HOUSTON – The Roaring 20s. It was a decade that ushered in glitz, glam, Art Deco, speakeasys, silent movies, Model Ts and jazz; a golden age filled with flappers, legends and unforgettable moments that still make us smile.
A century later and with a backdrop of that GOLDEN ERA, the third annual Houston Sports Awards will honor three Houston icons whose careers were marked by golden moments of their own – CARL LEWIS, MARY LOU RETTON and RUDY TOMJANOVICH – as the 2020 Class of the Houston Sports Hall of Fame presented by PNC Bank.
Who can forget the cover of Sports Illustrated and headline “Only You Mary Lou” when Retton vaulted her way to a perfect 10 to become the first American woman to win the all-around gold medal at the 1984 Olympic Games? She captured America’s heart that night and earned the nickname of America’s Sweetheart, winning four more medals – two silver, two bronze – and redefined U.S. women’s gymnastics.
Retton moved to Houston at 14 to train with the legendary Bela and Martha Karolyi and really never left. Now, at 51, she is the mother of four girls and the first woman to be inducted into the Houston Sports Hall of Fame.
“I’m humbled completely with this honor,’’ Retton said. “It’s been almost 40 years since I won my gold medal in the Olympics in ’84. It’s very humbling to be recognized so many years later. “. . . I want to teach my daughters and all women – that you can do anything and (that) women are equal to men. And 2020, I’m (being honored in) a class with two men. To be the first woman? It’s quite an honor.’’
Lewis is arguably the greatest track and field athlete of all time. The former University of Houston star and current assistant coach, won nine Olympic gold medals and eight gold medals at the Outdoor World Championships and set the 100-meter world record 1991, holding it until fellow Cougar and current UH track coach Leroy Burrell broke it in 1994.
Lewis, now 58, won four gold medals at the ’84 Games (100, 200, long jump and 4 X100 relay) to equal Jesse Owens’ feat in 1936. He is also one of just three athletes to win gold medals in the same event for four consecutive Olympics, winning the long jump in 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1996. He was 35 when he won in 1996 and Sports Illustrated named him Olympian of the Century.
“I’ll tell you, it’s really, really special,’’ Lewis said. “This past August it was be 40 years since I walked onto this campus (as a freshman). Everything that’s great that’s happened to me as an adult has happened in Houston. I’ve lived here, I’ve been part of the city, I’ve been part of this university. And it’s really, really special to be in the Hall.’’
Tomjanovich played his entire career for the Houston Rockets, then coached the team to back-to-back NBA titles – and the city’s first world championships -- in 1994 and 1995. Following his team’s sweep of Orlando in the 1995 championship, Tomjanovich delivered an iconic admonishment to those who doubted his team, saying “Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion.”
He was the second player taken in the 1970 draft and averaged 17.4 points a game over his 11-year playing career. He finished his NBA coaching career with a 527-416 record and coached the U.S. to Olympic gold in 2000 in Sydney.
“I was very surprised,’’ he said. “Of course, I’m humbled. It means a lot to me, especially because it’s Houston. I lived here, I was part of that fan base for the Oilers, Astros and our basketball team. To get those championships and to be recognized by the city’s hall of fame is fantastic.”
In addition to being honored on January 21, the 2020 Class will be honored with individual plaques on the Houston Sports Walk of Fame as well as custom-designed HOF rings created by Diamond Cutters International and a custom Knot Standard blazer.
Named Olympian of the Century by Sports Illustrated, the nine-time Olympic gold medalist is one of only three athletes to win the same event in four consecutive Olympics. Lewis won the long jump in 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1996. In addition, the sprinter won back-to-back 100-meter gold medals in 1984 and 1988 was part of the gold medal 4 X 100-meter relay teams both of those years. At the 1984 Games, he won four golds, equaling Jesse Owens’ record set in 1936.
Mary Lou Retton
America’s Sweetheart, Retton vaulted her way into our hearts at the 1984 Olympic when she became the first American woman to win the All-Around gold medal. On her final rotation, she earned a perfect 10 on the vault to edge Romania’s Ecaterina Szabo. Retton also won two silvers and two bronze medals at the ’84 Games. She was the first female athlete to grace the cover of a Wheaties cereal box and was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1997.
Known simply as Rudy T, Tomjanovich coached the Houston Rockets to back-to-back NBA titles in 1994 and 1995, giving the city its first – and second – world champions. The second overall pick in the 1970 NBA draft, Tomjanovich also coached the U.S. to a gold medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. A five- time NBA all-star, he played his entire 11-year career for the Rockets, including his first year for the San Diego Rockets before the franchise moved to Houston. Spent nine seasons as Rockets assistant coach before taking over the head coaching job in 1992 and finished with a record of 527-416.
About the Houston Sports Awards
The third annual Houston Sports Awards will be held on January 21, 2020 at the Hilton Americas. This star- studded dinner and awards show gathers together Houston’s top athletes, both past and present, to commemorate, celebrate and recognize Houston’s top sports achievements, performers and moments.
About PNC Bank
PNC Bank, National Association, is a member of The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. (NYSE: PNC). PNC is one of the largest diversified financial services institutions in the United States, organized around its customers and communities for strong relationships and local delivery of retail and business banking including a full range of lending products; specialized services for corporations and government entities, including corporate banking, real estate finance and asset-based lending; wealth management and asset management. For information about PNC Bank, visit www.pnc.com.
About Knot Standard
Knot Standard is the premier, customer-driven luxury brand reinventing the custom menswear experience. The Company has nine showrooms across the United States in New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Dallas, Austin, Houston and Los Angeles. Founded in 2012 by John Ballay and Matt Mueller in New York City, Knot Standard represents the future of men’s clothing, delivering superior experience through expert stylists, innovative technology and premium fabrics. www.knotstandard.com