Between 2001 and 2004, the award voting panel comprised variously fans; sportswriters and broadcasters, sports executives, and retired sportspersons, termed collectively experts; and ESPN personalities, but balloting thereafter has been undertaken exclusively by fans over the Internet from amongst choices nominated by the ESPN Select Nominating Committee.
Through the 2001 iteration of the ESPY Awards, ceremonies were conducted in February of each year to honor achievements over the previous calendar year; awards presented thereafter are conferred in June and reflect performance from the June previous.
|Year of award||Athlete||Nation of citizenship||Sports teams||Sports competitions, governing body, or league||Sport||Record set||Previous record-holder|
|2001||Pete Sampras||not applicable||ATP Tour||Tennis||Total career men's singles Grand Slam titles (13)||Australian Roy Emerson (12)|
|2002||Tiger Woods||not applicable||PGA Tour||Golf||Consecutive men's major championships won (four—the 2000 U.S. Open, The Open Championship, and PGA Championship and the 2001 The Masters Tournament [known as the consecutive Grand Slam])||American Ben Hogan (three, in 1953)|
|2003||Emmitt Smith||Dallas Cowboys||National Football League (NFL)||American football||Total career NFL rushing yards (17,162 at the close of the league's 2002 season, with 975 tallied therein)||American Walter Payton (16,726, across the 13 seasons between 1975 and 1987, inclusive)|
|2004||Éric Gagné||Los Angeles Dodgers||Major League Baseball (MLB)||Baseball||Consecutive saves converted in a single MLB regular season (55 across the league's 2003 season)||American Tom Gordon (46, in 1998)|
|2005||Peyton Manning||Indianapolis Colts||National Football League (NFL)||American football||Total single-season NFL passing touchdowns (49 in the league's 2004 season)||American Dan Marino (48 in the 1984)|
|2006||Shaun Alexander||Seattle Seahawks||National Football League (NFL)||American football||Total single-season NFL rushing touchdowns (27 in the league's 2005 season)||American Priest Holmes (26, in 2004)|
|2007||LaDainian Tomlinson||San Diego Chargers||National Football League (NFL)||American football||Total single-season NFL rushing touchdowns (28 in the league's 2006 season)||American Shaun Alexander (27, in 2005)|
|2008||Brett Favre||Green Bay Packers||National Football League (NFL)||American football||Total career NFL passing touchdowns (442 at the close of the 2007 season, with 28 tallied therein)||American Dan Marino (420, across the 17 seasons between 1983 and 1999, inclusive)|