Basketball Hall of Famer and Broadcast Analyst for Inside the NBA Shaquille O’Neal and four-time Olympic Gold Medalist, four-time WNBA Champion and four-time World Cup Champion Sue Bird will announce the overall Male and Female Athletes of the Year for the Southwest Florida High School Sports Awards, presented by Babcock Ranch.
The Southwest Florida High School Sports Awards is part of the largest high school sports recognition program in the country. Top athletes in most state-sanctioned sports will be honored during an on-demand broadcast at 8 p.m. Eastern June 28 on the event website.
New Jersey native Shaquille O’Neal is considered to be one of the most dominant basketball players in NBA history. At 7 foot 1 and over 325 pounds, O’Neal’s larger-than-life personality and athleticism have resulted in worldwide adulation and one of the most passionate fan bases in sports and entertainment. Over 19 seasons, he earned 15 All-Star selections and played for six franchises and was known by many as the “most dominant ever.” Since his career ended, he has found success in acting, music, television and gaming and is currently an analyst on Inside the NBA.
Philanthropically, O’Neal’s relationship with the Boys & Girls Club of America dates back to his youth in New Jersey. He is a national spokesperson for the organization and has been participating in campaigns with the non-profit for the past 15 years. In 2019, O’Neal officially launched The Shaquille O’Neal Foundation, which works to create pathways for underserved children to help them reach their full potential.
Regarded as the world’s premier point guard, Sue Bird is a universally celebrated star and the WNBA’s all-time leader in assists. Playing some of the best basketball of her career at 40, she is one of only seven women to win an Olympic gold medal (she has four of them), a World Championship gold medal (also four) an NCAA Championship (two) and a WNBA Championship (four). Bird is also a five-time Euroleague Champion, an 11-time WNBA All-Star and was voted by the fans as one of the WNBA’s Top 15 Players of All Time. Off the court, she spends time as a basketball analyst for ESPN, as a front office executive with the Denver Nuggets and advocating for equality, LGBTQ+ rights, Black Lives, universal health and wellness and expanding opportunities for girls.
O’Neal will be announcing the Male Athlete of the Year and Bird will be announcing the Female Athlete of the Year, two of the biggest awards given at the show.
Also new to the show is Urban Meyer, a three-time college football national champion coach, who came out of retirement in 2021 to take the lead coaching role for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Before that, the Ohio native led the state’s beloved Buckeyes to the program’s eighth national championship. He had previously led the Florida Gators to two BCS National Championships and is one of just three coaches to win a football national championship at two universities. He retired from coaching college football in 2019, but worked as an assistant athletic director for Ohio State and as an analyst for Fox Sports before returning to coaching with the Jaguars.
Meyer will be announcing the Team and Coach of the Year.
The track and field awards will be announced by Michael Johnson.
Acknowledged as the greatest long sprinter in the history of track and field, Johnson established a record of 13 Olympic and World Championship gold medals during his 11-year career. During his competing years, he was so consistent and dominant that he was known as Superman. He once held the world and Olympic records in the 200m, 400m and the world record in the indoor 400m. In the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, he became the only male athlete in history to win both the 200- and 400-meter events at the same Olympics, which earned him the title of “fastest man alive.”
Johnson operates Michael Johnson Performance, a training center in Texas providing in person and online training for up-and-coming athletes and is an established author. After recovering from a stroke that left him unable to walk in 2019, he has also spent much of his time promoting stroke awareness and prevention.
The wresting awards will be announced by Kyle Snyder, an American Freestyle Wrestler who is the youngest Olympic gold medalist and the youngest World Champion in American wrestling history. He is also the youngest wrestler to win World, NCAA and Olympic championships all in the same year. In 2016, he returned to college and won an NCAA wrestling championship then went on to win his second and third consecutive individual NCAA titles as a heavyweight. With his come-from-behind victory in the 2017 World Championships, Team USA earned its first World Championship in over 20 years. Snyder completed his college career by being the first and only wrestler to win the NCAA, World and Olympic championships as a college athlete.
The Southwest Florida High School Sports Awards is a multi-month student-athlete recognition program. Due to COVID-19 safety precautions for students and guest speakers, the event was converted to an on-demand broadcast show for 2021. Honoree selections for state sanctioned sports, who are all featured in the show, are announced throughout the year on the event website.
The show will be free to watch on any smartphone or computer thanks to local business sponsors. Honorees should register on the show website to reserve their complimentary athlete gift box. Registrations are also used to send out awards for winners following the show.
Other athletes joining the program that have been previously announced include:
Three-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers
Two-time FIFA World Cup soccer champion Alex Morgan
Five-time swimming Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky
Olympic gold medalist and four-time World Cup skiing champion Lindsey Vonn
2020 NFL Comeback Player of the Year Alex Smith
Three-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings
Baseball Hall of Famer Chipper Jones
U.S. Women’s Gymnastics gold and silver medalist Laurie Hernandez
Three-time Pro Bowler and two-time First-Team All-Pro outside linebacker T.J. Watt
Most successful female tennis player of the open era Martina Navratilova
Top high school athletes, coaches and teams from select state-sanctioned sports across the U.S. will be featured in the inaugural USA TODAY High School Sports Awards.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Shaquille O’Neal, Sue Bird join SW Florida High School Sports Awards