This year’s ESPYS nominees for Best Athlete, Men’s Sports broke records, won championships and dominated their respective sports in ways that had never been done before. In case you forgot how they did it, we compiled a few reminders of why each was nominated for the ESPYS Best Athlete in Male Sports, one jaw-dropping stat at a time.
Patrick Mahomes: Kansas City Chiefs
• In week 18, Mahomes broke Drew Brees’ 2011 record of 5,562 for total yards in a season. Mahomes would go on to finish the regular season with a career-high 5,250 passing yards and 41 touchdowns to lead all quarterbacks. It was the second time he had at least 5,000 passing yards and 40 touchdowns in a season, joining Brees’ as the only other quarterback with more than one such season.
• After collecting his second NFL MVP and another Super Bowl title, Mahomes became just the fourth starting quarterback in league history to win multiple MVPs and championships. It took Peyton Manning 18 years to accomplish the same feat. Joe Montana took 12 years while Tom Brady did it in 11. Mahomes, 27, needed only six.
• It wasn’t enough to be named league MVP and win a Super Bowl; Mahomes’ 182 yards and three touchdowns on an injured ankle earned him Super Bowl MVP honors, too. The last player to take home both MVP awards was Kurt Warner in 1999.
Aaron Judge: New York Yankees
• Judge chased history in the 2022 season, hitting 62 home runs to pass fellow Yankee Roger Maris’ long-standing American League single season record. It was just the ninth 60-home run season in baseball history. The gulf between Judge and mere mortals was vast: The outfielder hit 16 more home runs than the next-closest hitter.
• Judge led the league in home runs (62), runs scored (133) and extra base hits (90). (He tied with Pete Alonso with 131 RBIs.) His numbers came just short of a Triple Crown; Judge’s batting average of .311 was just .005 below Luis Arraez.
• At the end of 2022, Judge cashed in on his historic season, signing a nine-year, $360 million contract with the Yankees. His $40 million average salary makes him the highest-paid position player in baseball.
• Most recently Judge was named an All-Star starter for the fifth time in his career, despite not starting since June 3, when he tore a toe ligament. There is no timeline for his return. He led the league in slugging percentage (.674) and OPS (1.078) at the time of his injury.
Lionel Messi: Argentina, Paris Saint-Germain
• Messi’s quest for an elusive World Cup title finally ended in triumph at Qatar. His two goals in the Finals against France helped Argentina capture its first World Cup since 1986 in a dramatic shootout victory. He became the first man in World Cup history to score in the group stage, round of 16, quarterfinals, semi and finals in a single tournament. His seven goals during knockout rounds are tied for the second-most by any man since data became available in 1966.
• Messi became the first player ever to win the FIFA World Cup Golden Ball more than once (2014, 2022), and the only athlete to win seven FIFA Player of the Year awards.
• In his fifth appearance at the World Cup, Messi passed Germany’s Lothar Matthaus for most World Cup games played with 26. Later, the 36-year-old said it was his final World Cup. What’s next? Messi, who scored 16 goals for PSG in the 2022-23 season, announced he would be playing soccer in the States for David Beckham’s Inter Miami.
Nikola Jokic: Denver Nuggets
• Jokic totaled 24.5 points, 11.8 rebounds and 9.8 assists to rank in the top five in all three categories during the regular season. Only Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain had ever done so.
• His path to the championship was unlike any other. Jokic became the first player in NBA history to record at least 10 triple-doubles in a single postseason. The Nuggets center averaged 30 points, 13.5 rebounds and 9.5 assists in the playoffs, becoming the first player in postseason history to lead in all three categories.
• Against Miami, Jokic became the first player in history to score at least 30 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists in a championship game, a performance that would help him add a Finals MVP to his list of accolades.
• Like Mahomes, Jokic hit the trifecta this year: a championship title, Finals and league MVP.
Your vote matters! Make your selection below and find out who wins at the ESPYS on July 12 beginning at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.
ESPYS 2023 — Meet the nominees for Best Athlete, Men’s Sports