Although he has had a tremendous career as a legendary poker player, Doyle Brunson wasn’t always known for his abilities on the poker table. His exploits in another area – athletics – have also brought him great renown, including his recent induction into another organization’s Hall of Fame.
Brunson, now 83 years old, was inducted into the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame at the end of April for his exploits on the basketball court. The Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame honors great athletes from a 19-county area (remember, Texas is a pretty big state) for their achievements in athletics. Brunson was a standout basketball player while in high school at Sweetwater High School, being named All-State in the sport, while also winning the mile in 1950 at the Texas Interscholastic Track Meet in a time of 4:43. Brunson would then move on to greater things after going to college.
While attending Hardin-Simmons University, Brunson was named the Border Conference Most Valuable Player as a junior in 1953 after averaging 15.3 points per game in leading the school to the NCAA tournament, where they would lose in the first round to Santa Clara. The then-fledgling National Basketball Association noticed the 6-foot-5 Texan and his achievements, with the defending champion Minneapolis Lakers (then with the dominant center in the game, George Mikan, and fellow Texan Slater Martin; both men would go on to the Basketball Hall of Fame) indicating that they would draft Brunson in that summer’s NBA draft.
There is an old saying from the wise sage of the Beatles, John Lennon, however: life is what happens while you are busy making other plans. Working in a factory, Brunson attempted to stop the shift of a forklift full of sheetrock by extending his leg in front of the massive weight, breaking it in two places and essentially ending any athletic career that the NBA was offering. Brunson would spend the next two years on crutches and still has mobility issues because of the unfortunate accident.
Brunson, contacted by the Abilene Reporter-News writer Evan Ren, was quite pleased with his latest Hall of Fame induction. “I’m honored, because the (Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame) is from where I grew up and I know the names of most of the people who are in it,” Brunson noted to Ren in a telephone interview. “Most of the people in it who I knew personally have died. But I’m very honored because it’s from Texas.”
This is just the latest Hall of Fame to honor Brunson. His exploits in the poker world – a back-to-back World Champion by winning the World Series of Poker Championship Event, a ten-time WSOP bracelet winner overall, a legendary road gambler and recognition as the “Godfather of Poker” from his seminal tome on the game (Super/System) – earned him induction into the Poker Hall of Fame in 1988 and, due to his exploits on the basketball floor, he was inducted into the Hardin-Simmons University Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009. The induction into the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame is the third organization to honor Brunson with enshrinement.
The list of notable athletes that Brunson is joining are numerous. Football players Sammy Baugh (Washington Redskins), Bob Lilly (Dallas Cowboys), Don Maynard (New York Jets) and Colt McCoy (former University of Texas quarterback) are all members of the Hall. Brunson was inducted with fellow members Mary Bolden-Washington (track), Jimmy Carmichael (football), Tey Forkerway (baseball), Steve Lineweaver (football coach), Jack Turner (Golden Gloves boxing) and Larry Wartes (baseball). Congratulations to Doyle Brunson for another well-deserved accolade in a life that has been replete with such awards!