Which Northwest Sports Figures Are Statue-Worthy?
Interesting topic on The Bald Faced Truth: Which Northwest sports icons are statue-worthy? If you put up one statue in front of the Rose Garden or Husky Stadium or Safeco Field, etc., who would it be?
The question stems from this story. Shaquille O’Neal donated money for a basketball practice facility at Louisiana State, and the school is insisting upon erecting a statue of Shaq — against his wishes. So, which Northwest figures deserve a statue, whether they want one or not?
Here are my selections:
Rose Garden: Bill Walton? Clyde Drexler? Paul Allen? Clearly it should be Walton. Led the franchise to its only title, was the only Blazer to win an MVP award, etc., etc. But he also left the club under untoward circumstances, signing with the Clippers as a free agent and suing the Blazers and their medical staff for the medical treatment he received. Years later, Walton apologized to the people of Portland for how he snubbed them.
Qwest Field: Walter Jones? Steve Largent? Paul Allen? Could make a case for Allen — who saved the Seahawks for Seattle and got Qwest Field built. But Jones is, by far, the best player in franchise history and was the marquee player during the most successful period in team history.
Safeco Field: Obviously, it’s Ken Griffey Jr. But if Ichiro plays his entire major-league career in Seattle, staying 15 years or so, does he pass Griffey?
Husky Stadium: Well, they already have a statue of coach Jim Owens out front, which was a debatable selection at best. But doesn’t Don James remain the iconic face of the program? Maybe this will be rectified as part of the stadium renovation.
Martin Stadium: This is a tough one. Ryan Leaf led the Cougars to the Rose Bowl and finished third in the Heisman voting, but does anybody really want to honor Ryan Leaf? Probably the most lauded player in program history is Mel Hein, a member of the college and pro football halls of fame. We’ll go with him.
Hec Ed: Bob Houbregs and Brandon Roy are the only players to have their numbers retired, but shouldn’t Hec Edmundson have a statue if the building is named for him? After all, he coached the Huskies to 488 victories.
Beasley Coliseum: The court is named for Jack Friel, who in 1941 coached the Cougars to their only Final Four appearance. Has WSU basketball done anything since then? Anybody? Hello?
Reser Stadium: This one is easy — Terry Baker. Only Heisman winner to come from the Northwest, No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year. To top it off, he was a starter on a Final Four basketball team. Terry Baker trivia: He ran 99 yards for a touchdown in a 6-0 victory over Villanova in the 1962 Liberty Bowl, setting a record that remains unmatched for the longest run in any bowl game.
Gill Coliseum: The court is named for Ralph Miller, but he never took the Beavers to a Final Four, while Slats Gill did so twice. So we’ll go with Gary Payton, who has to be regarded as the best player in program history.
Autzen Stadium: This also is easy. It has to be Phil Knight. He, more than anybody, is responsible for Oregon’s ascension to the elite of college football.
Matthew Knight Arena: Could be Phil Knight again. He paid for the place. But we’ll go with Howard Hobson, who coached Oregon to the title in the inaugural NCAA Tournament.
Hayward Field: Steve Prefontaine. Any questions?
KeyArena: Kevin Durant, only because of what might have been.