HARRIS COUNTY - HSA INSIDER

A weekly look at all things Houston sports from the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority: Stars will be out at awards

Jose Altuve is up for athlete of the year. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

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

It’s a #HoustonStrong red carpet that we’re pretty sure will outshine the ESPYs. And maybe even the Oscars.

You already know the Legendary 34s will be on hand – Nolan Ryan, Earl Campbell and Hakeem Olajuwon – along with Academy Sports + Outdoors Sportsmanship Award winner J.J. Watt, Executive of the Year Jeff Luhnow and Lifetime Achievement winner Leslie Alexander.

But have you seen the finalists for some of the other awards?

We’re talking a ballot filled with your favorite H-listers and some of the nation’s best athletes, all of whom will be on hand for the inaugural Houston Sports Awards February 8 at the Hilton Americas.

Take the finalists for Papa John’s Athlete of the Year. American League MVP and batting champion and one of Sports Illustrated’s cover boys Jose Altuve may top the list, but he’s got some impressive competition in Houston Astros teammate and World Series MVP George Springer. Add two of the best in their respective games in Houston Rockets guard James Harden and Houston Texans wide receiver Deandre Hopkins and, well, it has the making of a close race.

POWERADE’s Coach of the Year finalists are a diverse group which includes Astros manager A.J. Hinch, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, Houston Dynamo rookie coach Wilmer Cabrera and two high school coaches -- Cy Falls’ Richard Flores, who coached his team to the state basketball title, and Cy Fair’s Ed Pustejovsky, who coached the Bobcats to a perfect 15-0 season and the state title.

Houston sophomore defensive tackle Ed Oliver, the 2017 Outland Trophy winner and Westfield grad, will be challenged for College Player of the year by OU sophomore softball player Nicole Mendes, who was homeschooled in Houston, and ACC Player of the year  Justin Jackson, who led North Carolina to the 2017 NCAA title.

The Event of the Year ballot is stacked. Starting with Super Bowl LI, which featured an overtime comeback win by the New England Patriots and continuing through the fall with the Astros’ incredible run to the team’s first World Series win and a ticker-tape parade downtown to celebrate that drew more than a million fans.

And there’s moment of the year finalist list, which has a little bit of something for everyone. Jeff Bagwell’s weekend in Cooperstown where he was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame. Pearland Dawson’s kicker and homecoming queen Claire Jeffress, who kicked five PATs in the homecoming game, then nailed a winning field with 1:08 to play the following week. And for World Series fans, you can choose from Game 5’s wild twists and turns and George Springer’s exclamation point of a walk-off single, or Game 7, which clinched the title and led to a long-into-the-night celebration filled with selfies, a marriage proposal and a champagne soaked locker room.

And that’s a start. We still have more finalists to reveal. Both the CBS Sports Radio Fan of the Year and the Texas Sports Nation High School Player of the Year finalists will be revealed early next week.

To see the finalists and details on their seasons, go to www.houstonsportsawards.com

The ballot will be voted on by a select group of sportswriters and sportscasters who have collective decades of experience covering Houston Sports.