NATCHITOCHES - Basketball superstar Shaquille O’Neal, women’s tennis great Chanda Rubin and eight-time NFL Pro Bowl selection Kevin Mawae headline a sparkling class of nine 2013 inductees who will enter the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in late June.
Grambling basketball legend James Jones, a Tallulah native who made the all-time team of the American Basketball Association, joins LSU football passing king Tommy Hodson and nationally-acclaimed jockey Ronald Ardoin, a Carencro native, in the Hall’s 2013 induction class.
Jonesville native Ervin Johnson, whose unlikely 13-year NBA career was launched at a grocery store and took root at the University of New Orleans, is the third pro basketball standout in the 2013 class. Two other inductees have amateur basketball ties: the late Ed “Skeets” Tuohy, who had a career 84.5 winning percentage as coach at New Orleans’ Newman High, and the late Anna Koll, a remarkable all-around athlete from New Orleans in the 1920s and 1930s.
O’Neal became a national star during his three seasons at LSU. Rubin, a Lafayette native, broke onto the world tennis stage as a teenager in 1992. Mawae played high school football at Leesville and blossomed into a second-round NFL Draft choice during 1990-93 at LSU.
Their selection was announced late Saturday. They will be officially enshrined Saturday, June 29, 2013 in Natchitoches to culminate the June 27-29 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction Celebration.
The 2013 Induction Class will be the first to be welcomed into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Museum, operated by the Louisiana State Museum system in a partnership with the Louisiana Sports Writers Association. The striking two-story, 27,500-square foot structure faces Cane River Lake in the National Historic Landmark District of Natchitoches and will open this summer.
“What an incredible inaugural class for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Museum. I am particularly proud that three LSU Tigers I have watched throughout their careers are part of this class,” Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne said. “The museum is going to house a magnificent collection showcasing the many sports legends who are part of Louisiana’s extraordinary sports legacy.”
A 30-member Louisiana Sports Writers Association committee selected the 2013 inductees. The panel considered a record 146 nominees from 26 different sport categories on a 33-page ballot, said Hall of Fame chairman Doug Ireland.
O’Neal exploded into prominence playing for Hall of Fame coach Dale Brown at LSU, where he was the 1991 national Player of the Year. During an incredible 19-year NBA career, O’Neal evolved into one of the sports world’s most magnetic and charming personalities while winning four world championships, a 1996 Olympic gold medal, three MVP honors in 15 All-Star Game appearances and posting career averages of 23.7 points and 10.9 rebounds for Orlando, the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami, Phoenix, Cleveland and Boston. He was named one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players in 1996.
Rubin was ranked as high as No. 6 in the world in singles and No. 9 in doubles as a pro. She reached four Grand Slam semifinals in doubles, winning at the Australian Open in 1996, and made deep runs in singles in each major, along with claiming the 1992 Wimbledon Junior Singles crown at 16.
Mawae had a 16-year NFL career, the last 14 as a center for Seattle, the New York Jets and Tennessee Titans, starting 238 of 241 career games, including all 16 regular-season games in 12 seasons. He retired after playing in the 2010 Pro Bowl but remained president of the NFL Players Association until 2012, playing a key role in resolving a bitter labor dispute that nearly scuttled the 2011 season.
Jones helped Grambling win three Southwestern Athletic Conference titles while averaging 20 points and eight rebounds under Hall of Fame coach Fred Hobdy before being the 13th pick in the 1967 NBA Draft. The 6-4 swingman opted to sign with New Orleans in the ABA, and made six All-Star Game appearances in seven seasons and became the second 2,000-point scorer in league history before playing his last two years in the NBA with Baltimore.
Hodson, a Matthews native and standout at Central Lafourche High School, was a four-year starter and All-Southeastern Conference quarterback from 1986-89 at LSU. He guided the Tigers to the 1988 SEC championship while setting SEC and LSU records with 9,115 career passing yards, with that mark and his 69 touchdown passes still standing atop the Tigers’ annals more than two decades later. He played seven NFL seasons for four teams, finishing with the New Orleans Saints.
Johnson never played high school basketball and was a 6-foot-11 bagboy at a Baton Rouge grocery when introduced to then-UNO coach Tim Floyd. In four seasons (1990-93) for the Privateers, he developed into a second-team All-American who helped UNO to two NCAA Tournaments and was a first-round (23rd overall) 1993 NBA Draft choice. He played 845 games for Seattle, Denver, Milwaukee and Minnesota.
Ardoin finished a 30-year riding career with 5,226 wins, becoming only the 16th jockey to reach the 5,000-victory plateau. He won six riding titles at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans (four straight from 1993-96), five at Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, posting 4,539 of his career triumphs at those two Louisiana tracks. His mounts won just under $59 million in purse money before a wrist injury ended his career in 2003.
Tuohy developed into a revered prep basketball coach who won three state titles among nine state tournament appearances in 15 seasons before a 1975 stroke that halted his coaching career. His Newman teams won district championships each year as he went 403-74, and never lost more than nine games in a season. He passed away in 1982, at age 51.
Koll was described as “New Orleans’ Greatest All-Around Girl Athlete” in the 1930s as she excelled in tennis, track and field, indoor baseball and basketball. She won the Southern women’s tennis championship twice, set Southern AAU records in the sprints, hurdles and broad jump, led the AAU indoor baseball title three straight years as she led the league in hitting, and made all-star teams in basketball. She lived to be 83, succumbing in 1988.
The nine new inductees will raise the total of Hall of Fame members to 301 sports figures honored since the first induction class - baseball’s Mel Ott, world champion boxer Tony Canzoneri and LSU football great Gaynell Tinsley – were enshrined in 1959 after their election a year earlier.
The Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame includes nine members of the Basketball Hall of Fame, six of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players (O’Neal will make it seven), six baseball Hall of Fame inductees, 16 Pro Football Hall of Fame members, seven Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinees, 18 Olympic medalists (10 gold medal winners), 32 College Football Hall of Fame members,five National High School Hall of Fame enshrines, jockeys with a combined 12 Triple Crown victories, six world boxing champions, five College Baseball Hall of Fame inductees, three NBA Finals MVPs (O’Neal will be the fourth) and two Super Bowl MVPs. A complete membership list and biographical information on all current members is available at theLaSportsHall.com website, with a steady stream of info available at the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Facebook page and the @LaSportsHall twitter account.
The 2013 Induction Celebration will kick off Thursday, June 27 with the press conference and reception. It includes three receptions, a Friday morning youth sports clinic, and a Friday afternoon celebrity pro-am golf scramble at Oak Wing Golf Course in Alexandria. Tickets for the Induction Dinner and Ceremonies, and golf entries, will go on sale May 15 through the LaSportsHall.com website, said Hall of Fame Foundation president/chief executive officer Lisa Babin. Sponsorship packages including tickets and golf entries are available now by contacting the Hall at 318-238-4255 or Babin at 318-458-0166.
Also to be honored at the event will be two other Hall of Fame inductees, the winner of the 2013 Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award and the recipient of the 2013 Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism presented by the LSWA. Those award recipients will be announced in February.
Adding in the 301 sports competitors enshrined, 12 winners of the Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership award and 53 recipients of the Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism, there will be 366 members of the Hall of Fame this summer as the magnificent new museum welcomes visitors.