*Sixteen-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams has won her second ESPY Award, beating out her sister Venus Williams and Kim Clijsters to receive the award as Best Female Tennis Player at the 18th annual ESPN ESPY’s awards doled out on Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, CA.  This marks her second ESPY award having won for Best Female Athlete in 2003.  Serena was also nominated for — but did not win — the 2010 Best Female Athlete award.

Greg Lewis, Minnesota Vikings, Best Play With Brett Favre

Williams recently won the Wimbledon Championship for the second consecutive year and for the fourth time overall.  The world number one tennis player took just 67 minutes to overcome first time finalist Vera Zvonareva 6-3, 6-2.  The win marked her 37th career title putting her in fourth place with Billie Jean King on the all-time list of Wimbledon winners.  She’s got to win one more to catch up with Venus who is 5th on the list.

ESPN’s ESPY Awards are handed out each year to celebrate excellence in professional, Olympic and collegial sports that are determined by online voting from fans.  The live broadcast was attended by scores of athletes from the sports community and hosted by comedian Seth Meyers.  The program also raises funds for the cancer research charity The V Foundation founded in honor of the late college basketball coach, Jim Valvano, who won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award in 1993.

Ed Thomas' family, wife Jan and sons Aaron & Todd accept Arthur Ashe Courage Award

Each year the Arthur Ashe Courage Award is given to a member of the sports community who best exhibits courage in the face of adversity – whose characters transcends sports.  Brett Favre presented this year’s distinguished award to the family of the late Ed Thomas’ wife, Jan, and sons, Aaron and Todd.  Thomas was the recipient of this year’s award for his outstanding work as the beloved Aplington-Parkersburg football coach as noted in a moving tribute narrated by actor Keifer Sutherland highlighting the family’s “capacity to forgive.”

Brandon Knight, Gatorade's Male High School Athlete of the Year who is headed to University of Kentucky

In the summer of 2008, the coach’s town was hit by an EF-5 tornado.  In spite of the adversity, he used football to keep a community together.  The team — in a town of only 2000 citizens — went to an 11-1 season.  In June, 2009, the beloved coach was murdered by a former player, Mark Becker, who was eventually convicted of murder.  Despite this fatal act, family members openly showed their compassion and forgiveness toward the Becker family.

“Without our faith I don’t think there’s any way we could get through this tragedy,” Todd Thomas said.    “He was led by his faith, his family and finally his football,” added Aaron.

“The Thomas family showed us how people can come together under extraordinary circumstances that would normally drive them apart,” said ESPN executive John Skipper in a statement.

Superbowl XLIV Champions, the Saintsational, New Orleans Saints wins Best Team Award

Ray Cole, president and CEO, Citadel Communications that owns WOI-TV and three other TV stations, nominated the Thomas family for the award.  Cole said he thought the family’s character and the way they helped Parkersburg in the wake of the tornado made them a deserving candidate.  “We put that all together and it was well-received by the committee,” Cole said.  Past winners include Muhammad Ali, Pat Tillman and Nelson Mandela.

The champion NFL’s New Orleans Saints won the Best Team Award and the team’s Drew Brees won the Best NFL Player Award.  The NBA champs and LA Lakers’ MVP player Kobe Bryant won the Best NBA Player Award and the team’s Phil Jackson won the Best Coach/Manager Award.

New York Giants wide receiver Ramses Barden

NFL Carolina Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson

Other standout ESPY Awards winners were: Best Male Golfer/Phil Mickelson; Best Male Tennis Player/Roger Federer; Best Sports Movie/The Blind Side; Best Track And Field Athlete/Usain Bolt; and Best Fighter/Floyd Mayweather.

Presenters at this year’s sport-studded event included ESPN’s Chris Berman and Stuart Scott, NFL stars Drew Brees, Reggie Bush, Aaron Rodgers, Terrell Owens, Jeremy Shockey; MLB star Jorge Posada; Olympian Gold medalists Shaun White and Evan Lysacek; race-car driver Danica Patrick, soccer stars Landon Donovan and Dara Torres; country music star, Kenny Chesney; model Brooklyn Decker; and actors Samuel L. Jackson, Tracy Morgan, Will Ferrell, Ashley Greene, Emmanuelle Chriqui and Zac Efron.

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2010 ESPY Awards Winners: Best Male Athlete/Drew Brees, NFL; Best Female Athlete/Lindsey Vonn, Skiing; Best Play/Brett Favre, Vikings; ESPY Perseverance Award/George Karl, Nuggets; Best Championship Performance/Drew Brees; Best Breakthrough Athlete/Chris Johnson, Tennessee; Best Comeback/Kim Clijsters, Tennis; Best Record-Breaking Performance/Isner vs. Mahut at Wimbledon; Best Upset/Northern Iowa shocks No. 1 Kansas, Men’s Basketball; Best Game/Canada edges USA in Olympic hockey championship game in overtime.

Also Best Moment/Landon Donovan World Cup vs. Algeria; Best Team/New Orleans Saints; Under Pressure Award/Landon Donovan World Cup vs. Algeria; Best College Athletic Program/Duke Men’s Athletics and Stanford Women’s Athletics; Best MLB Player/Albert Pujols, St. Louis; Best NHL Player/Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh; Best Driver/Jimmie Johnson; Best WNBA Player/Diana Taurasi, Phoenix; Best Female Golfer/Lorena Ochoa; Best Male College Athlete/John Wall, Kentucky Basketball; and Best Female College Athlete/Maya Moore, Connecticut Women’s Basketball.

And Best Male Action Sports Athlete/Shaun White, Snowboard; Best Female Action Sport Athlete/Torah Bright, Snowboarding; Best Jockey/Calvin Borel; Best Male Athlete With A Disability/Steve Cash; Best Female Athlete With A Disability/Amy Palmiero-Winters; Best Bowler/Walter Ray Williams Jr.; Best Male US Olympic Athlete/Shaun White, Snowboarding; Best Female US Olympic Athlete/Lindsey Vonn, Skiing; and Best MLS Player/Landon Donovan, Los Angeles.  (Photos by Dave Goodson)

Audrey J. Bernard

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.