Okahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant has been named one of five finalists for the ESPY Top NBA Player. Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwight Howard and Dwyane Wade are the other finalists. The winner will be announced in the awards show, televised live at 8 p.m. July 14.
Voting at espn.com/espys runs through 11 p.m. July 10 for most categories.
“The “Best Play” nominees will be announced during the 2010 ESPY Countdown show airing live on July 14 at 7 p.m. on ESPN and voting will take place throughout The 2010 ESPYs telecast. In addition, “Best Team” voting will be open throughout the live telecast.
Here’s a look at the top NBA player finalists:
— Kobe Bryant, LA Lakers. Finished fourth in scoring (27 PPG) during the 2009-10 regular season and averaged 28.6 PPG in the NBA Finals. Earned his fifth championship ring after leading the Lakers over the Celtics in the NBA Finals. Led the Lakers to best record in Western Conference during 2009-10 regular season, 57-25.
— Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City. Became youngest player to win the NBA scoring title (21 years, 197 days). Averaged 30.1 PPG during the 2009-10 regular season.
— Dwight Howard, Orlando. Named The NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year. Led the NBA in rebounding during the 2009-10 regular season (13.2 RPG) and field goal percentage (61.2 PCT).
— LeBron James, Cleveland. Earned his second straight MVP award. Averaged 29.7 PPG (2nd in NBA), 8.6 APG (6th in NBA) and 7.3 RPG during the 2009-10 regular season. Led the Cavaliers to NBA-high 61 regular-season wins.
— Dwyane Wade, Miami. Finished fifth in scoring (26.6 PPG.) and tenth in assists (6.5 APG.) during the 2009-10 regular season. Averaged 33.2 PPG in the 2010 playoffs.
There’s a bunch of categories. Here are the five finalists for best sports movie:
— Big Fan. The story of a hardcore fan struggling to deal with the consequences of being assaulted by his favorite player. Stars Patton Oswalt and is written/directed by Robert D. Siegel.
— Invictus. A look at life for Nelson Mandela during his first term as president after the fall of apartheid in South Africa. Mandela campaigned to host the 1995 Rugby World Cup event as an opportunity to unite his countrymen. Stars Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman.
— The Blind Side. Chronicles the story of former University of Mississippi offensive lineman Michael Oher. Stars Sandra Bullock in an Oscar-winning performance.
— The Damned United. A look at Brian Clough’s 44-day reign as the coach of Leeds. Stars Michael Sheen and Timothy Spall.
— The Karate Kid. The story of a boy who, in his new home in China, embraces kung fu as taught to him by a master. Stars Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith.
Will every Stephen Strasburg start be nationally televised? It’s beginning to seem that way after TBS picked up his second start at noon Sunday at Cleveland and the MLB Network plans to air his expected third start against the Chicago White Sox at 6 p.m. June 18 from National Park.
It’s easy to see why the networks are jumping on the Strasburg bandwagon. His 14- strikeout performance in his major-league debut Tuesday night against Pittsburgh on MLB Network was amazing to say the least.
Said FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal: “This is my 24th year covering baseball, and last night was one of my five favorite nights ever at a ballpark. To see Strasburg perform at such a high level was electrifying. Granted, Strasburg was facing the Pirates, the lowest-scoring team in the majors, but the quality of his pitches was so good, I’m not sure the opponent would have mattered. He touched 100 mph — with movement. He threw his breaking ball for strikes. His changeup was in the 90-mph range. And the last of his pitches was a fastball at 99. You couldn’t take your eyes off him. Let’s just hope he stays healthy and his starts remain must-see events for hopefully, the next 10 or 15 years.”
For its Sunday telelcast, TBS plans to add two super slo-mo cameras; a centerfield camera and a right field line camera.
— KOKH-25 will air the White Sox at Cubs game at 3 p.m. Saturday. Kenny Albert and Eric Karros will call the action. Carlos Silva (8-0, 2.93 ERA) is expected to pitch for the Cubs.
— The 8 p.m. Monday premiere of the Golf Channel documentary, “Caddy for Life: The Bruce Edwards Story,” not only will recall the inspirational life of one of golf’s pioneers, but also will shed light on the disease that tragically took his life. Based on The New York Times best-selling book by John Feinstein, the film is an emotional remembrance of the extraordinary relationship between one of history’s greatest golfers, Tom Watson, and his longtime friend and caddy, Edwards. It recounts Edwards’ battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, until his death in 2004.
— A reminder of the great achievements of legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden is captured in the HBO Sports special “The UCLA Dynasty,” a 2007 documentary that traces the incredible success of the UCLA men’s basketball program, which captured an astounding ten national titles during a 12-year run. The HBO2 service will air an encore presentation of the one-hour documentary on at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
The much-anticipated debut of Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg will air at 6 p.m. Tuesday on the MLB Network. Bob Costas, Jim Kaat and John Smoltz will call the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates live from Nationals Park.
Strasburg, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, had a rapid rise through the Nationals’ Minor League system in 2010, with his 100 mph fastball and a combined 6-2 record with a 1.43 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 50 1/3 innings for the Harrisburg Senators (Double-A) and Syracuse Chiefs (Triple-A).
MLB Network’s Matt Vasgersian and Dan Plesac will offer pre- and postgame coverage on MLB Tonight starting at 5:00 p.m.
— The MLB Network will the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft at 6 p.m. Monday. June 7. Pre-draft coverage will start at 5 p.m.
– The network will re-air Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga’s near-perfect game on at noon Monday.
— MLB Network expert Peter Gammons on the call that cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game:
“I felt sick for Galarraga. I was watching in studio at NESN with Dennis Eckersley. As we watched the whole thing unfold afterward, it made me feel really good. Jim Joyce admitted he blew the call and was visibly upset about it. Galarraga smiled and handled it well. He didn’t go out of his mind. There was a hug afterwards between Galarraga and Joyce. Jim Leyland and Dave Dombrowski also handled it well. Last night was completely civil. I couldn’t have done what Galarraga did. I would have been really upset.”
— The Tampa Bay-Texas game will be Fox’s main baseball broadcast at 3 p.m. Saturday, going to 44 percent of the country. Josh Lewin, a Rangers and Fox announcer, will get the day off. Dick Stockton and Kevin Kennedy will call the game.
ABC broadcasters Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson and Mike Breen conducted a conference call Tuesday to preview the NBA Finals.
Here are some excerpts:
What will be the keys?
Jackson: I think Kobe (Bryant) is going to be Kobe. I don’t think that they (the Celtics) will be able to contain him the way they did in ’08. Although they will make life tough at times, I don’t think they have the same interior defense that they had in ’08. I think the big difference will be in ’08 Paul Pierce was the best player in the series. They could not contain him and he had his way. I think the Lakers have a similar defensive force to what LeBron James was able to do with Pierce, which will not allow Pierce to be the best player in this series and will allow Kobe to be just that, which will give them a tremendous boost.
Van Gundy: I’m still wondering how healthy (Andrew) Bynum is because I think his presence is going to be critical to the Lakers’ chances. I think the Celtics are an extremely well balanced team as is L.A. I think both teams play offense and defense well. I think it will come down to possessions, who can rebound the ball better and who takes care of it better because I think these teams are evenly matched.
What’s the best way to defend Kobe?
Jackson: Ultimately I would force anybody not named Kobe Bryant to beat me because he has proven to be able to do that. If you get the ball out of his hands, you have the best possible chance of winning. That means double-teaming him, denying him, forcing him to get rid of the basketball. I don’t want Pau Gasol to beat me, but it certainly won’t be Kobe Bryant.
Van Gundy: I think interestingly they played against one very good defensive team and in that series, he had his most struggles, and that was against Oklahoma City. And yet he still had an outstanding series. And since then, he has has just been remarkable whether it’s he’s feeling better or the defensive has been different. Some of the shots he made in Game 6 against Phoenix were indefensible. Even when they started to send a second guy to double-team, the greatest of all times, like he and Jordan, they know how to get away from the double-team and still get a quality shot. I think the Celtics are very equipped to defend him. I think Ray Allen is a very disciplined defender. I think the length at the basket will force Bryant to take a lot of jump shots. I think Bryant is going to play well, but I think he’s going to face similar challenges to the one he found in the series in 2008. They are going to make it hard on him, and yet he can always rise up, because he has proven himself once again to be the best player in the NBA.
Jeff, how do you rate yourself as a broadcaster?
Van Gundy: I would say irritating to some, irritating to myself sometimes. I could always analyze myself as a coach like what I thought we were doing well as a group. Because I don’t really have a background in broadcasting, I’m sort of unknowledgable about when we have a great broadcast. I haven’t improved a lot in the stuff we do at the start, the openings. That’s still hard for me. I try to get a little better in the highlights when we have a replay. But still Mark is a lot stronger in those areas. I’ve said this before, I’m like a one-dimensional spot-up shooter. Mike is the great point guard. I stand behind the 3-point line and hope to get some open looks.
Why would you consider going back into such an unstable profession as coaching?
Van Gundy: People talk about coaching being a fickle business, so too is broadcasting. Broadcasters, their job security is not great either. To assume that in any coaching or in broadcasting, that things won’t change is probably to make a mistake. I don’t spend any time about what is next. When I was coaching, I never thought what’s next after coaching. And now that I’m broadcasting, I don’t sit there and contemplate a lot about what my next job will be. I’m just trying to do the job I have as well as I can and realize that change is a big part of pro sports and also broadcasting. You have to be ready to adjust and adapt when circumstances dictate.”