Big reunion

UH will honor the "Game of the Century" at basketball gala

UH will honor the "Game of the Century" at basketball gala
UH will honor the Game of the Century. Wikipedia

At the annual basketball gala and fundraiser at the University of Houston on Friday, the focus not only will be on the future - the Cougars' upcoming season - but also on something that happened nearly 50 years ago.

That's going back, back, back.

UH coach Kelvin Sampson was only 12.

Jim Nantz, emcee of the UH event, was even younger, 8.

Senior guard and scoring leader Rob Gray wouldn't be born for more than 25 years.

Such was the significance of what has come be known as the Game of the Century, the Jan. 20, 1968, matchup between No. 1 ranked UCLA and No. 2 UH in the Astrodome.

That the Cougars won 71-69 behind Elvin Hayes' 39 points, ending UCLA's 47-game winning streak, is almost secondary in 2017. The game is credited with helping to make college basketball what it is today. It was the first game shown on nationwide, primetime TV, and the first to be played in a stadium rather than an arena.

As a young fan growing up in North Carolina - and the son of a longtime and heralded high school basketball coach - Sampson didn't just watch the game, he remembers "everything about it...It was a phenomenon. Every time I get around Elvin, I feel like I need to ask for his autograph."

Sampson, in his fourth season at UH, thinks it's important that his players know about the school's basketball history, and its place in the development of college basketball nationally. They will be at the event next week, along with Hayes, Don Chaney and several other members of the '67-68 team.

"We're in that family now," Sampson said. "We're caretakers of the (UH basketball) program. It was through the hard work and blood, sweat and tears of those who were here before us that we've gotten to this point. We all have a common bond. The (current) players know that."

The Cougars, 21-11 overall and 12-6 in the American Athletic Conference last season, open at home on Nov. 10 against McNeese State. "Home" this year, while Hofheinz Pavilion is being renovated, is at H&PE Arena at Texas Southern. It's a fun place to watch a game, by the way.

During the UH event, a production crew - the same one involved in ESPN's nicely done 30 for 30 on Phi Slama Jama last year - will be shooting for a documentary to air in January. (Those who attend the event will gain admission to a private viewing of the completed documentary.)

The show will include a panel discussion on the impact of the game, featuring Hayes, Chaney, CBS analyst Seth Davis, and Dick Enberg, who called the telecast. No doubt those who have seen footage of The Game of the Century, or who will watch the documentary next year, will be struck by the long distance between the crowd and the court: The court was plopped right onto the middle of the round field.

A 15-year-old from a small town in Oklahoma who was new to the city and loved basketball, I thought I died and went to Hoops Heaven when I got tickets to the game.

Along with four friends who drove down from my hometown, we sat at halfcourt - which happened to be at the 50-yard-line. We felt like we were a mile away, the cheering was sort of muffled because of the size of the Dome, and we had to use binoculars the whole time.

But we were there and, as it turned out, a part of history. That was good enough for us.

For more information on the fundraiser, or to make a reservation, call 713-743-0248.

Jay Frank, a former media columnist for the Houston Chronicle and the Houston Post, is a freelance writer.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
We're not saying this is the greatest photo of Alex Bregman ever…but we're not saying it's not. Photo by Bread & Water Productions.

Only Alex Bregman, his tireless crew (we’re looking at you, Tyler Straub), and his endless business and charity interests could make Major League Baseball’s quiet offseason seem so 24/7.

The latest: Wild Sol, the spicy and saucy new Southwest food brand that Alex and his wife Reagan have created — and just toasted with a totally fire launch party at EaDo hotspot Chapman & Kirby.

Alex and Reagan welcomed a star-studded, invite-only list of party people to celebrate the Wild Sol official launch and sample some savory — and spirited, literally — salsas (more on the “spirited” part in a moment). The party also saluted the Wild Sol team who have been working for more than a year on the launch: Laurice Howard, Reagan’s mother (and an Instagram treasure); the aforementioned Tyler Straub (whom we here at CultureMap have dubbed “Tyler the Creator”); Michael Posey, and Adrienne Price.

While hot Houston DJ Mr Rogers spun his party-perfect beats, the VIP crowd sampled Wild Sol’s line of Hot, Mild, Salsa Verde, and Mango Habanero salsas. Flecha Azul Tequilaprovided the perfect way to cool off from the spicy Mango Habanero and Hot salsas. Considered the fastest growing additive-free, ultra-premium tequila in the world, Flecha Azul was founded by A-list friend of the Bregmans — Mark Wahlberg — along with his partners Aron Marquez, and Abraham Ancer.

A Sol-powered party

Astros star shortstop Jeremy Peña (aka La Torrenta) hit the party. Photo by Bread & Water Productions.

As for the crowd, it was a family affair and a who’s-who list of sports celebs. Guests included Alex’s mother, Jackie De Oliveira Bregman; and Reagan’s parents, Laurice and Grant Howard, with her brother Kyle Howard. Other guests included Flecha Azul Tequila founder Aron Marquez; Houston Astros star shortstop Jeremy Peña; Astros business development director Kyle McLaughlin; Astros’ reporter Julia Morales Clark and husband Matt Clark; Adrienne and Jared Crane; rap legends Slim Thug and Paul Wall (who attended with his wife, Crystal); Warren Moon; former NFL star Adrian Peterson and his wife, Ashley; Madison Straub; Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale; former Houston Texans star Chester Pitts; Madelyn Payne; Haleigh Broucher; and Southern songstress Lenora and her fiancé Jarren Small.

The normally Navy SEAL-composed Alex Bregman tore it up on the dance floor and posed for an epic photo with his beloved Mom and with Paul Wall and Straub — making us wish they three would start a hip-hop act.

“I am so grateful for all of our friends and family who showed up to support,” said Alex Bregman of the party. “We’ve got great momentum and we’re looking forward to taking this to the next level.”

A little about the new Wild Sol salsas: each brings the heat and is made with an actual splash of Flecha Azul tequilas. Here’s the Wild Sol starting lineup:

Ladies and gentlemen, your Wild Sol starting lineup. Photo by Bread & Water Productions.

Hot Salsa: robust and spiced with dried chilies that really bring the heat; made with a splash of Flecha Azul Blanco Tequila

Mild Salsa: rich with limes, tomatoes, and dried chilies for a touch of heat; made with a splash of Flecha Azul Blanco Tequila

Salsa Verde: herby and smokey with tomatillos and vibrant serrano peppers; made with a splash of Los Coyotes Mezcal

Mango Habanero Salsa: sweet up front with fresh mangos and a punch of fiery habañeros; made with a splash of Flecha Azul Reposado Tequila

“We are excited to collaborate with our friends at Wild Sol,” said Flecha Azul Tequila founder Marquez. “Over the last year, I received samples of recipes, and their desire to produce a salsa that is unique and spirited shines through. You can’t have the best spirited salsa if you are not using the best tequila.”

No, you can’t, Aron. Those on the hunt for Wild Sol’s salsas can find it online at WildSol.co. — expect even more products this year. Houston shoppers can also look forward to Wild Sol on H-E-B and Kroger shelves in the coming months, the company promises. Score the Flecha Azul tequila line at local Spec’s, Total Wine & More, or online.

Breggy talks his bomb offseason

Bregman poses with his manager Tyler Straub just before he headed back to Phoenix after attending Astros Fan Fest. Photo by Steven Devadanam.

As we mentioned, few — if any — MLB stars have put in the work like Alex Bregman this offseason — on and off the field. Just how committed is the All-Star third baseman? In January, he flew in from Phoenix, where he’s been training, just to attend the Astros Fan Fest — only to hop a flight immediately after the event.

Seriously, does he sleep?

“Oh yeah,” Bregman told us at the event. “Sleep is the key. The sleep’s where you recover — you gotta sleep. I feel like that’s the best form of recovery for any athlete. So, we try to sleep eight to 10 hours a night.” When we jokingly asked if the headline is that Baby Knox (his son) is letting him sleep eight to 10 hours a night, Bregman chuckled.

“Oh, Knox sleeps — Knox might sleep 12 hours himself. He’s growing so much and I think it’s because he sleeps so well.”

Bregman, who (somehow) turns 30 on March 30, is well aware of all the speculation as to whether he’ll extend with the Astros, like his teammate José Altuve. He revealed good news for his fans who are waiting for an epic season.

Big things ahead

“I feel better than I’ve ever felt,” he told us. “I feel younger than I’ve ever felt. I feel more athletic than I’ve ever felt. I’m really looking forward to having a really good year.”

He’s also working on every part of his game as he readies for another World Series run, and is ready to play ball —as he works on every part of his game. “I think it’s every single aspect of the game, trying to get a little bit better,” he said. “This offseason’s been really hitting-focused and it’s been fantastic. I cannot even tell you how excited I am to get down to Florida and get going.”

We also caught up with Bregman at the annual Cactus Jack Celebrity Softball Tournament put on by Travis Scott this past week, where he hit the field with a host of all stars and celebrities. Having just headed up his Bregman Cares Classic tournament at Sugar Land’s Constellation Field, a ball game for a special cause meant that much more to him.

“It means so much,” he told us before the game. “Being able to help any community is such an honor.”

We also asked Bregman about his Super Bowl experience, where he partied with Houston Texans superstar quarterback C.J. Stroud and newly minted NFL Hall of Famer Andre Johnson, the first Texan to be inducted into the halls of Canton, Ohio.

“It was an honor to be able to hang with him and Andre,” Bregman added, “and celebrate their amazing seasons.”

And we’re ready to celebrate an amazing Bregman season, too.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome