U.S. women's soccer thwarts top squads to garner Best Team ESPY

LOS ANGELES -- The U.S. women's national soccer team continued its World Cup afterparty Wednesday, taking home the ESPY for Best Team to cap the 23rd annual show that celebrates all things sports and more.

Abby Wambach accepted the award as fellow team members, dressed in their Sunday best, lined the stage beside her, leaving the savvy veteran to make her second meaningful speech of the night.

"You guys believed in us the entire seven games, since four years ago when we fell short to 10 days ago when we won it," Wambach said in the three-hour show's last moments. "We lifted the trophy. We did this for American and our fans. You guys are the best. We love you so much."

The U.S. team overcame a group of true heavyweights in the Golden State Warriors, the Chicago Blackhawks, the New England Patriots, the Ohio State football team and the Connecticut women's basketball team.

Wambach, an Olympic gold medalist and the heart of the U.S. women's team, had earlier taken the stage in a lengthy presentation for the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, which went to Caitlyn Jenner.

The spotlight was again hers to finish out the show, held at L.A. Live's Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles.

"I'm so happy I have these girls to celebrate this with," Wambach said. "It's been the best 10 days of our lives. We're going to celebrate it. We hope you guys can hang out with all of us later. But really, thank you guys so much -- ESPN, what an honor. We are going to celebrate this even more tonight. Thank you so much for having us."

Actor and comedian Joel McHale hosted and put on a monologue that featured jokes about Donald Trump deporting Triple Crown jockey Victor Espinoza to Mexico, the lack of action in the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight and the ability of NFL players to injure themselves with fireworks -- quips that were not alone among the comedy high points in the show.

Fan voting for the ESPYS was conducted online and based on performances spanning the past 12 months.

ESPY voters tabbed Peyton Manning's eclipsing of Brett Favre's career touchdowns mark as the Best Record-breaking Performance, an award the Broncos quarterback accepted to jump-start the proceedings.

Manning, who supplanted Favre with his 509th career touchdown in an October rout of the 49ers, topped Devin Hester, for career runback TDs; Lauren Chamberlain, for NCAA softball home runs; and Klay Thompson, for NBA points in a quarter.

"I'm truly blessed to be able to play the game of football, and I humbly accept this award," said Manning, who was accompanied for the night by his daughter, Mosley, who was flanked by Favre and his wife as Manning accepted the award.

LeBron James soon followed Manning onto the stage, garnering the Best Championship Performance ESPY.

"Second place got me this -- it wasn't expected at all," said James, who gave a nod to the NBA champion Warriors in attendance.

"You guys inspired me again," James said. "I needed that."

After outpointing Floyd Mayweather for Best Fighter ESPY, Ronda Rousey took home the Best Female Athlete ESPY. Rousey topped tennis champion Serena Williams, skier Lindsey Vonn and Connecticut's three-time NCAA champion Breanna Stewart for the award.

Rousey thanked her mother in her acceptance speech before saying, "I'm living such a lucky and blessed life, and I'm trying my best to deserve it."

But if one highlight stood out among the many, it was likely to be found among the ESPY's legacy awards, punctuated by the Arthur Ashe Courage Award that went to Jenner.

Wambach's speech was accompanied with a video tribute narrated by actor Jon Hamm. It told much of Jenner's life story, showcased by a gold-medal-winning Olympic decathlon performance from 1976.

"Wow, I have to talk after that? Thank you so much. It is so wonderful to be here tonight," Jenner said after taking the stage.

An upbeat Jenner, dressed in a floor-length white ball gown, asked the "fashion police" to be kind. She then took a serious tone while detailing and illustrating the difficulties transgender people face.

"This transition has been harder than anything I could imagine," said Jenner, adding that she wasn't alone and thanking "those who came before me."

It was Jenner's first major public appearance since the former Bruce Jenner announced last month she would now be known as Caitlyn.

"It's about what happens from here," Jennier said. "It's not just about one person. It's about thousands of people. It's not just about me. It's about all of us accepting one another."

The ESPY Icon Award went to Derek Jeter, the former New York Yankees shortstop and a future Hall of Famer. In a surprising twist, the award was presented to Jeter by Boston's own Ben Affleck.

"In retirement I've come to realize being a part of the larger world of sports is a gift and an honor," Jeter said while thanking the award winners and nominees, among others.

Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still, whose 5-year-old daughter, Leah, is in remission from neuroblastoma, accepted the Jimmy V. Perseverance Award presented to Still and his daughter.

Leah Still was not well enough to travel to Los Angeles to accept the award with her father, who received the award and delivered a speech in which he thanked a slew of supporters before a message from Leah Still played behind him on video screens.

"Sorry I couldn't be there everybody, but thank you for supporting me while I beat up cancer," Leah Still said.

Lauren Hill, the Mount St. Joseph freshman basketball player who inspired people with her fight against brain cancer and raised over $1.5 million for cancer research before she died April 10, was honored with the Best Moment ESPY in another special presentation.

Hill's mother and father attended the show, gave remarks and received the award in their daughter's memory.

For the ESPY celebrating the Best Breakthrough Performance, Little Leaguer Mo'Ne Davis beat out New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr., PGA Tour golfer Jordan Spieth, and Buckeyes quarterback Cardale Jones.

Other honorees included:

Best Male Athlete, Best NBA Player: League MVP and Warriors star Stephen Curry

Best Male College Athlete: Ex-Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota

Best Female College Athlete: Berkeley swimmer Missy Franklin

Best Comeback Athlete: Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski

Best MLB Player: American League MVP and Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout

Best NFL Player: League MVP and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers

Best NHL Player: Jonathan Toews of the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks

Best Male Golfer: Masters and U.S. Open champion Jordan Spieth

Best Female Golfer: Lydia Ko

Best Male Tennis Player: Novak Djokovic

Best Female Tennis Player: Serena Williams

Best WNBA Player: Skylar Diggins

Best Jockey: Espinoza, who won the Triple Crown aboard American Pharoah

Best International Athlete: FC Barcelona forward Lionel Messi

Best Game: Patriots-Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX

Best Coach: Steve Kerr of the Warriors

Best Play: Odell Beckham Jr.'s one-handed catch

Best Upset: Mississippi football over Alabama

Best Driver: Kevin Harvick

Best Bowler: Jason Belmonte

Best MLS player: Ireland's Robbie Keane of the Los Angeles Galaxy

Best Male Action Sports Athlete: Motocross racer Ryan Dungey

Best Female Action Sports Athlete: Snowboarder Kelly Clark

Best Male Athlete with a Disability: Paralympic cyclist Krige Schabort

Best Female Athlete with a Disability: Paralympic swimmer Becca Meyers

Pat Tillman Award for Service: Army veteran and former Notre Dame basketball player Danielle Green