Commentary

Playbook's 2012 ESPYS predictions

Updated: July 11, 2012, 9:22 PM ET
By Patrick Dorsey | ESPN.com

Best Eco ComebackESPNWe know who will walk down the red carpet. But who will win? Time for us to guess ...

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.


[+] EnlargeLeBron James
Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty ImagesCan LeBron's big Finals snag him the ESPY?

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 ...


[+] EnlargeStanley Cup
Evan Gole/Getty ImagesThis Cup wasn't supposed to go to an 8 seed, was it?

BEST UPSET

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.


BEST GAME

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!


BEST MOMENT

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 ...


Johan Santana
Mike Stobe/Getty ImagesNo hits, but one ESPY?

BEST COMEBACK

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.)


BEST COACH/MANAGER

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?


[+] EnlargeJosh Hamilton
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesThis guy's a hit. And it's often a home run, that hit.

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 ...


BEST DRIVER

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.


[+] EnlargeSonnen
Al Powers for ESPN.comCould Anderson Silva, left, be the first MMA athlete to break boxing's streak and win Best Fighter?

BEST FIGHTER

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

Luke Donald

Bill Haas

Rory McIlroy

Webb Simpson

Bubba Watson

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

Cristie Kerr

Yani Tseng

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

Novak Djokovic

Roger Federer

Rafael Nadal

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.


[+] EnlargeMaria Sharapova
Pascal Guyot/AFP/Getty ImagesMaria Sharapova's year could bring another ESPY.

BEST FEMALE TENNIS PLAYER

Victoria Azarenka

Petra Kvitova

Maria Sharapova

Samantha Stosur

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.)


[+] EnlargeShaun White
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images Don't mess with X. Especially when Shaun White is winning at it in summer and winter.

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.


BEST JOCKEY

Javier Castellano

Ramon Dominguez

Mario Gutierrez

John Velazquez

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.


BEST BOWLER

Jason Belmonte

Mike Fagan

Sean Rash

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.


LA Galaxy
AP Photo/Jason RedmondIs another celebration for Becks in the offing?

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

Walter Dix

Carmelita Jeter

Jason Richardson

Christian Taylor

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

[+] EnlargeEli Manning
Rob Tringali for ESPN.comCan't spell Eli without E. Nor can you spell ESPYS. Coincidence?

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.


BEST TEAM

Alabama football

Baylor women's basketball

Kentucky men's basketball

Los Angeles Kings

Miami Heat

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.

Patrick Dorsey is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor for ESPN.com. He has worked for the Web and newspapers. He also played in one Division-III golf tournament (he shot 105).