A weekly look at all things Houston sports from the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority: Awards night is a big hit

Jose Altuve and J.J. Watt picked have been on the cover of SI and now are Houston Sports Awards winners. Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated

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Oh, what a night.

It was glitzy, glittery, show-stopping and head-turning. Everywhere you looked there was a Hall of Famer or a budding superstar. There were two Heisman Trophy winners in attendance and three World Championship teams represented. There were high school stars, fans that set the standard for team loyalty and coaches, general managers and owner who shape their teams’ futures.

There was something for each of the more than 1,000 who turned out for the inaugural Houston Sports Awards Thursday night at the Hilton Americas.

Maybe it was a red-carpet selfie with a hero or a conversation with an old friend. Maybe it was surprise entrance or a face that just stirred memories of great Houston sports moments.

But there were two things for everyone. First, seeing Houston’s iconic 34s – Nolan Ryan, Earl Campbell and Hakeem Olajuwon -- together under one roof for the first time. And, second, the news that those three would be the first honorees in a planned Houston Sports Hall of Fame.

"Houston is such a great sports town, such great fans, and as we were dreaming and envisioning what tonight would look like, it just kind of fell into place that we should also have a Hall of Fame,” said Harris County – Houston Sports Authority CEO Janis Schmees-Burke.

"There will be a sidewalk with their name and a star with their team and their number. It’s between where the House of Blues starts and through that (row of restaurants). Eventually, that sidewalk will be full.’’

The announcement – and unveiling of the 34s Houston Hall of Fame rings – capped a night when the World Champion Houston Astros ran the tables with five awards. Jose Altuve won Papa John’s Athlete of the Year, manager A.J. Hinch won POWERADE Coach of the Year, the 2017 World Series won Event of the Year, Alex Bregman’s walk-off single in Game 5 of the Series won Moment of the Year and General Manager Jeff Luhnow was named Executive of the Year.

The award was especially touching to Hinch, who lost his father Dennis 25 years ago to the day.

“To share this award on this particular day in this city after this year means the world to me,’’ Hinch said. “I’ll be forever grateful.”

Hall of Famers Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell were there to present Altuve with his award.

“It’s an honor to receive this award from two Hall of Famers,’’ Altuve said. “This year has been unbelievable – the World Series and everything we did – because of the fame and because Houston is the best city in the world. And I am happy to be able to call Houston my home.’’

Former Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander was there to accept the first Lifetime Achievement Award.

Houston Texans’ star and Walter Payton Man of the Year J.J. Watt, who helped raise more than $37 million for Hurricane Harvey relief, could not attend, but did a video acceptance for the Academy Sports + Outdoors Sportsmanship Award.

The night blended the new stars in with those graying legends of the game, all of whom wore No. 34. Those men are still some of the best to ever play the game and, around Houston, are known simply as Nolan, Earl and Hakeem.

Ryan is one of the best pitchers ever to take the mound. He is the all-time strikeout king and still holds the record for most no-hitters with seven. He grew up in the Houston and was legend by the time he came to the Astros in 1980 after playing with the New York Mets and California Angels.

Olajuwon was the leader of the world’s tallest fraternity at the University of Houston – Phi Slama Jama – then went on to become one of the great centers in NBA history, leading the Rockets to back-to-back NBA titles in 1994 and 1995. He was surprised by former Cougar and Rockets teammates including Dikembe Mutombo and Clyde Drexler.

Campbell ran his way into history, winning the Heisman his senior season at Texas, then carrying the load for Bum Phillips’ Houston Oilers. A bruising runner, Campbell simply wore down and punished defenses.

Like Ryan and Olajuwon, he was humbled by not just the honor, but also the outpouring of love from Houston and the fans. He summed the honor up in two sentences.

“You people think I made a difference in your life?’’ he said. “You made a difference in my life.’’

Other honorees were Carson Riley, the 12-year-old Astros fan who almost caught Carlos Correa’s homerun ball during Game 2 of the American League Championship Series – a month after Riley’s brother had died in a tragic accident; Houston sophomore Ed Oliver, who was named College Athlete of the Year and St. Pius quarterback Grant Gunnell who was honored as High School Athlete of the Year.




Born with a comic book in one hand and a remote control in the other, Cory DLG is the talent of Conroe's very own Nerd Thug Radio and the sister show Ball Control. Check out the podcast replay of the FM radio shows at www.nerdthugradio.com or www.facebook.com/nerdthugradio!

Another week has come and gone in the world of wrestling and there was a lot of changes and waves made this week.

In Raw, Braun Stroman was stripped of his title match for making a rather formidable display of strength by flipping a limousine over onto its side. It was incredibly impressive, even as a bit as Braun has been recovering from elbow surgery and this sort of proves physically he is back and that is bad news for whomever gets in front of him. Rising out of the ashes of that now dead match was a fatal four way where the haircut-needing walking myth himself John Cena passed the torch to one Finn Balor, the first ever WWE Universal Champion who relinquished his title due to injury. The intercontinental title passing to Bobby Lashley was an odd turn considering all three men - Lashley, Rollins and Ambrose - involved in that match now have held the title in the last month. There were still some corny bits, some scripted almost nudity from still injured Alexa Bliss resulting in the best eye roll in history from Renee Young, but they were balanced by the announcement of a women's tag team division, finally.

On Smackdown, the ship keeps feeling like it's listing, like the show is moving in the wrong direction somehow. The opening with Becky Lynch was amazing, the building of her character into this massive star has been incredible and more of this is what Smackdown needs. She opened her match with a massive throat punch that shows a kind of cocky dominance Smackdown as a whole is lacking, a feeling that some of these guys are truly legendary badasses. The Mandy Rose wants to ruin a marriage storyline continues for some reason and yet again Naomi and Mandy came to blows with no resolution. When will it end? The show overall was flat but it did end with a Shane McMahon coast to coast, leaping cake in the face on Shamus.

The WWE has started the process of introducing some new talent, with Nicki Cross involved in a three on three women's tag team match on Raw and with Heavy Machinery -a tag team- playing comic relief and Lacey Evans standing around sipping tea, not an exaggeration at all. Hopefully these three can do more than reorganize the deck chairs on what is starting to feel like The USS Smackdown post iceberg, but only time will tell.

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