HARRIS COUNTY - HSA INSIDER

A weekly look at all things Houston sports from the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority: The Houston sports Hall of Fame

A rendering of the Houston Sports Hall of Fame at Green Street downtown. Courtesy Harris County-Houston Sports Authority

The Harris County – Houston Sports Authority Insider will take you inside Houston Sports each Friday because #WeAreHoustonSports!

Back in February, it was the exclamation point to a star-studded night celebrating the best athletes and moments in Houston sports.

With legendary 34s Nolan Ryan, Earl Campbell and Hakeem Olajuwon still taking bows as the event’s headline honorees, emcee Bill Worrell dropped the news about the creation of the Houston Sports Hall of Fame – an announcement a very few people in room – in fact in the entire city – knew was coming.

Fast forward three months to today when the Harris County – Houston Sports Authority, in partnership with Midway and Lionstone, is preparing to break ground on Phase One of the Hall on GreenStreet Promenade.

The event is set for June 4 at 3 p.m. and the actual groundbreaking will be open to the public. Prior to that, the first class of no-last-names-needed inductees – Nolan, Earl and Hakeem – will be presented with their Hall of Fame rings in a private ceremony.

Those rings – the latest bling for these multiple Hall of Famers – all have the No. 34 on them and were designed by Houston’s Fred Cuellar of Diamond Cutters International. Each one is unique to the player, team and sport.

Earl’s with be trimmed with Columbia blue stones for the Houston Oilers’ team colors, while Hakeem’s will be Houston Rockets red and Nolan’s will have Houston Astros orange. Nolan’s and Earl’s will have some gold trim, while Hakeem’s will have platinum. His Muslim faith does not allow him to wear gold.

In case you’re wondering, Hakeem’s long slim fingers mean he has the smallest ring at size 11. Nolan wears a 14 and Earl is a size 20.

Mayor Sylvester Turner and other city officials will be on hand to honor the inaugural inductees and help break ground on the Walk of Fame. Each inductee will have his own plaque along the Walk, which runs from the House of Blues through the GreenStreet Promenade.

"It's incredible what this will mean to all Houstonians,’’ said Harris County-Houston Sports Authority CEO Janis Burke. “This will outlive us all as a way to honor some of the greatest athletes ever to play their respective sports. And the proximity to Minute Maid Park, Toyota Center and the George R. Brown Convention Center will allow visitors from all over the world to honor them as well.''

The Walk is simply the first phase of the new Hall of Fame. Additional phases will have interactive components as well as LED displays.

The final phase will be the an actual interior space for the Hall of Fame and the Hall’s first exhibit will be the 8-foot paintings by Houston’s Opie Otterstad of each member of the inaugural class which were unveiled at the Houston Sports Awards.

 

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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