Lakers star Pau Gasol and track star Allyson Felix received the highest individual honors at Friday night's Los Angeles Sports Awards.
Gasol received a standing ovation from the crowd at the JW Marriott at L.A. Live when he was honored as the region's sportsman of the year for his contributions to the Lakers' NBA championship run and work in the community.
"It feels great. It's obviously great recognition for me in my second year here," the Spaniard said. "It didn't take long for me to feel at home when I came to L.A.
"Everything just clicked quickly here, in the basketball court and outside. Everybody is just so warm and giving me a great welcome. People here made me so loved."
Felix, a native of the San Fernando Valley who attended USC and trains at UCLA, was recognized as sportswoman of the year for becoming the first woman to win three 200-meter world championships.
"This is really a huge honor for me," Felix said. "L.A. is the land of Hollywood and celebrities, so to be recognized here is really special."
The Lakers' victory over Orlando in the NBA Finals was selected as the top sports moment of the year. Lakers owner Jerry Buss was honored as executive of the year for his commitment to winning and leadership of the Lakers. His daughter, Lakers executive Jeanie Buss, accepted both awards in person. Derek Fisher's clutch 3-pointers in Game 4 of the NBA Finals were recognized as the No. 5 overall sports moment.
Zenyatta's historic win in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita was chosen as the No. 2 sports moment of the year, and the "exceptional athletic performance" of 2009. The mare's owners, Jerry and Ann Moss, accepted both awards after a rousing introduction from legendary track announcer Trevor Denman. Trainer John Shirreffs and jockey Mike Smith were also in attendance.
Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier was on hand to accept an individual award for his six game-winning hits, including four home runs, and the team honor for the Dodgers sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals to advance to the National League Championship Series.
"It's more about the team and the team result," Ethier said. "To be singled out is nice, but at the same time I think we're getting honored for our division series performance. The end of the season is still a little bit bitter. We were two games from going to the World Series; two years in a row we were two games away."
Ethier said he'd spent most of the offseason at his home in Arizona, except for a trip to the Caribbean with Red Sox shortstop Dustin Pedroia, a former teammate at Arizona State.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia was honored as coach of the year for guiding the team to the American League Championship Series despite the tragic death of pitcher Nick Adenhart in a car crash April 9.
Jon Wilhite, the former Cal State Fullerton baseball player who was the lone survivor of the accident, taped a message in honor of the Angels' perseverance after Adenhart's death.
The top 10 sports moments were:
1. The Lakers defeat the Orlando Magic in five
games to win their 15th NBA championship, and their 10th in Los Angeles (June 14).
2. In one of the most dramatic
performances in Breeders' Cup history, Zenyatta wins the Breeders' Cup
Classic at Santa Anita (Nov. 7).
3. Angels win
the AL West and sweep the Boston Red Sox to reach the American League
Championship Series (Oct. 11).
4. Dodgers win the NL West for the second year in a row and sweep the
St. Louis Cardinals to reach the NLCS (Oct. 10).
5. Fisher's clutch
3-point shots -- one with 4.6 seconds left in regulation and another with
31.3 seconds to go in overtime -- power the Lakers over the Magic in the
pivotal Game 4 of the NBA Finals (June 11).
6. Dodgers right fielder Andre
Ethier is named MLB's clutch performer of the year after leading the majors
with six walk-off hits, including four home runs (November).
7. The tragic death of
rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart in an early-April car crash provides season-long
inspiration to his teammates and fans.
8. Eight-time All-Star Luc
Robitaille of the Los Angeles Kings is inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame (Nov. 9).
9. Eight-time All-Star Lisa
Leslie retires from the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA (Sept. 26).
10. (tie) In a dramatic
final at Dodger Stadium, Japan edged Korea 5-3 in 10 innings to win the
World Baseball Classic (March 23).
10. (tie) Evan Lysacek
became the first American man to win the World Figure Skating
Championships since 1996, at Staples Center (March 26).
Ramona Shelburne is a columnist and writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com.