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 2003 ESPY Awards
Recapping the Greatest Night In Sports.
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Serena wins two awards; Kobe in the house  

Darren Rovell

LOS ANGELES -- Serena Williams accepted an ESPY on behalf of her sister Venus last year, but the two pieces of hardware she picked up this time around had her name written on it.
Serena designed her dress especially for the ESPYs.

"Without her I wouldn't be here," said Williams, who was wearing a low-cut pink dress she calls "Aneres," her name spelled backward. "Whenever she raises the level of her game, I do, too, and that's how I was able to get to the top."

The No. 1 player in the world, who won Best Female Tennis Player and Best Female Athlete, was the only nominee to win two categories at the 11th annual ESPY awards, which was held at the Kodak Theatre.

Lance Armstrong only dominates water-cooler talk throughout the month of July, but Armstrong -- who did not attend due to his bid for a record-tying fifth Tour de France victory -- became the first cyclist to ever win the ESPY for Best Male Athlete. Armstrong beat out San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds, San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan and golfer Tiger Woods for the award.

Woods, who had won the award the previous three times, secured the Best Male Golfer once again for his record 15th ESPY. Pete Sampras now trails Woods by five awards after picking up the ESPY for Best Moment for his unexpected march through the brackets on his way to the U.S. Open title.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who was arrested two weeks ago for an alleged sexual assault but has not been charged, sat in the audience, but did not win an award. Bryant turned down ESPN's request for an interview.

"When he came here, that's telling me he's really comfortable," said his new teammate Gary Payton.

Other repeat winners in their respective league's best player categories included Bonds, Los Angeles Sparks center Lisa Leslie and female golfer Annika Sorenstam.

Vanessa, Kobe Bryant
Kobe and his wife were all smiles at the ESPYs.

Although host Jamie Foxx told a LeBron joke and even sang a LeBron song, Cleveland Cavaliers much-heralded rookie LeBron James came away empty-handed. James, the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft who won Gatorade's Male High School Athlete of the Year earlier in the day, was only on the stage for his presentation of the Best Male College Athlete, which went to former Syracuse forward Carmelo Anthony.

"You old school, I'm no school," the Ohio prep star joked with fellow presenter Dr. J.

James was nominated for Best Breakthrough Athlete and Best Play but he was trumped by New York Yankees second baseman Alfonso Soriano and LSU's Hail Mary play, respectively. The Best Play award was the only ESPY that was voted on by the fans up until minutes before the selection was announced.

Anthony, after he won his ESPY, had an unprecedented person on his "Thank You" list.

"I also want to thank myself," said Anthony, who was picked third overall in the NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets. "I put in a lot of hard work day in and day out."

The most touching points of the night came with the special ESPY awards presented to Jake Porter and to Pat and Kevin Tillman.

Porter, who has Chromosomal Fragile-X, a form of mental retardation, scored a 49-yard touchdown in his high school game after the two coaches informed the players of their plan to give Porter a lasting memory. Porter received a standing ovation when he came to the stage and lifted the ESPY over his head.

"It feels good," said Porter, who will put the award in his high school's trophy case.

"It was very emotional for me," said Dennis Haysbert, who accompanied Porter to the stage. Haysbert stars in "24" and is better known to sports fans as Pedro Cerrano from the Major League movies.

Richard Tillman accepted the Arthur Ashe Courage Award on behalf of his brothers who left their football and baseball careers to become rangers in the Army and serve their country in Iraq.

The World Series champion Anaheim Angels dramatic rise to the top won them the Best Team award. Despite losing out on the team honor, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden was voted Best Coach, while University of Connecticut junior guard Diana Taurasi won Best Female College Athlete.

Although Ronaldo won the Best Male Soccer Player, Real Madrid's newest acquisition David Beckham received an honor of sorts when the movie bearing his name, "Bend It Like Beckham," won the Best Sports Movie.

Jose Santos won the best jockey award for his magical bid for the Triple Crown aboard Funny Cide, which won the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby.

The ESPY Academy, which consists of athletes, coaches and journalists, gave the award for record-breaking performance to Emmitt Smith, for his shattering of Walter Payton's career rushing record. They awarded comeback athlete of the year to Tommy Maddox, who became the starter for the Pittsburgh Steelers, after not playing in the NFL for four seasons.

"For whatever reason my life was supposed to take this path and I really think it makes it a little sweeter," said Maddox, noting that he still wears his XFL championship ring.

More than five million fans voted on 17 categories and selected Roy Jones Jr. as Best Boxer, Tony Stewart as Best Driver and gave the ESPY for Best NHL Player to Anaheim Mighty Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who lead his team to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Darren Rovell is a staff writer for

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