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Prince Harry, Staley among honorees at ESPYS

Prince Harry received the Pat Tillman Award for Service at The ESPYS on Thursday night, and Dawn Staley was honored with the Jimmy V Perserverance Award.

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LOS ANGELES -- Led by host Serena Williams, The ESPYS celebrated a landmark year for women's sports, with Simone Biles, A'ja Wilson, Caitlin Clark, Dawn Staley and JuJu Watkins among the honorees Thursday night.

Staley, coach of the national champion South Carolina women's basketball team, received the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance for both her support and fight for equality for women's sports and for her leadership in the fight against cancer. Her friend, Tennessee standout Nikki McCray-Penson, died of breast cancer and Staley's sister was diagnosed with leukemia. Staley was motivated by their battles to become an advocate for cancer research.

"I must confess I feel a little undeserving of this recognition. Past recipients of the Jimmy V Perseverance Award have faced incredible challenges and proven themselves as true warriors," Staley said. "I have merely been a spectator to such immense courage and resilience."

Staley's Gamecocks also won the best team award.

Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces won as best women's sports athlete and as best WNBA player.

"It's crazy to think that a young girl that didn't even want to play basketball is now up in the running for even one ESPY," she said in videotaped remarks.

Biles earned best comeback athlete weeks before she competes at the Paris Olympics. The most decorated gymnast in history withdrew from the team competition at the Tokyo Games to prioritize her mental health.

Clark of the Indiana Fever also earned two trophies, for record-breaking performance in becoming the NCAA's all-time career scoring leader, and as best college athlete, for her Iowa basketball career.

"I'm a little bit busy in Indianapolis," Clark said via videotape. "It was a special year in women's athletics."

Watkins won best breakthrough athlete, taking the first award after President Joe Biden's nationally televised news conference started late and ran 30 minutes into the show's timeslot.

The USC basketball star had a standout freshman season, leading the Trojans to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament for the first time in decades.

"This is crazy," Watkins said. "I want to thank all the great, powerful women who came before me that made this possible."

Williams joked during her monologue at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood and later sang after Ciara opened the show with a musical performance. Williams' older sister, Venus, came out and joked that she had actually been asked to host and the siblings got into a mock argument.

"You may be wondering why I'm doing this," noted fashion fiend Serena said. "Any opportunity to wear 16 outfits in three hours, I'm going to take it."

The ABC telecast returned from a commercial break in the final minutes and began repeating the presentations of two earlier awards. Williams' goodbye was cut off, as were the final credits. ABC said a technical glitch in the feed affected the live show in the East and Central time zones. It was to be corrected for tape-delayed viewing in the West.

Prince Harry received the Pat Tillman Award for Service, and he mentioned the late Army Ranger's mother who had criticized ESPN for honoring the royal.

With wife Meghan joining in a standing ovation, the Duke of Sussex accepted the trophy from three service veterans who were injured during their tours of duty. Harry served in the British military for 10 years, including two tours in Afghanistan as a helicopter pilot.

He created the Invictus Games in 2014, which serves as a multisport, paralympic-style games for wounded or injured servicemen and veterans.

"This award belongs to them, not to me," Harry said.

Tillman's mother, Mary Tillman, had criticized ESPN's choice of Harry, saying there are recipients working in the veteran community who would have been more fitting. Harry thanked Tillman's widow, Marie, for her attendance and also acknowledged Mary Tillman.

"Her advocacy for Pat's legacy is deeply personal and one that I respect," he said. "The bond between a mother and son is eternal and transcends even the greatest losses."

Retired NFL safety Steve Gleason was honored with the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage. He was diagnosed with ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, in 2011. His nonprofit, Team Gleason, helps people with ALS live purposeful lives by providing programming and support services.

Gleason received a standing ovation when he took the stage in a motorized chair and was kissed by former New Orleans Saints teammate Drew Brees. Gleason's voice was heard through special technology. His young son, Rivers, stood next to his father and held the trophy.

"For me, this honor represents some encouragement and triumph for the families currently living with ALS, all the people living with disabilities or other illnesses," he said. "I suppose if you have never experienced fear, isolation or suffering, you can roll your sanctified ass right out of here."

Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Dodgers was best MLB player; Connor McDavid of the Stanley Cup runner-up Edmonton Oilers was best NHL player; and Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks was best NBA player.

The best men's sports athlete was Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. He also claimed best NFL player.

Cooper Flagg, a senior guard-forward from Montverde (Florida) Academy, and track and field athlete Sadie Engelhardt of Ventura (California) High won the Gatorade National Players of the Year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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Jones-Aspinall? Gaethje-Chandler? The MMA fights we want most the rest of 2024

Dream fights. Superstar debuts. Trash-talk-filled matchups. Here's a wish list of most desirable fights for the rest of the year.

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2024 is already shaping up as one of the most dramatic years in MMA history, and it's only just halfway over. Alex Pereira has saved not one but two major UFC events. Max Holloway delivered arguably the greatest knockout in MMA history. Conor McGregor is still teasing the biggest comeback in MMA history, much to the frustration of Michael Chandler.

And the year's second half might be better than the first. The McGregor speculation will continue, of course. Jon Jones is expected to return. Sean O'Malley is potentially looking at a career year, if he beats Merab Dvalishvili. Israel Adesanya is searching for retribution in a grudge match with Dricus Du Plessis. The UFC is headed to the Sphere in Las Vegas, a megaevent based on the venue alone.

There's plenty to look forward to outside of the UFC, including the tease of Francis Ngannou's PFL debut and Bellator title fights featuring champions Usman Nurmagomedov and Johnny Eblen.

Here are 10 fights I'd love to see in the next six months.

In January, this was the No. 11 matchup I most wanted to see in 2024. It's now up to No. 1, based on what Topuria and Holloway did in the first half of the year.

Holloway's BMF knockout against Justin Gaethje was an all-time performance. What Topuria did to Alexander Volkanovski in February was equally impressive. There's a growing personal rift between these two, which is extremely rare for a Holloway fight. Historically, it's been impossible to draw Holloway into pre-fight trash talk, but Topuria might be the exception. If I can only watch one fight the rest of the year, this is it.

The UFC is not going to book this fight. UFC CEO Dana White has adamantly maintained that Jones vs. Stipe Miocic will be next. I'm not a fan of that matchup. Miocic is the greatest heavyweight of all time, but booking him a championship bout when it's been over four years since his last win is silly. Maybe if Aspinall knocks out Curtis Blaydes at UFC 304 in the most spectacular fashion of all time and cuts the greatest promo the sport has ever seen, White would pivot. But probably not. I'm going down with this ship, though. The heavyweight fight to make in the UFC is Jones vs. Aspinall.

If the UFC doesn't make Jones vs. Aspinall, I'd like to see it make Aspinall vs. Pereira. White has made it clear he's not in favor of Pereira going up too quickly, but Pereira has countered that he is 37 years old and wants a third belt, so it needs to happen sooner rather than later. If we're being honest, Aspinall should be fighting Jones. That's the fight for Aspinall. So, if we're not going to make the fight that makes the most sense, let's do the next most exciting thing -- give Pereira a chance to make history with a third belt by fighting Aspinall.

The sport is very down on Chimaev, which is understandable. In the last two years, he badly missed weight against Nate Diaz, didn't look great in a three-rounder against Kamaru Usman and pulled out of the biggest fight of his career against Robert Whittaker.

Costa is not exactly peaking, either. He's lost four of five and was timid against Sean Strickland. However, if these two made it to fight week against each other, the buildup would be outstanding and highly anticipated. If it happened, fans would love it despite the millions of eye rolls that would occur when the UFC announced it.

We still don't know what's happening with McGregor, but Chandler seems ready to move on if the right opportunity comes. This matchup would make so much sense on so many levels. Gaethje did the UFC a solid by fighting Holloway in April, even though he was waiting in line for a lightweight title shot. Chandler has done everything the UFC has asked to stay the course on a potential McGregor fight, including filming "The Ultimate Fighter." Islam Makhachev wants new opponents, preferably with name value. The first fight between Gaethje and Chandler was entertaining. Book the rematch and call it a No. 1 contender fight.

All signs point to a Pennington versus Peña title bout in the fall, potentially in October. Depending on what happens there, it would be great to see the winner turn around quickly and fight Harrison by the end of the year. If it doesn't happen this year, it's perfectly understandable. It just feels like it's a long time coming to see Harrison in a UFC title fight, and it'd be nice to see her compete more than once in 2024, as she only fought once in 2023 as well.

In some ways, it still feels like Pico has never recaptured the hype he came into the sport with, after going 4-3 in his first seven pro appearances. Since then, however, he is 9-1 with seven finishes -- with the only loss coming to Jeremy Kennedy when he suffered a shoulder injury in the first round.

Pico, 27, is realizing the potential he came into the sport with, and it's fun to watch right now. Pitbull is one of the best featherweights -- and arguably one of the best fighters -- of the last decade. This might be a passing of the torch moment, or Pitbull will show Pico's not at a championship level. It's a fight that's worthy of your attention.

This is the most anticipated fight that PFL could put on at the moment, and it only became bigger when Ferreira knocked out Ryan Bader in 21 seconds in February. There was already so much intrigue around Ngannou, from how he might respond to a knockout loss to Anthony Joshua in boxing to his first MMA appearance outside of the UFC. The African champion has endured a personal tragedy this year, with the death of his young son, Kobe. Ngannou is already one of the most inspirational figures the sport of mixed martial arts has ever seen. If he chooses to come back and take on a challenge like Ferreira, it will be impossible not to root for him.

The PFL has something in Ditcheva. She is charismatic, authentic, supremely confident and ready for the spotlight, which is huge considering her quick rise. She's still relatively untested, but the skill set looks very legit. Ditcheva moves and throws strikes in a way that jumps off the screen. If Ditcheva remains the real deal, she has true star power. Next month, Ditcheva faces Jena Bishop in the PFL semifinals, which is an intriguing matchup. Bishop figures to test her on the ground in ways she has not been yet. If Ditcheva wins, throwing her in with either Carmouche or Santos would be the final step to see if she is a world-class talent at age 26.

It's a fight that makes too much sense now. A win would buy Covington back some goodwill with the fans and the UFC that he lost in a lackluster performance against Leon Edwards last year. If he beats a young, hungry, surging contender such as Machado Garry, it reaffirms his place near the top of the 170-pound division and gives any of his callouts more validity. For Machado Garry, it's a chance to add the biggest name to his résumé yet and earn a good share of the spotlight. I'd love to see it as a main event, preferably in Ireland. Covington in Ireland would be a scene. Tell me you wouldn't get up for that fight week.
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A's slug 8 HRs vs. Phils, most by team since '99

The Athletics smashed eight home runs in Sunday's 18-3 rout of the first-place Phillies, the most homers in a game by any one team since 1999.

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PHILADELPHIA -- The Oakland Athletics smashed eight home runs in Sunday's 18-3 rout of the first-place Philadelphia Phillies, the most homers in a game by any one MLB team in 25 years.

Lawrence Butler accounted for three of them while Brent Rooker and Seth Brown each had two.

Butler had six RBIs. Rooker tied his career high with five RBIs for Oakland, which entered with the fourth-fewest wins in baseball and trailing Seattle by 16 games in the AL West. The Athletics' eight home runs were estimated at a combined 3,340 feet.

"It sounds like the distance back to Oakland," manager Mark Kotsay said. "They hit the ball hard today. There weren't really any cheap home runs."

Zack Gelof hit a grand slam off Phillies catcher Garrett Stubbs in the ninth inning.

The last team to hit at least eight home runs in a game were the Cincinnati Reds in September of 1999, when they hit nine against the Phillies. The MLB record is 10 home runs, set by the Blue Jays in 1987.

Trea Turner homered for the Phillies. Philadelphia began play with the most wins in baseball and ahead of the Braves by 9½ games in the NL East. The Phillies were trying to extend their club record of 62 victories before the All-Star Game and match the 1973 and '74 Dodgers for the most NL wins before the break.

"We just got our butts kicked today, but it was a good first half," Turner said.

Alec Bohm had a pair of doubles for the Phillies to up his MLB-leading total to 33. Turner and Bohm are two of Philadelphia's franchise-record eight All-Stars.

Joey Estes (4-4) allowed two earned runs on four hits in six strong innings.

"He threw the ball really well," Kotsay said.

It was just Philadelphia's third home series loss and first since losing consecutive series to Atlanta and Cincinnati to open the season.

Butler hit three two-run shots, in the fifth, seventh and eighth. The last of the trio went 449 feet into the second deck in right-center field.

"I wanted to put the barrel on the ball," Butler said. "I got it how I wanted to get it, and it went pretty far."

It was the first time he'd ever hit three homers in a game at any level.

"That was a pretty cool moment," he said.

Rooker completed a red-hot three games in Philadelphia in which he went 7-for-12 with a double, three homers and seven RBIs.

"The ball is flying out there, so that definitely helps," he said. "I've been seeing it well, swinging it well the past week."

He launched his first shot 450 feet over the batter's eye in center field in the fourth off Michael Mercado (1-2) and then drove a Mercado 94 mph four-seamer into Ashburn Alley, which is the walkway beyond the outfield. That home run traveled an estimated 452 feet.

"Both of those were about as clean as I can catch one," Rooker said.

Turner put the Phillies ahead by sending a 2-2, 81 mph slider from Estes over the wall in left to give Philadelphia a 1-0 lead. It was the eighth home run in 12 games for Turner, who upped his season total to 11. He missed 38 games with a left hamstring strain.

Phillies manager Rob Thomson said the time off for the All-Star break comes at a good time.

"They've been grinding for a while now," he said. "I think everybody needs the four days off."

Thomson said he'll be driving home to Canada.

"I've got some time to think about this one," he said.

ESPN Stats & Information and The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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