOLFER
Prediction: Donald is No. 1 and Webb won the U.S. Open, but we're guessing this comes down to Rory versus Bubba. And it goes to ... Masters champ Bubba.
BEST FEMALE GOLFER
So Yeon Ryu
Prediction: Kerr won this a year ago, but it's hard to deny the unquestioned world No. 1 for too long. That means Tseng.
BEST MALE TENNIS PLAYER
Prediction: Three 2011 grand slams and an overall amazing run seem to make this Djokovic's ... but with Federer winning Wimbledon, he very well could storm to the ESPY.
BEST FEMALE TENNIS PLAYER
Predicton: A comeback story and a career Grand Slam-completing French Open title would be enough for most in this category. But attached to a big name like Sharapova? That makes her the easy favorite.
BEST MALE COLLEGE ATHLETE
Jack Connolly, Minnesota-Duluth hockey
Anthony Davis, Kentucky basketball
Robert Griffin III, Baylor football
Andrew Luck, Stanford football
Mike Zunino, Florida baseball
Prediction: Sorry, Brow. If Luck can't top RGIII in the Heisman voting, no one can for the ESPY.
BEST FEMALE COLLEGE ATHLETE
Brittney Griner, Baylor basketball
Alex Jupiter, USC volleyball
Caitlin Leverenz, University of California swimming/diving
Teresa Noyola, Stanford soccer
Jackie Traina, Alabama softball
Prediction: Locks are for doors. And for categories with players who lead their teams to 40-0 records. (In other words, Griner.)
BEST MALE ACTION SPORT ATHLETE
Travis Rice, Snowboarding
Kelly Slater, Surfing
Ryan Villopoto, Motocross/Supercross
Shaun White, Snowboarding/Skateboarding
Prediction: It's hard to topple a crossover star like White, especially when he wins golds in Winter and Summer X.
BEST FEMALE ACTION SPORT ATHLETE
Jamie Anderson, Skiing
Kelly Clark, Snowboarding
Carissa Moore, Surfing
Kaya Turski, Skiing
Prediction: Anything goes in this category, but we'll predict a winter sports vote split and go with the youngest woman ever to win the ASP title (at 18) -- Moore.
Prediction: Gutierrez guided I'll Have Another to wins at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. No photo finish here.
BEST MALE ATHLETE WITH A DISABILITY
Baxter Humby, Kickboxing
Ray Martin, Track & field
Kyle Maynard, Climbing
Oz Sanchez, Cycling
Tyler Walker, Alpine Skiing
Prediction: It's really hard to go against any of these guys -- Humby, a Muay Thai champion with one arm; Martin, a wheelchair race champ; Sanchez, a talented cyclist; Walker a gold-winning alpine skier -- but we're guessing Maynard, who became the first quadruple amputee to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro without assistance.
BEST FEMALE ATHLETE WITH A DISABILITY
Jessica Long, Swimming
Chelsea McClammer, Track & Field
Tatyana McFadden, Track & Field
Alana Nichols, Alpine Skiing
Melissa Stockwell, Paratriathlon
Prediction: Ditto this category. Long took home a haul of gold medals (and world records) in 2011; McClammer won five golds at the 2011 Parapan American Games; McFadden won the 2011 Chicago Marathon wheelchair division (among other things) and Nichols won three World Cup Speed Globe gold medals. But it's hard to top Stockwell, who served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army during the Iraq War, was the first female soldier to lose a limb in combat, and is now a champion paratriathlete.
Prediction: Best Bowling Celebration would go to you-know-who, but we're talking about best bowler -- and that would be Rash, who led the PBA Tour in winnings and average.
BEST MLS PLAYER
David Beckham, Los Angeles Galaxy
Brad Davis, Houston Dynamo
Dwayne De Rosario, DC United
Chris Wondolowski, San Jose Earthquakes
Prediction: We could go all soccer nerd on you, but we'll just predict MLS Cup-winning Becks instead.
BEST TRACK AND FIELD ATHLETE
Prediction: You don't mess with a Jeter. Especially one who wins the 100-meter dash at the world championships.
BEST INTERNATIONAL ATHLETE
Novak Djokovic, tennis
Lionel Messi, soccer
Cristiano Ronaldo, soccer
Yani Tseng, golf
Prediction: Messi is the best soccer/football/futbol/fussball player in the world and scored an all-time-high 73 goals last season. So he probably wins ... unless Ronaldo's Facebook advantage (he has 46 million fans, while Messi has a paltry 37 million) sways the vote.
Baylor women's basketball
Kentucky men's basketball
Los Angeles Kings
New York Giants
St. Louis Cardinals
Prediction: Does LeBron take his talents to the stage one more time? Here's guessing ... no. Instead, ESPYS fans will love football just a little too much this year, and go Giants before going home.