American sports fans have hit out at the 2022 ESPY Awards after Klay Thompson was awarded the comeback of the year award, rather than cancer survivor and baseball star Trey Mancini.
Mancini was fighting for his life as he battled colon cancer and missed an entire season of baseball due to surgery and six months of chemotherapy at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
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The Baltimore Orioles slugger was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer, which means the cancer is larger and may have spread to surrounding tissues or lymph nodes.
Mancini came back last year, hitting 21 home runs and 71 runs batted in (RBI) in 147 games.
In 83 games this season, he has an average of .277 with nine home runs and 37 RBI.
Thompson returned to the court after a 941-day absence and helped his Golden State Warriors to the NBA title, after an ACL injury, followed by an Achilles injury during rehab.
In 32 games, Thompson scored 20.4 points per game, 3.9 rebounds and 208 assists, all three of which were above his career averages.
He also averaged 19 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists in the playoffs.
Another reason the award didn’t sit well with fans was that it came straight after 41-year ESPN college basketball commentary veteran Dick Vitale delivered an eloquent 15-minute speech on cancer research following being awarded the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance.
After winning the award named after his former ESPN colleague Jimmy Valvano who died because to cancer, Vitale has raised nearly $55 million through the Dick Vitale Fund for Pediatric Cancer.
Vitale has hosted an annual gala for 17 years for the fund.
Fans and sportspeople were not happy with the decision.
Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Ryan Thompson tweeted: “Trey Mancini not winning comeback player of the year is about as ridiculous as it gets”.
Sports producer Joe Papparotto wrote: “Trey Mancini beat cancer and watched Klay Thompson receive Comeback Athlete for a knee injury. This just minutes after the ESPY’s honoured Dick Vitale and his cancer battle.”
Baltimore Ravens and Orioles beat reporter Jerry Coleman posted: “After listening to Dicky V cancer story I thought Trey Mancini would be a lock for comeback athlete over a guy recovering from a knee injury.”
After pushback from a fan justifying the decision, he added: “Congratulations. EXCEPT It wasn’t as serious as cancer. Ever.”
CBS Baltimore’s Rick Ritter commented: “How does Trey Mancini not win Best Comeback Athlete?”
Publication OutKick added: “Dick Vitale gave a moving speech at the ESPY Awards about the importance of cancer research and beating the disease.
“MINUTES later, ESPN snubbed cancer-surviving Trey Mancini for “Comeback Player” award.
“You can’t make this stuff up.”
It was far from the only drama on the night as US Open champion Emma Raducanu won the women’s tennis player of the year despite Aussie Ash Barty holding the world No. 1 ranking until she retired, before Iga Swiatek opened up a massive lead in the rankings.
Barty won both the 2021 Wimbledon title and 2022 Australian Open, while the 19-year-old Raducanu has 9-12 win-loss record in 2022 and has only made the second round of all three majors this season.
Ski star Eileen Gu also sparked another social media storm after winning the best breakthrough athlete award.
Her two gold medals and silver medal were tainted by suggestions she had betrayed the United States by switching her allegiance to China before the Games.
Branded a traitor by some sections of the American media, Gu’s appearance at the 2022 ESPYS at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles was too much for some to take.
Gu was overcome with emotion after her name was read out during the announcement for best breakthrough athlete.