Bill Russell, Alex Morgan and other Bay Area athletes win ESPYs

U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) player Alex Morgan and Oakland native and NBA legend Bill Russell were among four people with ties to the San Francisco Bay Area honored with ESPY Awards at a ceremony hosted by ESPN in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

Morgan, who played collegiate soccer at UC Berkeley, was one of the key players on the USWNT that recently won the 2019 Women’s World Cup in Lyon, France.

She also been an outspoken proponent for parity in the pay between the women’s national soccer team and the men’s team.

“I feel like we’re more than just a soccer team, we’re America’s team in a way, seeing everyone celebrate and support us through these successes,” she told a reporter from SNY, a sports television network in New York, Tuesday after the team got back from France. “And knowing that so much rides on our success in terms of equal pay and being at the forefront of everything and speaking up from important issues that we feel passionate about.”

Russell, who played basketball at McClymonds High School and University of San Francisco before going onto a storied career with the Boston Celtics, was given the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the ESPYs.

“I’m humbled to receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award,” he said in a statement ahead of the awards ceremony. “Arthur was a man of great courage, that fought on and off the court for equality.”

Williams, who grew up in Southern California but now lives in the Bay Area, made it to the finals of the U.S. Open and Wimbledon after coming back from having a child in September 2017.

And a Bay Area football coach, Rob Mendez of Prospect High School in Saratoga, Calif., is being honored with the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance. Mendez, who was born without limbs and coaches Prospect’s junior varsity football team, was featured on the cover of ESPN the Magazine.

“I know I want to push myself to be the best coach I can be. I’ve never given up at anything. I’m not about to now,” he wrote in a personal essay on ESPN’s website. “And off the field, I want to keep inspiring people to chase their dreams, to never give up.”

Drew Costley is an SFGATE editorial assistant. Email: | Twitter: @drewcostley

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