WACO (AP) – Shaquille O’Neal was a star in an overlooked Texas sport. Drew Brees was an overlooked player in the star of Texas high school athletics: football.
They were supposed to share a stage Monday night for induction into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame before O’Neal canceled hours after the NBA All-Star game in Houston, citing a family matter.
O’Neal was a four-time NBA champion who won the Class 3A title at San Antonio Cole in 1989. Brees, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback for New Orleans, won a state title at Austin Westlake in 1996.
The agent for the star known simply as Shaq told Texas sports hall officials late Sunday that O’Neal had to fly to California for personal reasons. It wasn’t clear whether O’Neal’s change of plans was connected to the death Monday of Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss. O’Neal won three straight titles with the Lakers starting in 2000 and played eight of his 19 seasons in Los Angeles.
The Texas sports hall normally requires living honorees to attend the ceremony, but Director Steve Fallon said O’Neal’s induction would stand. Representative from his high school were still planning to attend, Fallon said.
“I have been looking forward to this ceremony for months,” O’Neal said in a statement released by the hall. “I have a great love for the state of Texas and the city of San Antonio and would have loved to attend in person, if at all possible.”
The other inductees Monday were Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams and softball star Cat Osterman of the Texas Longhorns, the late baseball Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews, Walt Garrison of the Dallas Cowboys and former Lubbock Monterey baseball coach Bobby Moegle.
O’Neal’s fame came after he left Texas, where basketball has always been overshadowed by football. He played at LSU before Orlando made him the top pick in the 1992 draft. He went to the finals with the Magic in 1995, losing to Houston, before joining the Lakers in 1996. He lost in the finals to Detroit with the Lakers in 2004 and won his fourth title in 2006 with Dwyane Wade and Miami when the Heat beat Dallas.
The 40-year-old O’Neal went to LSU before becoming the top pick in the 1992 draft by Orlando. He went to the finals in 1995 with the Magic, who got swept by Houston. He lost to Detroit in the 2004 finals with the Lakers and won his fourth title in 2006 with Dwyane Wade and Miami when the Heat beat Dallas.
Brees went to Purdue after he said he was the “backup plan” for Texas A&M, where he really wanted to go, and Texas. Both those schools signed their first choices at quarterback, so Brees instead remains the Purdue and Big Ten career leader in every major passing category and took the Boilermakers to their first Rose Bowl in 34 years as a senior in 2001. He started his NFL career in San Diego, but left two years after the Chargers drafted Philip Rivers.
The Saints won the Super Bowl in Brees’ fourth season with them, and he’s now eighth in NFL career passing yards at 45,919 and holds the single-season record of 5,476 set in 2011.
“It all worked out the way it’s supposed to,” Brees said. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to do some pretty cool things and play football a long time. One of my greatest moments will always be 1996, winning the 5A state championship in the state of Texas.”
Williams joined Earl Campbell as the only Texas Longhorns to win the Heisman when he won college football’s top prize in 1998. He set the NCAA’s single-season rushing mark and won back-to-back rushing titles. He finished an 11-season NFL career 10,009 yards.
“I’ve been the kind of person that whatever I do I make sure I enjoy it,” Williams said. “I squeezed every drop of joy out of my time at Texas.”
Osterman, a Houston native, led the Longhorns to three appearances in the Women’s College World Series and won 136 games in her college softball career.
Mathews, a native of Texarkana, Texas, was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame after a 17-year career with the Braves in Boston, Atlanta and Milwaukee and brief stints with Houston and Detroit. He hit 512 home runs and played in three World Series, with Milwaukee in 1957-58 and Detroit in 1968. He died at age 69 in 2001.
Walt Garrison, a fullback for the Cowboys, retired as the third-leading rusher and fourth-leading receiver for Dallas in 1974. He won a Super Bowl with the 1971 team and was a professional rodeo cowboy and TV pitchman for a smokeless tobacco company.
Moegle is the winningest high school baseball coach in Texas history and currently ranks fifth nationally with 1,115 victories. His record in 40 seasons at Lubbock Monterey (1960-1999) was 1,115-266-1.
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