RALEIGH — The ballroom at the Raleigh Convention Center looks like its big enough to be an airport hangar.
It had to be on Thursday night to hold all the memories and awards from the latest inductees into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.
Eleven new members, ranging from the first hockey representative to the first Special Olympic athlete, were honored on the 50th anniversary of the Hall on Thursday.
Governor Pat McCrory and North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams were two of the hundreds in the audience to celebrate the night and its honorees.
Kelvin Bryant, Ron Francis, Wade Garrett, Bill Guthridge, Tommy Helms, Marion Kirby, Rich McGeorge, Hugh Morton, Bob Quincy, Marty Sheets and Mildred Southern officially brought the Halls membership to 300.
What a group it is, said McGeorge, a former football star at Elon and the Green Bay Packers. Im proud to be a part of it.
Francis, the former captain of the Carolina Hurricanes and two-time Stanley Cup champion, adds a new sport and chapter to the Hall of Fame. Francis is already in the Hockey Hall of Fame. After compiling 1,789 points in 23 NHL seasons, fourth most in league history, that was a foregone conclusion. But an Ontario native in the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame?
I cant say this was ever on my radar, said Francis, who has lived in Raleigh for 15 years and works in the Canes front office. But Im extremely proud to be the first hockey player and member of the Carolina Hurricanes in the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.
Hockey, tennis, football, fastpitch softball were all represented, a photographer and sportswriter, too, on Thursday but basketball was the centerpiece of the ceremony.
The 1974 N.C. State national championship team was honored, and stars David Thompson, Tommy Burleson and Monte Towe were in attendance.
McCrory, who worked as a ballboy at the ACC tournament in Greensboro for the Wolfpacks 103-100 win against Maryland in the title game, couldnt say enough good things about Norm Sloans title team.
We all remember 1974, McCrory said.
Everett Case, the former N.C. State coach who popularized basketball in the state, was also honored and the NC Hall of Fame received the Naismith Legacy Award for its preservation of the game.
Basketball was about the only sport Marty Sheets didnt excel at in the Special Olympics. Sheets, who is from Raleigh, won 250 medals in 42 years of competition in swimming, skiing, tennis and power lifting. His father, Dave, spoke for him at Thursdays ceremony.
I cant believe seeing all those folks, that little Marty is included, Sheets said. This is a special honor.