City turns out for Horry Day

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 31, 2002

An estimated crowd of 1,000 people turned out in full force Wednesday evening to show its love and appreciation to Andalusia's most famous son.

Andalusia native and National Basketball Association standout Robert Keith Horry was honored by the City of Andalusia at Andalusia Elementary School, with the stirring ceremony offering a unique blend of tributes, stories and even special music.

Arriving shortly after 4:30 p.m., the Los Angeles Laker forward and former Andalusia High School and University of Alabama hoop star began the event by signing autographs and posing for pictures with children and adults.

Following the autograph session, a formal presentation began, which included proclamations from the City of Andalusia, the Andalusia Board of Education and the Covington County Commission, and remarks from Andalusia High School Basketball Coach Richard Robertson, former University of Alabama Head Basketball Coach Wimp Sanderson, Sammy Glover, who headed the committee which planned the event and Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson among others.

The event also included a poignant tribute to Horry in a song by family friend J. Michael Davis, who sang the song he had penned titled "Play Ball."

The evening was capped by an announcement from Johnson that the park on North Cotton Street where Horry spent many of his childhood days shooting hoops will be renamed as Robert Horry Park.

Horry, who has won five world championship rings with the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Lakers, said before the ceremony began that he was genuinely moved by the display of affection from the city.

"It is a big honor for me to be recognized by my hometown," said Horry. "What has helped me in my career is I came from a small town, and like the Native Americans say, you are raised by your community. The community raised me and not just my mother. Being from a small town, it helps to humble yourself and make you realize the importance of family and friends and the love of your community."

Although Horry has been blessed with a loving family, athletic success at every stage of his basketball career and financial prosperity, he said Wednesday's tribute by the city ranks high on his list of achievements.

"(The ceremony) is up there in the Top 10," said Horry. "The day you get drafted, the day you graduate high school, the day you get married and the day you have children are among the

important things that are very important in your life,

and this ranks right up there with those things. You can't put those things in any kind of order, because there are so many wonderful things that happen, it's like apples and oranges. You just can't put one thing above the other."

Johnson said he was extremely elated about the turnout on behalf of Horry.

"(The turnout) is beyond our wildest expectations," said Johnson. "This is a one-time event and you don't have anything to gauge how many people to expect, but the weather cooperated and it's not raining and school is out and I guess just the time of day worked out great."

He said the event was the culmination of much hard work and planning, but said seeing the event come to fruition with so much success is proof

the dedicated efforts were not in vain.

"(Witnessing the joy of those who attended) is what this is all about," said Johnson. "Very few communities can say that they have an NBA five-time world champion from their hometown,

and it gives a chance to bring our young people out and

let them see what they can accomplish if they apply themselves."

In his opening remarks, Glover said while much has been made of Horry's storied hoop career, he said he was even more pleased to recognize the person

Horry is.

"Basketball is a game, but Robert puts his family above the game," said Glover. "Robert was reared here in Andalusia,

and he was educated in the Andalusia School System, and I think the Andalusia School System can be proud that it can produce a person with the stature of Robert Horry. Robert is an example that you don't have to come out of the Birminghams, Mobiles or Montgomerys to be a success."

Following the recognition of special guests, including Horry's family and former teammates and coaches, Horry was given proclamations by Covington County Commission Chairman Greg White, Johnson and Danny Posey of the Andalusia City Board of Education.

"Covington County is so proud of Robert and there are so many aspects of his life that we

take pride in." said White.

"He is a gentleman and we appreciate that."

He announced that the County Commission had adopted a resolution stating that

Horry, among other things, has parlayed his natural and developed talents into tolls for success in his profession and that Horry be congratulated on behalf of all the citizens of Covington County, and that he and his family are welcomed to the ceremony honoring him."

Johnson read

the proclamation by the City of Andalusia, which said the honor for Horry is certainly deserved.

"It is both fitting and proper to review some of Robert's most outstanding achievements." said Johnson. "Robert is a 1988 graduate of Andalusia High where is was a star basketball player for four years and one of the Bulldogs' all-time leading scorers and was named the Naismith Alabama High School Player of the Year his senior season."

The proclamation mentioned Horry as a standout student and successful player with Andalusia High School and the University of Alabama and recognized his significant success as a professional player.

"We declare Robert one of Andalusia's most favorite sons, not only because of the athlete he is, but more importantly because of the man he is," said Johnson.

Posey, during his proclamation presentation, said he is proud that Horry has been recognized not only for his athletic skills, but also for his character on and off the court."

"We know that the roots of (Horry's) raising run deep," said Posey. "If the Lord created his athletic ability, we have to recognize that his mom molded his character. She is to be commended for this."

Highlights of the ceremony were remarks by Sanderson, who coached Horry during a successful era of Crimson Tide basketball which included several Southeastern Conference tournament crowns and NCAA tournament appearances, and Robertson, who coached Horry during his critical stages of development at Andalusia High School.

Sanderson noted that he and Horry did not always see eye-to-eye, but said he is proud of Horry's success.

"I made so many (angry) faces at Robert that he threatened to put my faces on a hemorrhoid commercial," said Sanderson. "It really didn't take a genius to look at Robert when he was in high school, and decide whether he was going to be a good basketball player or not. He was unselfish on the basketball court, and a lot of times me and him would get into a disagreement, and a lot of times it was my fault. I will admit it now, Robert. I have a great deal of admiration for him. He worked hard, he was smart and wanted a degree. I know his (former teammates) are happy about his success and I am very proud."

"I knew at an early age that Robert was going to be something special," said Robertson, the longtime AHS hoop coach. "He could hold his own although he was skinny as a rail. We've had a good career here at Andalusia and Robert is our most successful and our most famous. He has been a champion (many times) and you can't do much better than that."

For additional coverage of Robert Horry Day, see the Saturday, Aug. 3 edition of The Andalusia Star-News.