MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Larry Finch. Penny Hardaway. Rochelle Stevens. Keith Lee. Tim McCarver. Just some of the illustrious names among the 22 people inducted into the brand new Memphis Sports Hall of Fame on Thursday, Oct. 10.
The best of the best in their field were honored for their accomplishments during an induction ceremony at AutoZone Park on a warm fall night. Stevens won Olympic gold. McCarver is a two-time World Series champion, and former Memphis Tiger Isaac Bruce sports a Superbowl Ring.
Betty Booker-Parks is the Memphis women's basketball all-time leading scorer. Bill Dance is bass fishing's first superstar and 23-time national champion. Keith Lee, the Memphis men's basketball all-time leading scorer and rebounder, doesn't make many public appearances, and his acceptance speech was short. He thanked God, his family and Coach Larry Finch for his success.
"Coach Finch was hard," he told the crowd, "but he was a loving guy."
Larry Finch was honored for being a great player at the University of Memphis and the winningest coach in his 11 years leading the Memphis men’s basketball program. He passed away in 2011 at 60 years old. His wife, Vicki, attended the induction and said her husband would have had the biggest grin on his face if he’d been there.
"He was surrounded by a lot of great people," she said, "and Ronnie made Larry successful."
Ronnie Robinson, another Memphis State star, was also inducted into the freshman hall of fame class.
And a busy schedule couldn't keep current Tigers head coach Penny Hardaway away from the celebration. He played for Finch and mentioned him many times during an emotional speech during his own induction.
"I'm so proud to be here," said Hardaway. "It's a beautiful night. Just thinking about Coach Finch, I try not to get emotional because I would have loved for him to see this himself. The same thing with Coach Robinson. You know...it's tough. There's not a day I don't think about him and what he did for me. I have a tough job, but I'll never forget what got me here."
The Memphis Sports Hall of Fame will be located on the third floor of Autozone Park. It will be free and open to the public, except during Redbirds and 901 FC games.
While 22 inductees is a huge inaugural class, Memphis Hall of Fame organizers say they wanted to go big for Memphis' bicentennial.
The full list of 22 inductees is: Betty Booker-Parks, Isaac Bruce, Bill Dance, William B. Dunavant Jr., Larry Finch, Avron Fogelman, Penny Hardaway, Claude Humphrey, Jerry Johnson (the former LeMoyne Owen basketball coach is 101-years-old now and was in attendance at the ceremony), George Lapides, Keith Lee, Verdell Mathis, Tim McCarver, Nikki McCray-Penson, Dr. Cary Middlecoff, Cindy Parlow, Ronnie Robinson, Verties Sails, Melanie Smith Taylor, Fred Smith, Rochelle Stevens and Memphis Bill Terry.