As celebrations for a city go, the Houston Sports Awards last week was top notch, and it was capped off with an announcement that will further weave the city's rich sports history into its fabric as the Houston Sports Authority announced the formation and construction of the Houston Sports Hall of Fame.
Physically, the Hall of Fame experience will be blended into the GreenStreet area of downtown Houston, near the House of Blues, with LED displays showing snippets of Houston's sports legends and their feats, and culminating in an actual 3,500 square foot structure where the Hall itself will reside. The inaugural class will be comprised by the three 34's — Nolan Ryan, Earl Campbell, and Hakeem Olajuwon.
Those three are about as easy as selections can get. They're probably the three most mythical, revered sports figures in the history of this city (with a few current and recent athletes making strong bids to get into the argument). There hasn't been any clarity on criteria for future selections (nor does there need to be, I like debate), but I feel like, when it comes to defining a "Hall of Famer" that it's a little like former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's definition of pornography — "I shall not attempt to further define it... I just know it when I see it."
So with that said, who are the "no brainer" future selections to the Houston Sports Hall of Fame? I came up with 32 that feel like Hall of Famers to me. Here we go....
CURRENT ACTUAL HALL OF FAMERS (12)
These are guys who are in the actual Hall of Fame for their sport, so by definition, don't they have to be in the Hall of Fame for the city in which they played, at the very least, significant portions of their career, if not the entire career? So here are those names:
* Craig Biggio, 7-time All Star and member of the 3,000 hit club
* Jeff Bagwell, 4-time All Star, 1991 Rookie of the Year, 1994 NL MVP
* Elvin Hayes, 12-time NBA All Star, centerpiece of huge UH vs UCLA game in 1968 in Astrodome
* Moses Malone, 13-time NBA All Star, 3-time MVP
* Calvin Murphy, longtime Rocket player and broadcaster, former All-Star
* Clyde Drexler, Phi Slama Jamma member at U of H, NBA champion and All Star with Rockets
* Tracy McGrady, 7-time All Star (three as a Rocket)
* Yao Ming, 8-time All Star, made Rockets the most relevant team in Asian market
* Guy V. Lewis, two-time Coach of the Year, 592 career wins
* Robert Brazile, 5-time first team All Pro, 1975 Defensive Rookie of the Year
* Curley Culp, 6-time Pro Bowler, 1975 Defensive Player of the Year
* Elvin Bethea, 7-time Pro bowler, 3-time All Pro
FUTURE HALL OF FAMERS (4)
These are four guys who are generally regarded as, minimally, on a likely path to the Hall of Fame with enough accomplishment in Houston to qualify as a Houston Hall of Famer (Altuve, Johnson) to "hands down" future Hall of Famer for their respective sport (Harden, Watt).
* Jose Altuve, 2017 AL MVP, three time batting champ, World Champion
* James Harden, 6-time All Star, 3-time first team All NBA
* Andre Johnson, 7-time Pro Bowler, 2-time All Pro, beat the snot out of Cortland Finnegan
* J.J. Watt, three-time Defensive Player of the Year, raised $37 million for Hurricane Harvey victims
HOUSTON LEGENDS (16)
Now we get into the a fun category of Houston legends that are either individual sports performers, legendary for Houston accomplishments but not quite in the category of HOF for their sport, or other various categories not yet recognized by the two groups above. So let's dig into these:
* Larry Dierker, 20-game winner in 1969, accomplished broadcaster, 4-time division winner as manager
* Roger Clemens, native Houstonian, 7-time Cy Young winner, greatest pitcher of his generation
* Lance Berkman, All American at Rice University, 6-time MLB All Star, 2nd in all-time OPS for switch hitters (Mantle)
* Rudy Tomjanovich, 5-time All Star as player, 2-time NBA champion head coach
* Les Alexander, former Rockets owner, won two titles and donated countless millions to Houston charities
* Dan Pastorini, quarterback of the iconic "Luv Ya Blue" Oilers
* Bum Phillips, head coach of 2-time AFC finalist Oilers in 1978 and 1979
* Bob McNair, restored NFL football in Houston by securing expansion Texans franchise
* George Foreman, boxing great, 76-5 career record, won title in comeback at age 45, makes a mean burger grill
* Carl Lewis, 9-time Olympic gold medal winner, national anthem provocateur
* A.J. Foyt, USAC career wins leader in auto racing (159), AP Co-Driver of the Century
* Wayne Graham, seven-time College World Series head coach at Rice, won title in 2003, nearly 1,700 career wins
* Vince Young, all-time schoolboy legend at QB, won national title at Texas
* Brian Ching, all-time leading scorer and face of the Houston Dynamo franchise
* The Undertaker, WWE legend for nearly 30 years, 23-2 record at Wrestlemania
* Roy Hofheinz, innovator who was key to bringing the Houston Colt .45's (soon to be Astros) to and constructing the Astrodome for Houston
BONUS - THREE FUTURES I'D BET ON:
If you asked me to wager on three names not included above that I think will get into the Hall of Fame someday, the three that I would currently pick in Houston sports would be:
* Carlos Correa, Astros All-Star shortstop, future MVP
* DeAndre Hopkins, Texans All-Pro wide receiver, future Hall of Famer
* Deshaun Watson, Texans quarterback, face of the franchise, future Super Bowl winner
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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