The Harris County – Houston Sports Authority Insider

Watt, Fertitta headline Houston honorees

Tilman Fertitta made the Fertitta Center a reality. Houston Cougars Men's Hoops Facebook

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One is Houston's Captain America. The other is a visionary businessman who makes things happen.

And, not coincidentally, they are two of the biggest names in Houston sports.

Yes, we're talking J.J. Watt and Tilman Fertitta – two men who make things happen; two men who are being honored with Legacy Awards February 6 at the Houston Sports Awards presented by Insperity.

Watt, the Houston Texans all-everything defensive end is being honored with the Sportsmanship Award for the second year, while Fertitta, the Houston Rockets owner, will receive the Executive of the Year Award presented by Mercedes-Benz Dealers of Greater Houston. They join the late President George H.W. and wife Barbara Bush as the three Legacy Award winners. The Bushes will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Watt, the Houston Texans all-everything defensive end, has captivated the nation and become as dominant off the field as he is on it with his commitment to giving back to the Houston area.

What started with a YouCaringFund that raised $41.6 million for Hurricane Harvey relief in 2017 and continued through 2018 when he offered to pay for the funerals of the 10 victims of the Santa Fe High school shooting has become a career-defining commitment for the NFL's 2018 Walter Payton Man of the Year. Watt's generosity and compassion set the tone for others to follow as the entire area – teams, athletes and individuals -- reached out to help and support the Santa Fe community.

Last year he cancelled his annual J.J. Watt Charity Classic to focus on hurricane relief efforts but announced it would return in May of 2019.

His charitable side is matched only by his relentlessness on the field. The 29-year-old Pro Bowler and three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year played just eight games in two seasons because of a broken leg, a herniated disk and two surgeries. This year, he has has stepped back onto the field as the heart of the Texans defense and has been such a force, he's mentioned as a Player of the Year candidate.

He's the NFL's all-time leader in sacks per game, averaging 0.89 per contest, edging out the late Hall of Famer Reggie White (0.85).

Fertitta has been a force in real estate and restaurants for decades, but his vision and business savvy have also made a huge impact on Houston sports. In his first season as Rockets owner, Fertitta saw his team win a regular-season team record 65 games and advance to the Western Conference Finals where they lost in Game 7 to the eventual NBA champion Golden State Warriors. During the season, Fertitta worked to involve the entire community with the team and impacted the Houston sports scene.

As Chairman of the UH System Board of Regents, he has been instrumental in a campaign to modernize UH's athletic facilities. Fertitta's $20 million gift to the University of Houston – the single largest individual donation in UH history – helped transform Hofheinz Pavilion, now Fertitta Center, into a modern 7,100-seat arena. The opening of the Center was a two-night affair with an invitation-only ceremony November 29 followed by the UH-Oregon basketball game December 1. The Cougars upset then-18th-ranked Oregon 65-61. The opening is one of the nominees for Event of the Year.

The Harris County – Houston Sports Authority also announced the finalists for six other awards Thursday.

Olympic gold medalist and four-time World Champion Simone Biles, Rockets guard and 2018 MVP James Harden, Astros' third baseman Alex Bregman and Texans' wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins are the nominees for Athlete of the Year, while 2018 Outland Trophy winner Ed Oliver and UH teammate D'Eriq King, former UH guard Rob Gray and Texas A&M's Trayveon Williams are the nominees for College Athlete of the Year.

Coach of the Year nominees are Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni, Astros manager A.J. Hinch, UH basketball coach Kelvin Sampson and Texans' coach Bill O'Brien. Moment of the year nominees are the Opening of Fertitta Center, Rodeo Houston, the Texans' Monday Night Football win over Tennessee/Celebration of late owner Bob McNair, and the NBA Western Conference Finals.

Hopkins' spin catch against the Dallas Cowboys, Biles' World Championship, Santa Fe High's first 2018 football game and the Houston Dynamo winning the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup are nominees for Moment of the Year.

St. Pius X quarterback Grant Gunnell, Woodlands track and field/football graduate Kesean Carter, Cy Ranch volleyball and wrestling star Kaitlyn Banas and Cy Woods Volleyball and basketball star Cate Reese are the High School Athlete of the Year nominees.

# # #

Looking for a Christmas gift for a Houston sports fan in your life? Consider buying him or her a ticket for the 2019 Houston Sports Awards Golden Ticket Raffle.

There are only 500 tickets available and the winner will take home a pair of season tickets to all Houston Astros, Houston Rockets, Houston Dynamo, Houston Dash and Rodeo Houston home games/events during the 2019-20 season. The winner will also receive tickets to two Texans home games and to the Academy Sports + Outdoors 2019 Texas Bowl.

Raffle tickets can be purchased for $100 per ticket and that enters you into the drawing for all the above-mentioned tickets.

All proceeds from Golden Ticket sales benefit Harris County – Houston Sports Authority Foundation and the winner of drawn at the Houston Sports Awards. Winners do not need to be present to win. To enter go to https://houstonsportsawards.com/golden-ticket-raffle/

10 QUESTIONS FOR TILMAN FERTITTA

Tilman Fertitta wants you to shut up and listen with new book

Photo by J. Thomas Ford

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

Tilman Fertitta can't lose. Sitting in his palatial office nestled in the towering Post Oak Hotel in Uptown, the sole owner of Fertitta Entertainment, the restaurant giant Landry's, the Golden Nugget Casinos and Hotels, and the NBA's Houston Rockets — not to mention the star of the TV reality show Billion Dollar Buyer — is taking a quick moment to bask in his success.

And why not? On top of being the world's richest restauranteur and Houston's most recognizable billionaire, Fertitta currently boasts a best seller with his new business book, Shut Up and Listen! As CultureMap reported, he just acquired Del Frisco's luxury steakhouse chain, adding to his impressive and extensive restaurant empire. And speaking of acquisitions: Soon, his Houston Rockets will unleash the powerhouse duo of James Harden and new teammate Russell Westbrook, who came to Houston in a massive trade with Oklahoma City.

Fertitta has just made the national media rounds promoting Shut Up and Listen! and looked quite comfortable doing so. "A lot of owners don't talk to the media and they don't know how to do it," he tells CultureMap, "but I've been doing it for 30 years and it just doesn't phase me."Shut Up and Listen! is a Tilman tell-all. But rather than a life story, the book is a how-to for the business-minded. No-nonsense nuggets such as the "Tilmanisms" teach principles such as the 95/5 rule (focus on the 5 percent of the operation that isn't perfect and fix it) and offer hardcore reminders such as "when things are bad, eat the weak and grow your business." Doubters, take note: Shut Up has landed on the Publishers Weekly's and USA Today's Best Sellers lists.

CultureMap sat down with Fertitta during a rare break to talk books, business, and his beloved Bayou City.

CultureMap: You’re a Texan titan of industry, a major local benefactor, you own one of the most buzzworthy teams in all of pro sports, and you’re the star of your own reality TV show. Can we now say — in Houston — that you’re way bigger than Mark Cuban?

Tilman Fertitta: [Laughs] Oh, I don't know about that. Mark is a special guy and we're lucky to have him in Texas.

CM: You’ve been actively involved with the Rockets and the University of Houston sports programs. Using your 95/5 rule, can you share any of the 5 percent of what you found wrong with the Rockets and UH?

TF: At UH, the 5 percent was we wanted to have good coaches and we wanted to improve our facilities. That's the 5 percent we realized that if we wanted to compete at the highest level of basketball and football, that's what we'd have to do.

For the Rockets, we're gonna make sure we can put the basketball team we can on the court with the best coaches every single year. I'm not a sit-on-my-hands guy — it's let's keep getting better.

CM: Why is giving back to your hometown important to you?

TF: This is where I grew up and Houston's been very good to me. I've been around a long time and I've watched people come and go in the '80s, the '90s, the 2000s, and the 2010s. It's fun to have lasted this long and been a player through so many decades.

CM: There’s an old adage that says, ‘Do one thing and do it well.’ But you’re doing a lot of things well. When do you know, as a business owner, to diversify?

TF: Systems and operations are very important. Everybody wants to do more deals. If you understand the Big Box Theory, you make more out of a bigger box. In the beginning, I knew I always wanted to be successful. Today, I know what I know and I know — and what I don't know.

Continue on CultureMap to learn which books inspired Tilman Fertitta, and much more.

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