Delayed but not denied, the 2020 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame induction class finally took center stage Saturday night inside the Natchitoches Events Center.
And despite the two years between induction ceremonies, little changed during the 61st induction ceremony.
The 11-person induction class lived up to its billing of a diverse group from different sports and eras, but the themes that permeated their presentations and induction speeches were generally similar.
From family members or coaches or teammates or co-workers – and of course, their Louisiana roots — the feelings of gratitude remained as consistent as they were before the COVID-19 pandemic, which twice delayed the group’s official entry into the state’s sports shrine.
Whether it was the self-professed “city boy” from New Orleans like Kerry Kittles, the Duck Commander himself (Phil Robertson), or the sweet, smooth shooting small-town girl from Bienville Parish (Lady Techster basketball great Angela Turner Johnson), those Louisiana roots run deep.
“Growing up in Shady Grove, it was such a small community, but we had a sense of family,” Turner Johnson said “If someone did something wrong, our parents knew before we got home because everybody cared about everybody. Mr. Edward Mason, our principal, instilled in us to be the best we can be. He wanted us to not let our humble beginnings get in the way of us dreaming big.”
Humble beginnings indeed.
“Those days, we grew up playing basketball on a dirt court, with a homemade backboard. At school the boys had basketball and baseball, and for us girls, it was just basketball. I’m so proud to be here representing all the girls who I played with, and all the people who I grew up around back home,” she said.
A large and appreciative group of “A.T.” supporters, both from Bienville Parish and Louisiana Tech, cheered loudly for their heroine at every opportunity during the ceremony.
The members of the long-awaited Class of 2020 dreamed big and delivered even bigger for the Sportsman’s Paradise.
None has had the continuing impact of Minden native “Sweet Lou” Dunbar, an All-American at the University of Houston who became basketball’s Clown Prince with the Harlem Globetrotters.
“I’ve been to over 90 countries,” Dunbar said. “Coming out of Minden, Louisiana, who would have thought that? I met Pope John Paul II, the 75th pope. We gave him a jersey with the No. 75. I’ll touch y’all later. I’ve been anointed.”
Along with his connection to the very top of the Catholic church, Dunbar long had been putting smiles on people’s faces during his times on the court with the Globetrotters.
“He took a cowboy hat from this guy, and the guy ran him around the gym about 20 times,” said current Globetrotter Hi-Lite Bruton. “I was a rookie, and I was laughing so hard. Everyone in the crowd, we were on the floor dying.”
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