In an effort to cultivate sports discussion here at Blogcritics, every day I will highlight one ESPY Award and its nominees, leading up to the taping of the 2006 ESPY Awards on July 12. Weighing the options, I will ultimately pick a winner for reasons unknown to anyone, especially me. Dissent from the commenting masses is not only encouraged, but mandatory.
Tedy Bruschi, linebacker, New England Patriots: Weeks after a victory in Super Bowl XXXIX, he suffered a mild stroke and said he would miss the entire 2005 season, but actually came back that October. He had 61 tackles and 2 sacks in 9 games last season with the Patriots.
Ronny Turiaf, forward, Los Angeles Lakers: After being selected 37th overall in 2005's NBA Draft, doctors discovered Turiaf suffered from an enlarged aortic root and underwent open-heart surgery last July, expecting to miss the entire season. However, he logged his first minute of NBA action in February 2006. In all he played in 26 games this past season, including playoffs.
James Blake, tennis: In 2004, he broke his neck and lost his father to cancer. For a while he was out of tennis completely, but he staged a comeback as a wild card entry in the '05 U.S. Open (ranked No. 210) and upset 2-seed Rafael Nadal en route to the quarterfinals. He finished the year ranked No. 22, and this year was ranked as high as 7th.
Three amazing stories. The comeback tales of Turiaf and Bruschi are almost identical. They battled biological conditions few athletes have to endure. Blake overcame a combination of death in the family and a crippling injury. And it may be unfair to summarize the three's hardships in a paragraph each and further trivialize their remarkable stories by picking a "best" story.
Bruschi is by far the most accomplished, high-profile athlete since he has a handful of Super Bowl rings. People knew of Turiaf during his days at Gonzaga and plays for a storied basketball franchise. And James Blake is well known in the tennis clique but virtually unrecognizable in the sports world.
This one's tough. How can we distinguish from these three inspirational tales?
Conclusion: All three made astonishing comebacks, so let's not focus on their medical adversities or the fact that they all came back much faster than anticipated (if ever). James Blake's results during the comeback were more remarkable, so he gets my vote.
The ESPY Awards can be seen July 16 on ESPN at 9 p.m. eastern time.