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February 12, 2001|LARRY STEWART

What: "The ESPY Awards"

Where: ESPN, tonight, 6

ESPN's plan when it started this annual award show in 1993 was to make it to sports what the Academy Awards show is to entertainment. The cable network is moving closer to its goal.

Tonight's show has a new site, the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, a big-name host, actor Samuel L. Jackson, and a list of presenters who come from all forms of entertainment.

There will also be a one-hour pre-show, beginning at 5 p.m.

Jackson is an appropriate host for this show. He is an avid golfer, and golf will grab much of the spotlight. Jack Nicklaus will receive a lifetime achievement award and Tiger Woods is up for six ESPY awards: male athlete of the year, men's golfer of the year, championship performance of the year, most spectacular player of the year, most memorable moment of the year and come-from-behind performance of the year.

Woods is favored to win the male athlete of the year award and Marion Jones is the favorite for female athlete of the year.

Australian track star Cathy Freeman will receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. The late Jim Valvano was the first recipient in 1993, and proceeds from this show helped create and still support the V Foundation for Cancer Research.

Nominees in 34 categories will be up for awards. The winners were chosen by a voting body that has always included Hall of Fame athletes and coaches and has been expanded to include print and broadcast journalists, including The Times' Bill Plaschke.

Because Nicklaus is being honored tonight, ESPN Classic will salute him today, beginning at 10 a.m., by showing highlights from his best U.S. Open performances. At 3 p.m., ESPN Classic will show a "SportsCentury" profile of Nicklaus.

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