Permanent Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame opens, with Shaq - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame opens, with Shaq

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Shaquille O'Neal arrives at the opening ceremony of the new Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in Natchitoches, LA. Shaquille O'Neal arrives at the opening ceremony of the new Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in Natchitoches, LA.
Shaq greets fellow Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame inductee, two-time Grand Slam winner Chanda Rubin. Shaq greets fellow Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame inductee, two-time Grand Slam winner Chanda Rubin.
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NATCHITOCHES, LA (KSLA) -

For a half-century, the Louisiana Sports Writers Association has been collecting the names of - and memorabilia from - the state's greatest athletes.
    
As of this weekend, they finally have a place to put it all.
    
The Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame is opening this weekend in Natchitoches, coinciding with this year's induction ceremonies on Saturday night.
    
It is housed in a $23 million, 27,500-square-foot building which is also home to the Northwest Louisiana History Museum.
    
The 2013 class includes basketball players Shaquille O'Neal, Ervin Johnson and James Jones; tennis players Chanda Rubin and Anna Koll; football players Tommy Hodson and Kevin Mawae; jockey Ronald Ardoin and longtime Newman School basketball coach Ed "Skeets" Tuohy.

NBA Star and former LSU Tiger Shaquille O'Neal attended the ribbon cutting Friday, opening his remarks with a tongue-in-cheek 'renaming' of the oldest city in Louisiana. "Welcome to Shaq-itoches," he quipped.

He also shared a story about how terrible he was as a basketball player growing up, and how Dale Brown at LSU was the one who believed that O'Neal had the talent. "He sent me a letter every week. You know, I lived in West Germany and I would have to walk a half a mile to get the mail in the winter in the snow, and I would always see a letter from LSU. So, when I got back to the states and I developed as a player, now every college in America wanted me. So I went to a couple of stadiums and, you know, they put on the 'Do you want Shaq to come here' spiel, and when I went to a football game in Baton Rouge, I just felt the realness of the Louisiana people. And I think I owed it to Coach Brown because he believed in me."

Shaq also made a major announcement, saying he's been working on building a Shaquille O'Neal Children's Hospital for the past two years. "That right now is in the works, and hopefully it gets done. That's my plan, to be the biggest, 'free-est' hospital in the state of Louisiana. All of the sick children can come for free. That's my vision."

Details are still being ironed out, but if it comes to fruition, it will be added to a long list of accomplishments for the

Two-time Grand Slam winner Chanda Rubin came all the way from Wimbledon to be there for grand opening. "It's an honor and a privilege to be inducted, and I did come back from Wimbledon early. It's definitely that important to me. I just feel such roots here in Louisiana. I grew up playing my first tennis tournament in Lafayette. I still go back there when I can and hit balls on occasion. I've played all over the world, but kind of like what Shaq said in his interview, it's something about Louisiana that you don't get anywhere else in the world."

Shanda and the rest of the inductees will be formally inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Museum at 6 p.m. on Saturday.

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